Sam Schmidt says that being nominated as Honda’s test team for the 2018 aerokit last summer had not given the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports squad a headstart over its rivals.
While Penske was Chevrolet’s initial test team when the IndyCar Series first conducted its tests on the spec kit last July, Schmidt Peterson was Honda’s test team, chosen over Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport.
However, despite starring roles for both Robert Wickens and James Hinchcliffe in the opening races of the season, team co-owner Schmidt doesn’t believe SPM’s early start had given the squad an extra boost in knowledge or performance.
“I honestly don’t think there was a technical advantage for us,” Schmidt told Motorsport.com. “The prototype kit was… pretty rough, to be frank! Plus IndyCar were constantly changing things, and we were running their setups – we hardly got a chance to do any testing per se. Yeah, we tested eight or 10 days, but we didn’t get the Cosworth electronics until the last test.
“It was a prototypical prototype program, if you will. But at the same time I wouldn’t choose to not do it, that’s for sure, because it kept our guys busy, kept them on the car, and got them seat time.
“Put it this way, when we tested out here a couple of weeks ago, that’s what really felt like the first test of the new superspeedway kit, just like for everyone else.”
Schmidt, who has seen his cars take pole for the Indy 500 in 2011 (Alex Tagliani) and 2016 (James Hinchcliffe), said he was fairly content with the team’s progress in practice this week, but confessed he had no idea how the team’s four cars – Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens, Jack Harvey (driving the Michael Shank-run machine) and Jay Howard – would compare with their rivals.
“We focused on race downforce level and fuel loads, and then did a couple of qualifying simulation runs this morning in case tomorrow gets rained out and then we’re straight into qualifying on the weekend.
“But because it’s so hard to get a no-tow lap, you just don’t know how you stack up against the other Hondas, let alone the Chevys. If we don’t get to run tomorrow, it’s going to be a complete surprise what everyone has on Sunday.
“Our first goal is to be top of the Hondas and hopefully that’s quick enough to beat the Chevys, because the powerplant is the one thing we have no control over.”