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NTT INDYCAR Series

Drivers Among Decisions Still to be made for Arrow McLaren Racing SP

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Last week, Arrow Schmidt Peterson surprised NTT IndyCar Series fans by announcing they would conclude their relationship with Honda, instead partnering with McLaren and Chevrolet for the 2020 season.

Even though racing remains to be done for 2019, pieces have begun to be put in place, including the key figures in charge of certain aspects. Though one decision that has yet to be finalized is the driver line-up.

“The first goal was to get past the announcement last week, and then as Zak (Brown) said, see how the phones light up and then make that list, and then reconvene later this week and start making some of those decisions and offers and whatnot,” Sam Schmidt, Co-Owner, Arrow SPM, said.So kind of like stay tuned, but it will be a few weeks before we make any announcements.”

James Hinchcliffe is currently under contract for the 2020 campaign, but has a personal partnership with Honda Canada and American Honda. However, Schmidt doesn’t see that as being a problem moving forward, noting that the Canadian has been a great asset to the team and brilliant ambassador for their partners the past five years.

Hinchcliffe expressed the same thoughts on a tweeted statement, adding that discussions with Honda “will need to occur but that is secondary right now to this exciting news.”

Hinchcliffe’s current teammate Marcus Ericsson, though, is currently under a one-year contract as he wanted to see what it was like to race in the NTT IndyCar Series before finalizing multi-year plans.

The interesting factor lies in Ericsson’s Formula 1 ties as he’s a third driver and brand ambassador for the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team.

Whether it’s Ericsson or another driver behind the wheel, Schmidt is set on having a multi-car team as that has been his “ultimate goal for a long time” as a car owner.

“You’ll see that transition with the McLaren Orange influence to where we have that same theme going next year,” he added. “I wouldn’t rule out ever running a third car. There certainly will be a third car in Indy, but I think our priority first and foremost is to position the two cars with identical liveries and every opportunity that those two cars have to win, win races, win the Indy 500, win a championship. A third full-time entry is not really on the radar now, but wouldn’t rule it out for sure.”

There’s also the other advantage to a driver with this team, in having the opportunity to cross over to McLaren’s Formula 1 team with a possible testing opportunity. While noting that they have “a rookie driver who is under obligation of some rookie tests in Formula One,” Zak Brown wouldn’t rule out offering that to a future driver who “has a credible chance in Formula 1.”

“I think that’s one of the exciting things about a combined Formula One and IndyCar effort is it will create opportunities for drivers, engineers, especially as we look into the budget cap and Formula One will start to change,” Brown, CEO for McLaren Racing, said. “There will be different ways to deploy our resources.”

The first Formula 1 driver that comes to mind has to be Fernando Alonso, considering he attempted to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren Racing in May. Ultimately, he failed to make the big show.

“I’ll be seeing Fernando at the Italian Grand Prix,” Brown stated. “He’s well aware of everything that’s going on with our IndyCar activities and has been for some time. I don’t think his desire to win the Indy 500 has diminished at all. He has not shown an interest, yet, I should say, in a full season of INDYCAR. He’s coming off of 20 years of lots of racing and I think he wanted to take the second half of this year off to see what he wants to do in the future.

“I think he would be an outstanding talent in INDYCAR. I personally think, knowing him as well as I do, and his driving style, he’d be immensely successful and welcomed and would enjoy it. But Fernando is the type of individual that you put the opportunity in front of him and let him make his decision. So I’ll be picking that up with him in about a month’s time, but I would not anticipate in 2020 him having a desire to do a full season.”

While the new deal brings a lot of promise, there will be one negative in watching Schmidt’s partnership with Michael Shank more than likely disappear, given Shank’s relationship with Honda in IMSA.

“I’m sure he’ll have people burning up his phone to align with him because just a really quality individual, and Jim Meyer, as well, has invested heavily in the program,” Schmidt said. “So I think you’ll see that continue on probably full-time for the next couple years for sure.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Ashley McCubbin is currently studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber while writing for multiple websites. She also serves on the managing staff for a select few. Born in North York, Ontario, McCubbin currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area where she enjoys taking photos and working on websites.

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