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?
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.
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.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.