Established in 2001 and owned by former IndyCar driver Sam Schmidt and Canadian businessman Ric Peterson, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports currently competes in the Verizon IndyCar Series. From the drivers, mechanics, engineers to the commercial division of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, success begins with focus, precision, hard work and attitude.
(via Motorsport.com) – How did Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports ensure it overcame the setback of James Hinchcliffe’s accident in qualifying last Saturday? With slick organization and determination, as competition director Billy Vincent explains to David Malsher.
One of the Arrow SPM drivers, Marcus Ericsson, made it onto the grid without problem in 13th, and the rookie excelled again in the penultimate practice for the Indy 500, held on Monday, with the cars in race-level downforce and with race-level turbo boost. This time it wasn’t so much his speed that caught everyone’s eye but his avoidance of a major accident.
This two-hour practice session the day after qualifying weekend is traditionally the time for drivers to run in packs, trying to replicate typical race conditions, feeling how their car will handle in ‘dirty air’ – that is to say, in the wake of a car or a cluster of cars up ahead. As well as that, they will gauge how much fuel they can save while sitting in the draft as well as the speed gains from getting that tow along the straights. This way they will know how and when they should time their passes.
In effect, it looks like a race, with swarms of cars heading down the front straight at 225mph-plus, changing lines, ducking and diving, and with the pack expanding and contracting in a concertina of color and noise.
On one lap, as Ericsson was pitching his #7 Arrow SPM Honda into Turn 1, up ahead his compatriot and fellow rookie Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing was being passed on the inside by the Andretti Autosport car of Ryan Hunter-Reay. Off line, Rosenqvist suddenly felt his car pushing up the track toward the outside wall, and eased off the throttle. At those speeds, and with drag-inducing downforce on the cars, merely backing off the gas is enough to make an Indy car slow as if the driver has hit the brakes.
Spotting that the Ganassi car ahead was looming larger at an alarmingly rapid rate, Ericsson also lifted off the throttle, at which point his car twitched sideways. He got back on the throttle and steered into the slide, and kissed the wall’s outside SAFER barrier with his right-rear tire, leaving a dirty black rubber mark on the white paint, and drove straight back to the pits.
There the #7 Arrow SPM crew checked the car over, realized he hadn’t done any damage to the suspension, so light had been the contact, and sent him right back out in order to keep his confidence high. Marcus had come through another major oval challenge with flying colors, for had he overreacted to Rosenqvist’s slowing car, he could have spun in front of a large pack of his peers, with disastrous consequences.
Oriol Servia is another driver who had a drama-free run in qualifying, despite the Team Stange Racing’s partnership with Arrow SPM being a new one and despite not having raced an Indy car for a year. The veteran grabbed 19th spot on the 33-car grid, six places ahead of the Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM entry piloted by INDYCAR Grand Prix star Jack Harvey.
James Hinchcliffe, as seems to be his destiny at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had a more torrid, heart-in-mouth time. He had enjoyed a steady rather than spectacular week of practice, but as he explained here on Motorsport.com, he had always been planning to focus on raceday setups. Yes, it’s great to set a banner lap speed, but with the Indy 500 comprising 200 laps of the famed 2.5-mile course, it’s more important to have good balance and confidence-inspiring handling over the long haul than to strive for pole position and then sink like a stone as soon as you’re battling through the dirty air caused by peers or backmarker traffic.
Nonetheless, Hinchcliffe expected to be comfortably able to qualify on the Saturday, but the weather had other plans for him. Direction and strength of wind has always been a factor at Indy. Drivers coming off Turn 4 will often look up at the windsock on the scoring pylon and the flags on the infield buildings to check which way the gusts are blowing, to know how their car might be affected heading into Turn 1, or down the back straight to Turn 3. Even back in the days when Indy cars were front-engined roadsters, the gusts encountered while making the transition from headwind through crosswind to tailwind – or vice versa – going into Turn 2 could have a bad effect on a car already at the limit of adhesion.
When it came time for Hinchcliffe to qualify the #5 Arrow SPM Honda, he had completed his warm-up lap and was into his first flying lap – Indy grid positions are decided by the average lap speed on a four-lap run – when he came into Turn 2, appeared to push a little wide, probably due to a wind gust. As he eased the throttle, suddenly the car spun, because at those speeds there is barely any time – and hardly any steering lock – to correct such a vicious lateral movement. In an instant the car had pounded the wall and the chassis was damaged beyond immediate repair. James was checked at Indy’s medical center, released and cleared to drive, but he would now need to use the team’s spare car.
