INDIANAPOLIS – Multiple media outlets are reporting that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has a “short list” of 28 drivers that they feel could fill the second seat with the team for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Both RACER and Motorsport.com are each reporting that, and that fact is indeed true. Basically anyone who has driven at a high level is on that list of potential drivers.
But, we’re skipping one major step here. The team isn’t worried about that second car for 2018 just yet, they’re actively trying to keep their driver in the other car.
Currently, both SPM cars for 2018 are available. That’s a problem that SPM wants to alleviate very soon. As we sit here today, James Hinchcliffe is a free agent. Now, neither Hinch nor SPM would like to part ways, but facts are facts and Hinchcliffe currently doesn’t have a 2018 seat yet.
Granted, the Canadian is on top of the free agency list for available drivers overall, that in turn could be a problem for SPM. With the way the silly season is playing out, Chip Ganassi Racing is looking to have three available seats. With Andretti Autosport staying put with Honda, Ganassi lost out on Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi. Sato, is going to Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing and Rossi will remain with Andretti on a multi-year contract. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti are also staying put, meaning a team like Ganassi has lost out on some big free agents.
With Hinchcliffe available, they could look his way.
So, SPM needs to act quickly and smart and keep Hinchcliffe in house. Sam Schmidt has already said that one car is fully funded, and that they even have half funding for the second car. Also, Hinchcliffe has been open saying that he would love to stay with SPM but he’s going to take the best contract offered, as he should too.
So, SPM needs to make Hinchcliffe an offer he can’t refuse and keep him in the No. 5 Arrow Honda for years to come. With an alliance secured with Honda through the 2020 season, SPM definitely has the money and resources to keep Hinch.
Then, they will know what budget they have left to pay someone for the second seat and how much money that second driver needs to bring. That’s why all these stories are valid, but missing one key step.
Hinchcliffe, joined SPM in 2015 and has had two wins, seven podiums, eight top fives and 18 top 10’s in 37 starts with the team. In three years with Andretti, Hinch had three wins (All in One Season), seven podiums, 15 top fives and 27 top 10’s in 52 starts.
His popularity is huge and very marketable. He may be among the nicest drivers in the paddock and is a marketers dream. He’s an Indy 500 pole winner as well as a Long Beach winner.
With a new car and SPM on the rise, he’s a perfect fit for them.