The past two Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champions, Pato O’Ward (2018 champion) and Oliver Askew (2019 champion), will drive in the NTT IndyCar Series for Arrow McLaren SP for the 2020 season. Six-time NTT IndyCar Series winner James Hinchcliffe is now out of a ride with Arrow McLaren SP for the 2020 season.
I think it’s stupid that Hinchcliffe lost his seat at Arrow McLaren SP. Even though Hinch is under a Honda contract and can only race a Honda motor, Arrow McLaren SP is switching to Chevrolet engines, he had a contract set for the 2020 season. It’s also late in the game to get a ride for next season, but I think Hinchcliffe will find a ride for the 2020 season.
From the moment McLaren said they were teaming up with Sam Schmidt’s IndyCar team, James Hinchcliffe had a secure spot to race with the team for 2020. Then a young pair of drivers became available and the Canadian was dropped from his ride. Hinchcliffe began driving for Sam Schmidt in 2015, the year he nearly bled to death when a part on his car broken in a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway pierced his leg. He is under contract to the team but being replaced by 2018 Indy Lights champion O’Ward. Askew sealed a deal to replace Marcus Ericsson in the second seat after wrapping up this year’s Indy Lights title.
Hinchcliffe was already in a bind because of his ties to Honda and personal services agreement as a spokesman. But Honda won’t work with McLaren because of a bitter breakup in Formula One, so the existing Schmidt team will move to Chevrolet in 2020. That move was going to cost Hinchcliffe significant money, but he was committed to staying with the team and had repeated public assurances from co-owner Schmidt and McLaren CEO Zak Brown that Hinchcliffe would be back. Instead, O’Ward gained a release from Red Bull Racing that made the 20-year-old available to join the 22-year-old Askew in what will be the youngest team in the IndyCar paddock.
Arrow McLaren SP are no strangers to developing young talent into championship winners. The team, formerly known as Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, is the winningest Indy Lights team in history with seven championships and have given IndyCar Series opportunities to rising stars such as Simon Pagenaud and Robert Wickens in recent years. Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono late in his rookie season, and although he vows to race again, he’s currently in a wheelchair. He and Hinchcliffe are very good friends who grew up racing together in Canada.
Oliver Askew, an American who turns 23 in December, won seven races while winning the Indy Lights title this season driving for Andretti Autosport. The Indy Lights title comes with a bonus that pays for the champion to race in at least three IndyCar events, including the Indianapolis 500. In the article, “McLaren confirms Askew and O’Ward for 2020 IndyCar lineup” by The Associated Press, Askew said “It’s a dream come true to be joining Arrow McLaren SP for my first year in IndyCar. The new team brings together three great partners and it’s an honor to be representing them in this new chapter for the team and for my career.” I think this is a good decision by Arrow McLaren SP to have Askew in a seat. This is also a good opportunity for Askew to try and prove himself in the world of IndyCar.
Pato O’Ward, a nine-time Indy Lights winner his championship season, had planned to drive alongside Colton Herta last season at Harding Steinbrenner Racing but bailed right before the season amid concerns about team funding. He landed a few races with Carlin, failed to qualify for the Indy 500 and then left to join Red Bull’s program. The Mexican racer said he was pleased to return to IndyCar. In the article by The Associated Press, O’Ward said, “I’ve had some great opportunities over the last year, but this is by far the greatest thing that could possibly happen for my career. I had a taste of IndyCar earlier this year and cannot wait to represent Arrow McLaren SP in the best way possible for a full season in 2020.”