NBC Sports takes a look through the teams competing in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has a lot of new or revived components coming back into play for 2016, with James Hinchcliffe’s return the biggest story to monitor.
Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Engines/aero kits: Honda
Sponsors: Arrow Electronics/Spyder Active Wear (No. 5), SMP Racing (No. 7)
Wins: 1 (Hinchcliffe 1)
Podiums: 2 (Hinchcliffe 1, Jakes 1)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1 (Hinchcliffe 1)
Points: 699 (Jakes 257, Briscoe 205, Hinchcliffe 129, Daly 68, Aleshin 40)
Laps Led: 49 (Hinchcliffe 20, Daly 12, Briscoe 10, Jakes 7)
Championship Position: 16th (Jakes), 18th (Briscoe), 23rd (Hinchcliffe), 28th (Daly), 33rd (Aleshin)
2016 LINEUP (Engineers in parentheses)
5 James Hinchcliffe (Allen McDonald)
7 Mikhail Aleshin (Blair Perschbacher)
The script didn’t go to plan at all for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2015, although there was enough resiliency to make the year worth it. New lead driver James Hinchcliffe, courtesy of some brilliant strategy from his pit stand, stole a win at NOLA Motorsports Park and for good measure James Jakes added a third place. But it was a false dawn; the season got turned upside down when Hinchcliffe’s near-death accident in Indianapolis 500 practice required something of a miracle from the Holmatro Safety Team and the “Trauma Pit Crew” form IU Medical Center to save his life.
On track, Ryan Briscoe and Conor Daly filled in admirably even if their results didn’t show it. Daly paid particularly strong tribute on Hinchcliffe’s home soil in Toronto, wearing the trademark red gloves with an homage to “the Mayor” on his helmet. Jakes was nothing if not reliable in the second car, even if he was largely anonymous results-wise; Mikhail Aleshin also impressed in a one-off third car outing at Sonoma.
This might be the hardest team to project for 2016, because they definitely have win potential with the people in place but the field is so deep that immediate success might be hard to come by. Piers Phillips is the team’s new general manager – the de facto “new Rob Edwards” – and has a strong career history, most recently in sports cars. Hinchcliffe’s return has been a big story of the offseason but where exactly he fits in the fray is hard to determine. He could win, or he could be stuck in the midpack if the Honda aero kit isn’t up to par. Talented and humorous as he is, he’s a real unknown for the year and it’s hard to see him finishing much higher than maybe fifth or sixth in points.
The second car, meanwhile, has an even harder-to-pinpoint situation. There’s a new engineer with Blair Perschbacher replacing Dan Hobbs, and a new driver with Aleshin back replacing Jakes. Yet visa issues delayed Aleshin from running at the final two preseason tests at Phoenix and Sebring, and Gabby Chaves filled in nicely following his last-minute availability. Aleshin got his visa sorted but enters with a relative lack of testing by comparison; meanwhile, Chaves’ preseason work should not go unnoticed.