Edwards: Schmidt Peterson Indy Lights program set to continue

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INDIANAPOLIS – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team manager Rob Edwards has revealed its Indy Lights program plans to continue for 2015, with the introduction of the new Dallara IL15 chassis.

The expectation, Edwards said, is that the new Indy Lights car will produce a car count much higher than the current 8-10 car level of the last two years, closer to 15-16 in 2015, to where the SPM portion isn’t a high percentage of the field.

“We want to continue; Sam’s history is built on Lights, and success in Lights,” Edwards told MotorSportsTalk at James Hinchcliffe’s signing at Flat 12 Bierworks in Indianapolis.

“From our point of view, it doesn’t make sense to invest in new equipment if we’re 50 percent of the field again. Our requirement, or threshold, is like 16 cars or so running around. If Dan can get to that sort of number we will be part of it.”

Edwards expects to have a final decision taken within the next two to three weeks. But the team is planning to hire additional engineering strength for the Indy Lights program.

“We need some other engineering for the Lights program as well (besides Hinchcliffe’s), so we’re taking a company-wide approach,” he said.

Edwards said Indy Lights is important to make bigger as the final rung on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. Schmidt has seen many of its Lights drivers go onto IndyCar careers, although Josef Newgarden (2011 champ) has had the longest staying power in IndyCar among its last four champions (JK Vernay, Newgarden, Tristan Vautier and Sage Karam from 2010 through 2013).

“We believe the stepping stones to get to IndyCar need to be there,” he said. “It’s too big a jump from (Pro) Mazda straight to IndyCar.

“But when you win the championship, you want to have had your driver race against a deep enough field where it means something.”

As for drivers, one of SPM’s 2014 drivers, Jack Harvey, was in attendance Tuesday night. The Englishman, who stormed through the field in the second half of the season with four wins in the last five races, is hopeful of a second season. Harvey only lost the Indy Lights title to Gabby Chaves, a former SPM driver, on a tiebreaker.