(via Forbes) – Sam Schmidt just made a major announcement regarding his smallish Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar team. This year, Arrow Electronics has come onboard as title sponsor for both of his race cars, instead of just for the one driven by James Hinchliffe. We caught up with Schmidt for some perspective on what the new sponsorship means, how his driver Robert Wickens is doing since a devastating spinal chord injury from a crash last summer at Pocono Raceway and what the addition of Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson means to the team. Schmidt also discussed his personal goal of reaching 200 mph again in a car. Following are edited excerpts from a longer conversation.
Jim Clash: What does the Arrow Electronics team sponsorship mean for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2019?
Sam Schmidt: It’s everything. It’s the future. Every team owner will tell you that this type of naming-rights entitlement is the dream: Marlboro Team Penske, Williams Martini, Target Chip Ganassi. You can’t regularly win races, win Indy 500s, win championships, without those three boxes of financial resources, technical resources and a great team-member environment. This really allows us to check all three boxes.
Clash: Marcus Ericsson comes from Formula 1 and is your third driver this year. Why did you pick him?
Schmidt: Number one, we didn’t get started in that selection process until almost October. I’m not alluding to the fact that it was a slim list, but the fact is Marcus’ five years of Formula 1 experience, his time in simulators, his attention to nutrition over there with the physio side, were all things we wanted to integrate into our team. We saw it have a positive effect with Robert [Wickens] last year, and just wanted to keep building on that. And then, frankly, when we had a conversation with him, he’s downright hungry. He saw what Robert was able to do with equal cars, equal tires, equal engines. Bottomline, we are plugging him into the same personnel, the same chassis, everything Robert was successful with last year. Marcus is the one who said it: “If I’m not successful with this team and this car, I had better look in the mirror.” So he’s all in. He has a chip on his shoulder and is motivated and prove to the world that he can win races.
Clash: Robert Wickens was in that horrific crash last year at Pocono. How is his recovery going?
Schmidt: Very good. What made him so darn good as a rookie in the car are the same qualities and that will give him the best chance for a good outcome here. He’s very determined – his work ethic is as good as any I’ve ever seen. He is getting sensation back, movement back. The next six months will tell the story of how much he ultimately will get back.
Clash: Since you’ve been through something similar with your spinal-chord injury, do you ever give Robert any psychological advice?
Schmidt: He’s pretty strong psychologically, anyway. We support him any way possible, though – direct him to the best PT’s, give him the best equipment to maximize his performance – and then he’s the one who has to do the work. When you’re faced with a spinal chord injury situation – mine, his, whatever – the only thing that is absolute is that if you do nothing, you will get nothing. Beyond that, the sky is the limit. You may be able to walk out of the hospital with just the hard work, and that’s what we’re focused on.