Cue Billy Vincent and the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team readying its spare car, which a week earlier had been James’ road course car, the one in which he had competed in the INDYCAR Grand Prix.
“It’s a case of expecting the unexpected, especially on ovals when the accidents are generally at higher speed, so any incident is likely to involve more car damage,” Vincent tells Motorsport.com. “You’ve always got to have enough spares and enough crew available to recover from anything at least once.
“On the Monday of practice week, the goal is to get your cars through the Tech Inspection line before they close, so after the Grand Prix, we pull those engines and install them in the superspeedway cars. We did that with all four cars – the two Arrow cars, the Meyer Shank car and the Team Stange car. Then we also start to convert the road course cars into spare superspeedway cars, and we do a bit more each day: the crew have a calendar on the wall with a daily goal. By the end of Tuesday they should have the front suspension converted, on Wednesday the rear suspension should be converted, the fuel cell should be converted, and so on. The target is that by the end of Thursday, all Indy Grand Prix cars have been converted to Indy 500 backup cars.”
This workload is all in addition to running up to seven hours of track time each day with the primary superspeedway cars, and making changes to them as required…
“Yeah, and sometimes luck is against you,” says Vincent. “You’ll have a crash in practice and suddenly that becomes the priority. But luckily for us, we had a clean week and so we were able to reach our target.”
There is not, however, a limitless supply of engines, so until a spare car is called upon, it sits without power unit. It is therefore quite amazing that following Hinchcliffe’s shunt, the spare was fitted with an engine, went through tech inspection and rolled back out to pitlane in little more than two hours. That gave the team enough time to get the car back in line for James to make three more qualifying attempts that day. The best of these was a 226.956mph four-lap-average – less than 0.3mph shy of making the Top 30 locked in for the Saturday session.
It meant a nervous night for the entire Arrow SPM crew who were faced with a Sunday spent battling five other cars for the last three remaining slots on the grid. They checked and rechecked the body-fit of the #5T – T is the designation given to spare cars – since aerodynamics and handling are the crucial factor at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Just a tad more drag could be the difference between making the show and not making the show, and the margins were finer this year than ever before. This is the closest-packed field in 103 years: the difference between pole-winner Simon Pagenaud and slowest qualifier Pippa Mann was just 2.748mph.
Given Hinchcliffe’s storied relationship with IMS, he had ample reason to sleep badly that Saturday night. Could he really be staring down the barrel of another failed attempt to qualify for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing? Well yes he was – but this is when team effort and a gutsy attitude from the driver will pay off. Come Sunday in the Last Row qualifying shootout he produced an average of 227.543mph and he was onto the grid.
“The Indy 500 is a big deal, right?” says Vincent with charming understatement. “We’ve been preparing cars for this race since last October. Each car, although it’s a spec chassis with spec bodywork, has its little differences, little things that are unique. So in the off-season, there’s a group within the crew who will volunteer to do bodywork fitment for a particular chassis. So the front and rear mechanics become bodywork specialists to make sure every part of the body is as streamlined as possible, no joins that can cause drag. At every seam, the panels have to be completely flush with each other. These guys are covered in dust all winter but they take extra-special pride in what they do and it pays off.”
Indeed it did last Sunday. The team breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“It was quite calm,” said Vincent, “because we felt prepared. There was an incident and, boom, we knew what to do, how to do it, and we executed. I mean, I know we get three days of regular practice and then one day [Fast Friday] of qualifying practice, but if the team is in a good place, if it’s functioning as it should, you really shouldn’t be using those days for testing. That’s all been done in the winter with your windtunnel testing, your testing on the seven-post shaker rig, and the organization of the big parts like assigning gearboxes, shocks and dampers, and so on, for each car. So when something occurs like what happened to James, there shouldn’t be a reason to panic. Like I said, you should be prepared to deal with anything at least once.”
So all that extra practice time for the Indy 500 is unnecessary?
