By: Tanner Watkins
June 25, 2019 | 8:00 AM
After a ninth-place result in qualifications and a finishing position of seventh during Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America, James Hinchcliffe was simply left wanting more.
This desire for greater achievement this season comes after Schmidt Peterson Motorsports brought on the Canadian driver’s longtime sponsor Arrow to be the team’s title sponsor.
Along with the deal came heightened investments into not only the No. 5 team but also the No. 7 Honda driven by rookie Marcus Ericsson.
Through the year, Hinchcliffe and Ericsson have shown glimpses of growth and from time to time have been able to compete with the Penske’s, Andretti’s and Ganassi’s of the IndyCar circuit. Furthermore, Hinchcliffe is a respectable ninth in the NTT IndyCar Series points standings, though Sunday’s race was a microcosm of the season for the veteran driver thus far.
“Kind of story of our year: I don’t think the result was representative of the pace we had,” Hinchcliffe said after the race. “We had a good start, got some guys, made up another spot or two during the first pit sequence… We were really just kind of running lap for lap with Josef (Newgarden) and Will (Power) there, maintaining the gap, looking after fuel and tires.
“On that last sequence, we decided to pit one lap early, and ultimately that let Colton (Herta) and Graham (Rahal) get ahead of us, which really just sort of compromised our race from there. When Colton’s tires went off, he made a mistake that ended up costing me two spots.
“Kind of bad luck, kind of wrong place wrong time, but the car was good and the Arrow guys were awesome in the pits,” added Hinch. “It’s a shame to leave here without the top-five we deserved, but we’ll keep our heads down and keep pushing.”
Things haven’t come easy for Arrow SPM this season, and perhaps their performance has been under a greater microscope in 2019 than in years’ past due to the heightened expectations. With that being said, there are still seven races left to complete and more than a few opportunities for Hinchcliffe to grab his best finish in the points.
In 2012 and 2013, Hinchcliffe picked up back-to-back eighth place markings with Andretti Autosport. Since then, his best drive for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was 10th – last year.
And for Ericsson, he is currently ahead of struggling veterans like Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan, plus second-year driver Zach Veach, who is likely driving in better equipment while gathering lesser results.
Ericsson has been campaigning for a second year in IndyCar, and at this rate, he should get it.
Yes, the expectations for Arrow SPM should be higher if they are indeed receiving greater financial backing from Arrow. This team should threaten for podiums and a win from time to time. But this is the first year of an expanded partnership with their new title sponsor, and for me, the real evaluation comes in 2020.
For now, the boys at Arrow SPM are alright. The mission should be to build on this final half of 2019, keep the group together for 2020, and come out swinging at St. Petersburg next March.
In this era of instant gratification, some things demand a bit more patience. If Sam Schmidt can hold out for just a little while longer, I think he will like what is on the other side of the mountain they are trying to climb.
Header image by James Black/INDYCAR.