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Schmidt Peterson, Honda announce contract extension

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Honda weren’t expected to part ways – SPM has been the team undertaking development work with a Honda-powered 2018 Dallara universal aero kit in INDYCAR-managed testing – and so today have announced a formal extension of their relationship through 2020.

Beyond the extension, SPM and Honda announced what was also termed “an increased level of partnership between the two parties.”

Further elaboration on that front comes from Art St. Cyr, Honda Performance Development President.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in their capability, and our expectations are a lot higher,” St. Cyr said. “Their engineering talent, their ability to analyze what’s going on from one race to the next and really be able to up their game each session really impressed us. We are going to be relying on Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to help us gather base data that is going to be the source of our programs like HPD Dynamic, our simulator, and those types of activities that we will be feeding across to all of our Honda teams to make sure that all of them raise their game.

“As we move forward with our manufacturer testing, SPM is going to be one of our key teams to really help us characterize the kits and make sure we can understand what are the strengths, what are the weaknesses and how we can maximize the ability of that kit to get the speed on track.”

SPM general manager Piers Phillips added, “Our technical partners give us the increased engineering capability which, in turn, gives HPD the confidence in us as a team to take our partnership to the next level. Our contract extension is the culmination of everyone’s hard work. One of the things that we’re extremely excited about is working closer technically with HPD for the benefit of not only our program, but for all Honda programs in the IndyCar Series. We’re really excited for the next three years and hoping to win a lot of races, some Indy 500s and championships.”

The new 2018 car has one final test under INDYCAR direction at Sebring International Raceway on Sept. 26.

SPM has not announced its 2018 driver lineup, although it’s believed James Hinchcliffe is working towards an extension to continue with the team for what would be his fourth consecutive year.

The identity of Hinchcliffe’s teammate, provided Hinchcliffe re-signs, remains a hot topic.

Several veterans and young guns are known to be vying for the full-time seat, vacated by Mikhail Aleshin after the race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Sebastian Saavedra and Jack Harvey have been in the No. 7 Honda since Mid-Ohio and the team may wind up running a third car at the Sonoma season finale, as they last did for Aleshin in 2015.

Carb Day: Tony Kanaan is fastest in final practice for Sunday’s Indy 500

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Tony Kanaan wants to put legendary driver and team owner A.J. Foyt back into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan took a big step toward achieving that goal in Friday’s final practice for Sunday’s 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

Kanaan was fastest of the 33-driver field, with a best lap around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at 227.791 mph, more than 2 mph faster than the second-fastest driver, Kanaan’s former teammate, Scott Dixon (225.684 mph).

Foyt won a record-tying four Indy 500’s as a driver. It’s been nearly 20 years since he also won as a team owner in 1999 with Kenny Brack behind the wheel.

Marco Andretti was third-fastest (225.200 mph), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (224.815), Charlie Kimball (224.712), 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (224.083), Will Power (223.942), Danica Patrick (223.653), Spencer Pigot (223.584) and Ed Jones (223.556).

Other notable driver speeds included:

* Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th fastest (223.219 mph).

* Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden was 15th (223.186 mph).

* Helio Castroneves, hoping to earn a record-tying fourth 500 win, was 17th (222.913 mph).

* Graham Rahal was 21st (222.526).

* Former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was 26th (221.916 mph), followed by rookie Robert Wickens (221.821 mph), carrying the mantle for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with James Hinchcliffe having failed to qualify for the race.

* The biggest surprise was 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who was 32nd fastest (221.374 mph).

We’ll have the full speed grid, as well as full driver quotes, shortly. Please check back soon.

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