“Well, no,” replies Vincent, “but the fundamentals of the car should be in place, so you’re not really testing big-ticket items. That track time you get should be all about fine-tuning, and obviously with how close the field is now, that’s a big deal. You’ll be keeping an eye on your competitors, seeing what they’re doing, and if you see something that seems to work for them, you may want to try it. Maybe you haven’t tried it before or maybe you tried it and it didn’t work for you in theory, but it may now be working in reality for someone else, so perhaps you want to re-evaluate it.
“But it’s also really easy to get caught out doing that, chasing something that someone else had instead of following your own program. It’s easier with a talented rookie like Marcus to just follow a really rigid plan to get him up to speed, and not go chasing off in different directions: the priority is to get the new guy comfortable with ovals, and that’s worth far more than any tiny little gain on the speed charts.
“But with a veteran like James, the temptation is to think, ‘Well, he already knows what he’s doing, so let’s start experimenting with his car.’ We might try something quite radically different and it may pay off, but if it doesn’t, you can waste too much time back in the garage changing everything back to how it was. Throw in changes in wind direction or strength, changes in track temps and downtime for rain, and suddenly you can find all those extra practice hours are drifting away without really making progress.”
Vincent, ex-Team Penske, ex-Andretti Autosport, is a major asset to Arrow SPM because he rolls with the punches and accepts whatever circumstances are hurled the team’s way by Fate throughout the NTT IndyCar Series’ 2.5-week spell at Indianapolis Motor Speedway each May. He’s not old, but he is a veteran.
Like everyone in Gasoline Alley, though, he will now start to feel that knot of tension ahead of Memorial Day Weekend and the world’s biggest race held in front of the biggest one-day crowd in sports. There are just 90 more minutes of track time, on Friday – Carb Day – to hone the car to perfection. Then the anticipation will ramp up a little more and a little more until on Sunday it explodes into an addictive blend of cannon blast, drums, bagpipes, last post trumpet calls, Back home again in Indiana, balloons, the national anthem, flyovers, and ‘Drivers, start your engines.’
Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the final Sunday in May. There’s truly nothing like it.
(via Road & Track) – Robert Wickens takes a breath, shifts his weight, and sends a thin leg swinging forward. For a single weightless moment, the paralyzed man appears to be walking.
Then his sneaker lands, catches on the edge, stutters across the treadmill’s slow belt. One of the three cheerful therapists kneeling around him reaches out, correcting the situation with a practiced hand. His foot swings back, he takes another step, and the process repeats.
This story appears in the July, 2019 issue of Road & Track. – Ed.
There has been help for months. He is helped into the fabric harness that suspends him above the treadmill, helped into the van that takes him to the rehab hospital six mornings a week. Several states away, his Indianapolis home is being retrofitted for accessibility, which will let him live there with less help. His fiancée, Karli Woods, is home now, helping manage that process.
Wickens does not know when, or if, the help will end. Nor does he remember when it began, the moment last August when a small team of safety workers helped him from the Dallara DW12 IndyCar that went into the fence at Pocono, fractured his spine, and almost killed him. He remembers what it feels like to use his feet, however, and he wants to use them again. He admits to being stubborn; he could drive a car equipped with hand controls tomorrow, but that isn’t what he wants. He wants what doctors cannot guarantee he will have. He wants his legs back.
When Wickens had his legs, he was exceptional in a race car. Marshall Pruett, the dean of American road-racing journalists and a longtime R&T contributor, labeled him “one of the most promising talents to hit the sport in years,” the sort of hunter-killer you see once a generation. IndyCar pundit Robin Miller, a hard-boiled circuit fixture for decades, calls Wickens a rare natural. “I don’t know that there’s been anybody in recent memory,” he says, “other than maybe Mario, who was more impressive as a rookie out of the gate.”
Wickens, 30, needed that talent, because he did not come from money. He grew up in the quiet Toronto suburb of Guelph, where his father repaired machinery in a factory and his mom drove a school bus. He started in karts at the age of seven, with his brother Trevor as mechanic and his father as team manager. Six years later, his parents sold their house to fund his career.
To read the rest of the feature, please click here.
(via NBC Sports) – IndyCar teams have long histories, but perhaps no other team has as crazy a story as Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-and the craziest parts wouldn’t have happened without childhood friends James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens.
(via Road & Track) – Three drivers. Nearly killed competing in the sport they love. Joined together today at the same IndyCar Series team. Meet Robert Wickens, James Hinchcliffe, and Sam Schmidt in their shared journey of racing and recovery.
