Servia confirmed for Schmidt Peterson third car at Indy 500

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has gone for veteran expertise in its third car for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, adding Oriol Servia as driver of the team’s No. 77 Schmidt Peterson with Marotti Racing Honda.

Servia, 41, would be set to start his eighth Indianapolis 500 since debuting in 2008, and make his 199th career start overall in a career dating to 2000. His best start is third in 2011 with Newman/Haas Racing and best finish is fourth a year later with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

It will also add Schmidt Peterson to Servia’s list of career teams driven for up to 14. Note the 13 below as was the case when he filled in for Will Power at the season-opening race at St. Petersburg.

Servia’s last four starts dating to last year’s Indianapolis 500 will have come for four different teams: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Andretti Autosport, Team Penske and now SPM.

Additionally, with both SPM teammates James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin having missed last year’s race for entirely different reasons, Servia will provide a guiding hand in seeing them get up to speed at Indy with both aero kits and the new domed skid plates, which have been the subject of much controversy in the run-up to the month of May. Hinchcliffe and Servia were teammates during Hinchcliffe’s rookie season in 2011.

“I am very pleased to have this opportunity at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports,” said Servia. “This year’s Indianapolis 500, the 100th running, will be the most special in our era, maybe of all time, and I wanted to make sure I was in a team that can give me a program to contend for the win. I have no doubt that together with SPM and Honda, we will at least do that.

“The whole team, including James, my teammate in 2011, and Mikhail, are ultimate professionals and I can’t wait to start doing laps at the most special track in the world in preparation for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Said team co-owner Sam Schmidt: “We’ve competed against Oriol for several years now and have always looked for an opportunity to get him in one of our SPM entries. He is a true professional and is highly respected within the motorsports community. Interestingly enough, we shared the front row with him in 2011 and know that he can get the job done for all of our team partners.”

Speaking of partners, note the addition of Connecticut pastor Will Marotti, whose dreams for a place in the Indy 500 have been realized.

“We are thankful and excited beyond measure to be able to participate in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 with a team of the quality and caliber of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports,” said Marotti. “This is the fulfillment of a 47-year-old personal dream, and we hope just the first of many years that Marotti Racing will be in the paddock and part of the IndyCar community.”

Inevitably, the safe and steady pair of hands that Servia provides for this seat means there is disappointment for others, most notably Gabby Chaves. The Colombian American tested admirably for the team, filling in for Aleshin, this preseason and had been strongly considered for the seat – budget pending.

Stefan Wilson and Brian Vickers were also reportedly in play, although rumors are percolating that Wilson may have an announcement of his own for Indianapolis to be revealed in the coming days.

Vickers had served primarily as Tony Stewart’s fill-in driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, although Stewart confirmed his return this weekend at Richmond. Vickers certainly would have added intrigue but would have been a gamble as a rookie without having any past experience.

There still remain a handful of formal announcements to come regarding the final few seats this year, with a couple other surprises possible to push the field past 33 cars.

ENTRY LIST AS IT STANDS

Chevrolet (16)

  • Penske (4) – Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud
  • Ganassi (4) – Max Chilton, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball
  • Carpenter (3) – JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter, Josef Newgarden
  • KVSH (3) – Sebastien Bourdais, Matthew Brabham (PIRTEK; KVSH tech partnership), TBA
  • Dreyer & Reinbold (1) – Sage Karam
  • Lazier (1) – Buddy Lazier (expected; not official yet)

Honda (17) 

  • Andretti (5) – Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi (Andretti/Herta), Townsend Bell
  • Coyne (4) – Conor Daly, Bryan Clauson (confirmed; Coyne with Byrd); Luca Filippi, Pippa Mann (expected; not official yet)
  • SPM (3) – James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin, Oriol Servia
  • Foyt (3) – Takuma Sato, Jack Hawksworth, Alex Tagliani
  • RLL (2) – Graham Rahal, Spencer Pigot

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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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.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

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.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

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.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

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.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2