Q+A with team owner Sam Schmidt on 2018 IndyCar

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Q+A with team owner Sam Schmidt on 2018 IndyCar
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Mar 31, 2017, 8:40 PM

Following IndyCar’s release of more images of next year’s ‘universal’ aerokit, team owner Sam Schmidt says he’s impressed with its looks although is reserving judgment on how well sponsor names will appear on the bodywork. He spoke to David Malsher.

2018 IndyCar render
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
2018 IndyCar render
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet
Carlos Munoz, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet
James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Sam Schmidt

DM: What do you think of the new car?

SS: I saw it at the last owners’ meeting and I think it looks good. I was interested to see if it would compromise our commercial opportunities running brands on the engine cover; we need to maintain as much space as we can, so we’ve made that point in the meetings. We need it to be attractive to fans while also being functional, so it’s not without its inherent challenges.

But I do like the fact we’re going back to one kit and can get rid of all this other junk.

What do you say to the fans who don’t want spec cars?

I’d say that when you have such a small box to work in, the cars don’t look that much different anyway, so why force the manufacturers go to the huge expense of developing something that makes so little difference to the fans? Let’s put that money into marketing the sport.

From what you’ve heard from IndyCar, will the boxes that the teams will individually be allowed to work in be enough for a team’s engineers to show their innovative ideas?

Yes, and it would be great to have a completely open situation, but we’re still treading a fine line for now. That’s why the commercial side of it is so important because teams have to pay for that kind of technical progress. So until we get a better TV deal and get better attendance and can therefore offer more fan and media exposure to our commercial partners, we don’t have enough to offer to justify those partners covering the price of expansion of engineering departments.

It would be different if we had three chassis manufacturers, three engine manufacturers, two tire manufacturers and they were all contributing to the expense of development, then that would be a different perspective. But unfortunately we’re not in that situation.

Do you feel commercial partners are more attracted to sexier-looking cars, or is it irrelevant to them? Do they just want 230mph cars competing in the biggest race in the world?

Hmm, I think the car’s appearance is important, actually. I think for our partners the car needs to look sexy, needs to look innovative and technologically advanced. It also helps differentiate us from other series. It’s not a huge part of the equation but it’s important that the cars look good… and don’t look 20 years old.

And I think the commercial partners recognize that it’s important to the fans how good the car looks. They see an attractive car as a reason for current fans to bring their fans to the track.

And what has IndyCar been telling you about how raceable these cars are? Has IndyCar given you any figures about how much downforce emphasis has been switched from the topside to the underside?

No specific figures, but in that meeting both sides stressed that this was important – that the cars must be able to run closer together, especially at places like Indy, Iowa and Pocono.

Going back to costs, do you believe IndyCar are going to reduce the amount of parts that need to be changed between road/street/short-ovals and the superspeedways?

Yeah, certainly from the outside, the two spec kits are going to look a lot more similar than they currently look. 

 

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About this article

Series IndyCar
Teams Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Author David Malsher