Schmidt was a promising racer in the Indy Racing League (IRL) in the late 1990s, who won at the Las Vegas speedway in 1999. Before the 2000 season was underway, Schmidt had a crash at the Walt Disney World Speedway, which rendered him a quadriplegic. He wasn’t done racing, though. The next year, he formed Sam Schmidt Motorsports, entered IRL, and soon found huge success in Indy Lights, helping seven drivers bring home championships between 2004 and 2013. In 2011, Sam Schmidt Motorsports mounted its first full-season effort in the IndyCar series.
The team, eventually renamed Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after Ric Peterson became a principal, hired Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe in 2015 (the team is now called Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports). Hinch nearly lost his life in a bad crash practicing for the Indy 500 that year, but was able to make a full recovery. The next year, he took pole position for the 500.
Hinch’s childhood friend and fellow countryman Robert Wickens joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsport as an IndyCar rookie last year. He stunned on his debut at St. Petersburg, taking pole and nearly winning the race before being punted by Alexander Rossi with just two laps to go. He managed 3rd place at the Indy 500 and had a number of strong finishes throughout the season. At Pocono, an incident between him and Ryan Hunter-Reay in the early stages of the race sent him flying into a catch fence. He suffered a spinal cord injury in the crash, and he’s still fighting to regain the use of his legs so he can race once again.
Our Marshall Pruett sat down with the three racers to talk about racing and the recovery process.
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For almost 20 years, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has driven a winning record in IndyCar. Boasting 70+ wins, 70 pole positions, and seven championships in Indy Lights – the team also found success in IndyCar with seven wins, two Indianapolis 500 pole positions and three top-five finishes in the championship points standings.
“At our core, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is committed to being the best – anytime the best is required. We’re not just aiming to win IndyCar championships and Indianapolis 500s, but sustaining excellence, from design all the way to final part production,” said Jon Flack, President, Arrow SPM. “Stratasys is an elite partner, allowing us to transform typical manufacturing processes with 3D printing by learning on race day and implementing by the following weekend. We’re confident this collaboration will not only prove out in the shop – but produce wins on the track.”
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(via IndyStar) – The cameras swarmed him, expecting euphoria.
They were looking in the wrong place.
While his team, family and friends celebrated around him, James Hinchcliffe stood on his pit box Sunday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and quietly breathed a sigh of relief. He passed out a few hugs, slapped some high-fives but his demeanor lingered in neutral.
The storm cloud had passed. There would be no devastating deja vu. A year after suffering the biggest heartbreak of his professional career, James Hinchcliffe was back where he belonged: in the Indianapolis 500.
He could have shouted for joy. In fact, he was invited to. Standing in pit road just minutes after Pato O’Ward’s failed attempt to qualify for the race cinched Hinchcliffe’s spot in the show, he was asked by a member of the media if he wanted to let loose a jubilant scream.
He politely declined.
Despite the sheer relief of not missing the biggest race in the world for a second year in a row, Hinchcliffe couldn’t help but feel heartsick for those who had just had their own 500 dreams shattered. It gave him no pleasure watching O’Ward, Max Chilton and two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso all come up short.
“I feel so bad for the guys who are not going to make it,” Hinchcliffe said. “I know what it takes to get in this race and I know what it feels like to miss it. A year ago, I was watching everyone else go out for the Fast 9, and we weren’t in the show and it sucks, man.
“I hate that we have to send guys home. I’m genuinely, genuinely gutted for those guys who have to go home. I hated it. I hated it last year. They’re going to hate it this year.”
Though Hinchcliffe refused to revel in his own redemption tale, it’s not as though he wasn’t proud of what he and his team had accomplished.
What Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has had to overcome, not just in the past year with Hinchcliffe’s failing to qualify and Robert Wickens’ life-altering accident but in the past week is nothing short of remarkable.
After Hinchcliffe wrecked during Day 1 of qualifying, even he didn’t think it would be possible to get back out on track Saturday. And for many teams, it wouldn’t have been. Some teams wouldn’t be up to the challenge of getting their backup car ready in a matter of hours, but Arrow SPM was prepared. They had Hinchcliffe back in time to get him multiple qualifying runs. And even as he failed to qualify Saturday, the momentum from that unifying moment helped carry them late into the night as they prepared for a do-or-die Sunday.
