IndyCar 2015 team preview: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

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We come next to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in our look at the field of teams for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series. Consistently the biggest thorn in the “big teams” sides, can they keep it up this year with a pair of new drivers?

Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Engines/aero kits: Honda
Sponsors: Arrow Electronics/Spyder Active Wear (No. 5), Mediatech Advertising (No. 7)

2014 STATS

Races: 18
Wins: 2 (Pagenaud)
Podiums: 4 (Pagenaud 3, Aleshin 1)
Pole Positions: 1 (Pagenaud)
Fastest Laps: 3 (Pagenaud)
Points: 966 (Pagenaud 565, Aleshin 372, Villeneuve 29)
Laps Led: 63 (Pagenaud 59, Aleshin 4)
Championship Position: 5th (Pagenaud), 16th (Aleshin)

2015 LINEUP (Engineers in parentheses) 

5 James Hinchcliffe (Allen McDonald)
7 James Jakes (Dan Hobbs)

2014 RECAP (Pagenaud, Aleshin driver recaps)

Simon Pagenaud finished his three-year run with Schmidt Peterson in contention for the IndyCar title down to the final race in Fontana, albeit largely thanks to the double points on offer there. The Auto Club Speedway weekend was a nightmare for the team to end what had been a decent season. Pagenaud fought through a challenging evening a night after teammate Mikhail Aleshin had a devastating accident up against the catch fencing. It cast a sour ending on a year when Pagenaud won twice and was Honda’s top driver, and Aleshin surprised in his rookie season.

2015 OUTLOOK

Both drivers are out and the new all-James lineup figures to have some moments of glory throughout 2015, if not achieve the same title contention status that Pagenaud did the last two years. Hinchcliffe will embrace his new role as team leader in a two-car environment and seeks a return to winning after a trying 2014. Back after a year’s absence, Jakes will post an occasional qualifying run or result of note here or there but otherwise isn’t likely to threaten the pacesetters regularly. Key to note here is the absence of team manager Rob Edwards, now at Andretti Autosport, but the SPM team should work diligently to keep itself nipping at Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti’s respective heels.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.