Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has promoted Taylor Kiel from team manager to general manager.
Kiel takes over from Piers Phillips, who left the Sam Schmidt- and Ric Peterson-owned outfit after three seasons in the GM role. Phillips also served at Robert Wickens’ race strategist.
“Both Ric and I are very thankful to Piers for the impact he has had on the team for the last three years and for helping us to get to where we are today,” said Schmidt in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best in whatever he chooses to do next.”
The Indiana native, a veteran of the organization, inherits a team that showed immense promise in 2018, but fell short of the high expectations it held after wholesale changes were made during the off-season.
SPM abandoned its practice of taking on paying drivers for its second Honda-powered entry and hired Canada’s Robert Wickens to partner with countryman James Hinchcliffe, parted ways with veteran SPM engineer Allen McDonald and hired renowned sports car race engineer Leena Gade, hired ex-Ganassi engineer Todd Malloy to take over as technical director, brought ex-Penske crew chief Billy Vincent in to run Hinchcliffe’s car, and hired a number of new mechanics with an aim of joining IndyCar’s elite.
Although Wickens – the revelation of the year – turned SPM’s No. 6 Honda into a front-running challenger, Hinchcliffe’s fortunes in the high-profile No. 5 car weren’t as consistent or complementary. A failure to qualify for the Indy 500 and Gade’s subsequent firing brought the wrong kind of attention to the team.
A win for Hinchcliffe on the Iowa oval in July proved to be the biggest highlight for the program, and by all accounts, it should have been SPM’s third or fourth victory of 2018 after Wickens nearly won from pole at St. Petersburg and was taken out of contention more than once due to strategy errors. Prior to his season-ending crash at Pocono, Wickens held sixth in the championship and Hinchcliffe was ninth.
A rough close to the season saw Hinchcliffe fall to 10th in the final standings, and despite all of the positivity associated with Wickens’ performances, it was hard to ignore the unexpected struggles that limited Hinchcliffe’s results at numerous rounds.
In Kiel, SPM moves forward with someone who worked his way up from the bottom of the sport and has become a success story within the team. However, he won’t have the luxury of time to ease his way into SPM’s top management positions as he, along with Schmidt and Peterson, will be tasked with finding a driver to take Wickens’ place while the 29-year-old continues his recovery, and to fortify the engineering base behind Hinchcliffe’s entry in short order.
This story was updated to incorporate a quote from Sam Schmidt.