Team managing director Taylor Kiel said most of the crew was in the garage until midnight preparing what Hinchcliffe would later call a “Franken-car.” In order to give Hinchcliffe the best chance possible at qualifying in his backup car, the team raided Marcus Ericsson’s No. 7 Honda for parts.
“When we had to bring out a road course car as the backup it didn’t have those (speedway specific) bits,” Hinchcliffe explained. “We were able to borrow some stuff off the No. 7 car, so I was driving a bit of Frankencar.
“We were joking that instead of making it the No. 5, because it was half of the No. 7, we should have made the No. 6 and run it like that. It was Robbie’s idea. … Anyway, IndyCar wouldn’t let us do that (laughs), but it speaks volumes about the teamwork we’ve got here.”
That’s what Kiel was most proud of, too. Unlike Hinchcliffe, Kiel was a bit more on edge, watching the qualifying attempts with his hands over his face, seemingly praying his team would finally enjoy some good luck at a place that has treated them so poorly over the years.
When O’Ward’s time came in below Hinchcliffe’s, Kiel pumped his fist and shared some hugs with his team.
Maybe Hinchcliffe didn’t want to fully embrace the redemption and relief but Kiel was going to indulge a little.
Before one of the most stressful days of his life began, Kiel walked on to pit road watching one of the big boards at IMS. It was showing a replay of Al Unser Jr’s 1992 Indy 500 triumph and his elated interview from Victory Lane.
“Truer words were never spoken,‘You just don’t know what Indy means,’” Kiel said, quoting Unser. “We’re where we deserve to be. We deserve a spot in the race. We work way too hard not to be in it. It’s something that means more to us than anything.”
(via Motorsport.com) – In an edgy build-up to the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ rookie Marcus Ericsson sidestepped the drama and qualified 13th. His race engineer Blair Perschbacher spoke to David Malsher about the newbie’s progress.
This past week of practice for the NTT IndyCar Series’ crown jewel race has proven again how difficult it can be to master Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In four days of (theoretically) seven hours each, the world’s most storied track bit Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing, McLaren Racing’s Fernando Alonso, Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing and Patricio O’Ward of Carlin, all four shunts that started somewhere north of 220mph. On Saturday, it was Arrow SPM’s own James Hinchcliffe who spun and hit the wall.
IMS has always had the ability to drive grown men crazy, its fickle nature bipolarizing according to ambient conditions and track temperature. That has been exacerbated this year due to a penetrant (that’s Speedway officials’ word for a sealant that embeds deep into the track) to help preserve it; the surface has turned darker and therefore heats up quicker. The end result is the same as ever: drivers and engineers who think they have finally fettled their cars to cope with the unique demands of the 2.5-mile Speedway can, within 90 minutes, find their car handling with all the panache of a shopping cart with a wobbly wheel.
And then, of course, when they rediscover their panacea, rain or impending storms will halt on-track activity, and on resumption of practice, conditions have radically altered yet again…
Ex-Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson, not only new to the Speedway but also to oval racing as a whole, appeared to adapt well and roll with the punches. By the end of Fast Friday – when the BorgWarner turbos are cranked up from 1.3-bar boost to 1.4, in preparation for qualifying weekend – the #7 Arrow SPM-Honda had turned a total of 267 laps. Of the 36 cars gunning for 33 spots on the grid, he lay 20th with a top lap of 229.512mph.
More significant as an indicator of potential in the weekend’s qualifying sessions, when the cars run solo on the track, are the speeds set without the aid of a tow. This is a colloquial term for a car ahead ‘breaking the air’ for the car behind, allowing the second car to lap quicker; according to those who judge these things, around IMS a car’s wake can stretch up to 10sec behind. In these rankings, Ericsson was a highly impressive 13th fastest with a lap of 228.754mph.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The Swedish rookie almost replicated that time in qualifying, nailing a four-lap average of 228.511mph, and landed 13th spot on the grid, which is the inside of Row 5 in Indy’s unique 3×3 grid formation.
Throughout the week, Ericsson did have one advantage over some of his rivals. He could pool data and information with – and gather advice from – regular Arrow SPM teammate and former Indy polesitter James Hinchcliffe, Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM teammate Jack Harvey and Indy-only teammate, veteran Oriol Servia in the Team Stange Racing with Arrow SPM entry. But it was still Marcus who had to climb into the #7 car and get the job done. His race engineer Blair Perschbacher was impressed.
