We’re now four years past that unfortunate business that transpired at the Milwaukee Mile which eventually resulted in O2 Racing Technologies being barred from competition for two years. Schmidt Peterson Motorsport has a bifurcated reputation in IndyLights. On one hand, they are THE most successful team in the history of the IndyLights series and many of today’s popular and talented Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, such as James Hinchcliffe, Pippa Mann, and recent race winner Josef Newgarden, are alumni of the outfit. They’re also known for creative interpretation of the rulebook, and according to some, perhaps going a bit to far in their liberal interpretation.
In Friday’s Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race on the infield road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s Jack Harvey, driver of the #42 machine for the team, took his first victory of the season after securing pole position in the qualifying session earlier in the day.
“It was pretty much a perfect day; we qualified on pole, won and set the fastest lap in the race. We’ve seen that qualifying has been key, that starting on the pole really pays dividends. But in the race, new tires were an advantage. It’s such a toss-up, which one you prioritize, and we tried to be quite bold in the strategy this weekend. I started the race on old tires. It shows what a great team I have behind me. But it’s so competitive; Sean Rayhall is on the podium in his third race, RC Enerson has continued to impress. If you don’t move forward, people are overtaking you. It’s down to us and the team to keep pushing each other forward. Ed will be on the pole tomorrow so it means trying to move as far forward as we can. But it was a great day, starting from pole and getting my first win of the year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.” — Jack Harvey, #42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport
With his four other second-place finishes in the first five rounds, he gains serious ground on the series leader Ed Jones of Carlin, and the Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship winner, and 2014 Pro Mazda champion, Spencer Pigot of Juncos Racing. As things stand now, the three are separated by singular point each. Ed Jones still leads the championship with 147 points. The twin race wins at Barber Motorsports Park helped Spencer Pigot close the gap to Jones and goes into Race #2 at IMS today with 146 points. Harvey, with his win yesterday, now sits at 145 points.
There’s a bit of an asterisk next to Harvey’s win, however. After talking with a team member from Carlin, we’ve learned that the #42 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car was fitted with tires allocated for the previous weekend at Barber Motorsports Park during yesterday’s qualifying session prior to Race #1. Carlin appealed to the IndyLights officials regarding the infraction. SPM was fined and was penalized one set of tires for the weekend, but no action was taken to remove either the results and points of the session or apply a grid or time penalty for the following Race #1.
We’ll keep our ear to the ground and see how this plays out, but it sounds eerily familiar to the unpleasantness from four years ago. This could simply be a case of a set of tires mistakenly fitted to the car, but given the stakes involved during the Month of May and how well organized the SPM crew are, it’s unlikely. Regardless of how this turns out, let it not take away from Jack Harvey’s efforts in the car. He’s a seriously talented driver, and I do not wish to disparage him. When we have updates on the situation, we’ll be sure to pass them along.