INDIANAPOLIS – There were rumors this past spring that McLaren Racing was interested in still becoming a full time NTT IndyCar Series season. But, instead of coming in by themselves, they wanted to now merge with an existing team for help. The problem was, it had to be a Chevrolet powered team due to the ties being severed with Honda following their F1 split.
The problem in that is, there were only so many Chevy teams in Indy Car right now. Team Penske wasn’t going to merge and AJ Foyt Racing wasn’t in a good position to merge with. Carlin could be but we saw how that all went during the Month of May. That left Ed Carpenter Racing who really wasn’t all that interested to begin with.
Fernando Alonso speeds out of pit lane during qualifying for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500
A few Honda teams tried to persuade the manufacturer to allow them to merge with McLaren but the line was drawn. It wasn’t going to happen. But, due to a common shared sponsor, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was interested. Their problem was, they had a deal already in place to remain with Honda for 2020. They’ve been with Honda since they bought FAAZT Racing in 2011. Do you want to leave them on a bad note?
In order to join forces with McLaren, that was their only option.
“Extremely difficult, you know, because there is that loyalty,” Sam Schmidt said on Monday about the decision to break his contract with Honda to make this deal happen with McLaren. “There is that length of time and a lot of success, and at the end of the day, they are a great motorsports and OEM operator.
“When they aren’t winning, they do everything possible to win, so we wanted to stay in that camp. When you draw the line down the center of the paper and you put your pros and cons on each side, that was definitely a big negative to doing this deal.
“On the other side of the page, there was so many positives that it really was, you know, a no-brainer. At the end of the day, it’s just unfortunate, but it’s ultimately their decision.”
The reason ASPM thought that this was a good move was because not many of these opportunities come about. They had one in January when Arrow came on with a larger presence. Then, a few months later, a second big opportunity came about with McLaren. It was a dream come true for Schmidt to be aligned with a world renowned team like McLaren’s stature.
“Most team owners in INDYCAR would relish a major opportunity in their career as an owner, and we had that back in January with Arrow aligning with the team and branding both cars and all that stuff.
“But to have two sort of monumental announcements in one year is really a dream come true, and I think this alliance really gets us to that level where we can compete week-in and week-out with the other guys they talk about.
“When I came in in 2011, I mean, that’s where I said we needed to be, or else, you know, why do it? We are not here just to sit around in the middle of the back of the pack. We want to be a regular force week-in and week-out, qualifying the Fast Six and racing for race wins; that’s the goal every week.”
Now that the deal has been made, it’s pressure time. You don’t make a move like this to get worse. ASPM has been on the cusp for the last few years of breaking out and making this a “Big 4” among the top teams. A deal with McLaren you would hope would spring you towards the Penske’s, Ganassi’s and Andretti’s, not backwards. Plus, there’s now a microscope on you trying to close that gap too – one that’s the size of this Earth.
“Yes, I mean, it’s the ultimate and now we have to perform,” Schmidt said of the situation that they’re in now. “It’s a be-careful-what-you-wish-for situation, because now, Arrow is a partner. Ric and I, together — again, this is all about winning, and winning the Indy 500 and being a realistic competitor for the championship, and we couldn’t do it without these resources and without these technical capabilities.
“On a person level, I’ve been a fan all my life of Formula One and IndyCar. My dad was a team owner at Indy in ’78, ’79 using a five-year-old McLaren chassis and a lot of little things that I don’t think even Donald Davidson would know. But it goes into the background here, so first and foremost, be clear that we’ve done this to win races and try and compete for a championship.
“But on a personal level, this is what I want to be doing full-time and these partnerships with both Arrow — there’s 32 other ones behind them, Cypress and Lucas Oil of 15 years and on and on and on. So for all of those combined, the added global exposure and opportunity is just a fantastic way to go. Arrow obviously raised the bar two years ago with Club Five, and we intend to keep doing that on every aspect of the business. So just can’t wait to get started.”