“Marcus has caught on quick,” he said. “It’s tough, because he had the rookie test day at Texas Motor Speedway and then he did the open test here in April but that’s still not a lot of practice for your first ever oval. The first test was at a totally different track, the open test was in totally different conditions, so there wasn’t a lot that was transferable.
“So this week he’s still had to learn a lot but his feedback is very similar to James’s and they were driving very similar cars. We were trying to build Marcus up slowly because there’s always a lot to take in for a rookie. First we gave him experience and confidence in a car with raceday-level downforce, and then we took more and more downforce away to trim the car out to be fast in qualifying, which obviously puts the car a lot more on edge.
“Then we did a couple of qualifying simulations on Thursday just to give him a feel for how the car was handling before the boost got cranked up for Fast Friday and qualifying weekend.”
One of the most important aspects of oval racing is getting the car handling like it wants to naturally turn into a corner, thereby ensuring that steering inputs are kept to a minimum. That will not only minimize the amount of front-tire ‘scrub’ that hurts speed and increases tire wear but it also minimizes the drag-inducing frontal area by ensuring the air is incised by two front wheels pointing almost straight rather than pushed aside by two wheels that are turned a little further and are therefore bluntly cleaving the air.
Ericsson was very quick to pick up on all the basics of oval driving, according to Perschbacher.
“We showed Marcus how to use his [in-cockpit] tools like the weightjacker and the anti-rollbars to alter the car’s handling,” he said. “He quickly understood the shift lights and when to drop a gear if he suddenly sees the revs dropping because he’s hitting a headwind. And the basics like keeping steering to a minimum over a stint or over the four-lap qualifying run. All that stuff he’s been great at learning. We’ve coached him on the radio as he’s going around and he’s been catching on really well.”
Robert Wickens, Arrow SPM’s still-recuperating Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 2018, commented that the first time he saw a car set up for an oval and noted how asymmetric it is in order to improve its cornering speed, he thought it looked like the car that had already been in an accident…
“Yes, and Marcus was thinking the same thing!” grinned Perschbacher. “Robbie has been on the timing stand a lot and that’s been a big help for Marcus, because when he comes into the pits and says, ‘Hey, I feel this,’ then Robbie’s able to say, ‘Yeah, it was the same for me too.’
“And Marcus’s own feedback got better and better as the week went on; he has a good feel for the car and he’s good at explaining it too. But ovals, the superspeedways especially, are all about the little nuances and so it’s sometimes not until James or Oriol make some observation that Marcus might say, ‘Yeah, that’s the feeling I’m getting.’”
One of the challenges at superspeedways is to know the difference between a fine-handling car that’s fast – say, 228mph around Indy – and a fine-handling car that’s ‘slow’ in relative terms, and is lapping at 224. Many an oval rookie driver has been left puzzled when the car feels fantastic but isn’t turning in the lap times, while there are also drivers who will complain about how nightmarish their car feels, only to look at the speed chart and realize they’re in the top five.
“I think Marcus is still learning that difference, to be honest,” says Perschbacher. “It’s exactly like you said – he might go out and say it’s good, but we’re only 28th on the speed charts, and he might not understand why. So I’ll point out that where he’s having understeer and breathing the throttle a little bit, another more experienced guy might be keeping his foot flat and driving through it and getting the big lap time.”
One of those guys is likely to be Servia, who qualified the Team Stange Racing with Arrow SPM entry in 19th. About to start his 11th Indy 500, he’s a great guy to have as coach. So while there is often a debate about how well a team can function if it adds entries for the Indy 500 – some may regard it as an unnecessary complication, others such as Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson feel the extra data stream is invaluable – Ericsson would agree with the latter view, says Perschbacher.
“I think it’s great to have Oriol here, and it’s been great for Marcus,” he comments. “Oriol, James and Jack have been explaining things to him, and they’re able to answer some of his questions. Like if Marcus says, ‘I have this weird feeling exiting Turn 3,’ they’ll be able to say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s just X and every car does it.’ That’s reassuring for a rookie, and so he’s really good at listening to the experienced guys, because he knows it’s going to be super-helpful, not just in practice but right up to the race.”
It’s hardly ideal for a driver to start his oval racing career on the most daunting oval of all, despite Indy preparations allowing so much extra track time before the main event. But when the green flag waves to start the 103rdRunning of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Marcus Ericsson can at least be certain that the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team and his teammates have done everything possible to prepare him for what will be the most memorable day of his racing career so far.
(via INDYCAR.com) – If anyone understands what it’s like to be the center of dramatic attention at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s James Hinchcliffe. Now here we go again.
An early qualifying crash, then three unsuccessful runs in a backup car earned the popular Canadian NTT IndyCar Series driver what should be an eventful Sunday as he joins two-time Formula 1 Fernando Alonso and four others in Last Row Shootout qualifying for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
A year after the humbled Hinchcliffe failed to qualify for “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” he will desperately try to prevent history from repeating itself. The driver of the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda must prove himself worthy of one of three final spots at the back of the 33-car grid in an all-important, four-lap qualifying run Sunday.
“Yeah, it’s old hat for me, man,” Hinchcliffe said with a shrug after a final-hour qualifying bid wasn’t quick enough.
His IMS history obviously goes beyond just the last two years. He survived life-threatening injuries in a 2015 practice crash, then returned to win the pole the next year in one of the more inspiring comebacks in recent memory.
Never a dull moment, indeed.
“That’s Indy,” Hinchcliffe said Saturday. “I don’t think Indy is ever dull for anybody. There’s always something exciting happening here. It’s always challenging everybody in a bunch of different ways. We’ve got to come out tomorrow and put our best foot forward.”
He accentuated the positive of a new qualifying format that afforded him a final chance Sunday.
“A year ago today, our month was done,” he said. “So it’s nice to know we have one more shot at it.”
The way his Saturday began, that didn’t seem a certainty as his car lost control and spun into the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier in a nasty crash. Hinchcliffe’s 35-year-old brother, Chris, watching in the team pit box, couldn’t help but be worried when 32-year-old James didn’t climb out of the car immediately.
“I had never experienced being at the track and then having to wait for him to get out of the car like today,” Chris said. “Rebecca (Dalton, James’ fiancée) can’t even look at the screen. We hear everybody’s gasps.
“We’re looking up at that screen. We’re waiting. We’re waiting for him to get out of the car. Usually they pop out and they’re fine. I’m thinking back to his (2015) wreck. I’m thinking back to Robbie Wickens’ wreck. When it takes more than 10 seconds to get a driver out of the car, all of a sudden, your mind is spinning.”
Hinchcliffe eventually climbed from the car with minimal assistance. Then his family waited for what Chris said seemed like an eternity at the infield IU Health Emergency Medical Center. Drivers Tony Kanaan and Jack Harvey visited to check on their friend.
After five minutes, a doctor gave everyone the news that Hinchcliffe was OK.
“You just need to hear that,” Chris said. “Now those of us waiting need a checkup, thank you very much.”
Hinchcliffe’s team hurriedly prepared a backup road-course car that enabled Hinchcliffe to make three late qualifying runs without the benefit of any practice laps. But each time, he wasn’t quick enough to crack the top 30.
“We would love just to see one smooth weekend, let alone a smooth month of May,” Chris said. “At this point, I would just like to see one weekend without any hitches. I certainly didn’t need another heart attack like this morning.”
Hinchcliffe’s best Indy 500 finish in six starts was sixth place in 2012 while driving for Andretti Autosport. He ended up seventh in 2016, the year he won the pole. Considering he’s also qualified second twice and was in the first three rows for another start, this most recent adversity is a bit of a head scratcher.
After suffering last year’s ignominious fate as the only full-time driver to not make the field in a race which cost him double points, Hinchcliffe rebounded with a strong stretch that included a win at Iowa Speedway to finish 10th in the NTT IndyCar Series points. It’s the best he’s finished in the championship since a career-best eighth in 2012 and 2013 with Andretti Autosport. He’s 10th in points again entering Sunday.
“I like the drama,” Chris said. “I don’t always like that James is at the center of it.”
Everyone knows by now that Hinchcliffe is too familiar with the highs and lows of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
When asked if he has a love-hate relationship with the place, he shook his head.
“No, I still love it,” Hinchcliffe said, “as much as it tries to kick me when I’m down.”
Hinchcliffe will be among the six Last Row Shootout drivers participating in a 30-minute practice that begins at 10:15 a.m. ET Sunday, followed by a 30-minute practice for the Fast Nine Shootout competitors. Both stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.
NBC will broadcast the two shootouts live from noon-3 p.m. The battle for the last row is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. and the fast nine at 1:15.
Then, a practice for the 33 qualifiers airs on NBCSN from 3-6 p.m. NBC coverage of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 begins at 11 a.m. Sunday, May 26.
James Hinchcliffe No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
– Starting from 32nd place on the grid for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500
“Indy, she likes a dramatic day, huh? It’s crazy how it played out. I’m obviously thrilled for the team and all our partners, Honda, Arrow, everybody. I know a year ago I was watching everybody else go out for fast nine, and we weren’t in the show and it sucks. I feel bad for those guys. We’ve got to get back to work tomorrow. We’ve had a really strong car in race trim, so I’m bummed that I wrecked that one but hopefully it all translates well to the new car and we we get back to group running. We’ve got a good rocket ship on our hands.
“It was deja vu all over again. I told Sam [Schmidt] before we went out that we are going to try to not do this next year, try not to have it be so dramatic. Again i just can’t thank everyone at Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Honda enough. It’s great that all the Hondas got in; that’s obviously a big plus for us as a group. So now it’s just whatever happened, happened and we have to put our eyes forward.”
(via Yahoo! Sports) – Assessing his team’s suddenly dire situation at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, James Hinchcliffe had a rather succinct assessment after a spin and heavy impact on his second lap of qualifying.
“It’s our nightmare,” the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver said after being checked and cleared to drive at the care center. “No doubt about it.”
Unfortunately, nightmare scenarios are becoming all too familiar for at the Brickyard for Hinchcliffe, who is in danger of failing to qualify at Indy for the third time in five years.
“My patience is wearing thin,” Hinchcliffe said with a thin smile when asked about his fortunes on the 2.5-mile oval.
How would he reset after another setback?
“Honestly it’s part of our job,” he said. “It’s what we do. It’s not the first time we crashed, it won’t be the last. So you just have to be able to put these things behind you and close the visor tomorrow and go out there again.
“The guys have obviously worked really hard at getting the car together. We made a lot of progress yesterday on Fast Friday. Making it better. Making it faster. I don’t know if we got free on trim or downforce or what. We’ll take a look at it, see what happened, get another car together and try to be smarter tomorrow.”
There were at least a few positives as he tried to qualify for his seventh Indy 500.
His car seemed comfortable before he lost control in Turn 2 (possibly because of a wind gust), and teammates Marcus Ericsson, Oriol Servia and Jack Harvey had solid speed in qualifying.
Though Hinchcliffe initially doubted whether his team could have his backup ready in time to make another run Saturday (with inclement weather looming Sunday), but he returned to the track less than three hours after smacking the SAFER barrier.
But his team waved off the first attempt as he shook the car down, and his next two attempts weren’t fast enough to crack the top 30 that locked into the race Saturday.
Even though he faces a nerve-wracking Sunday of being one of six drivers fighting for the final three spots in the field, Hinchcliffe still was buoyed by the effort with a car that was tailored to road courses and not ovals.
“It’s a huge credit to Arrow Schmidt Peterson; everyone jumped in and helped,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “The road course car doesn’ t have the love on it that ovals and superspedway cars have. We made some changes, had some speed, but it obviously wasn’t enough. I have a lot of faith in the crew. We just have to put our heads together and come out tomorrow and put it in the show.
“There are tricks of the trade to find some speed. It’s a great effort for the guys. And it’s weird to think this isn’t the worst qualifying day we’ve had here.”
Even if the second day of qualifying were rained out Sunday, IndyCar plans to hold a final session for the six slowest cars whenever good weather permits (Monday, if necessary).
“I’m getting pretty good at not panicking here,” Hinchcliffe said. “Yeah. It’s obviously a sup-optimal situation as they would say in the engineering atlas, but I have a lot of faith in the Arrow car, the Arrow crew are top notch. We’ll get our car back on track tomorrow and try to put it in the show.
Hinchcliffe had a knowing answer when asked whether this was the worst-case scenario.
“Well, the worst-case scenario is doing it again tomorrow,” he said as his voice trailed off.