With two of the three unclaimed rides for the Indianapolis 500 taken off the list of potential homes for interested drivers, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is left holding the final key to enter the event.
Following the confirmation from Juncos Racing and Harding Steinbrenner Racing regarding their intentions to field single entries, the only access point left for the month of May is in a Honda-powered car alongside 2016 polesitter James Hinchcliffe and Indy rookie Marcus Ericsson.
Former Arrow SPM drivers Oriol Servia, Mikhail Aleshin, and Carlos Munoz are among the remaining drivers searching for a way into the Indy 500; two-time Indy starter Stefan Wilson is also looking for a seat.
“I think we’re really close,” Arrow SPM general manager Taylor Kiel told RACER. “Obviously, we have to beat the [entry] deadlines for a lot of that stuff; it’s right around the corner. We’re just tying up some loose ends on a few things. In respect to being on the team that everybody calls, what we do offer is an opportunity for people to come and work in our organization and we’ll provide them with a decent shot.
“We take a lot of pride and being able to show up at Indy with a one-off effort on top of the two cars that we currently bring now. We build it into our budgets. That’s something we do every year. It’s just part of the fabric of who we are. We think, internally, our third car will always have a good of shot as the other two and that’s, I think, what’s ultimately most attractive about our program for Indy.”
In owning the lone remaining Indy 500 entry, Arrow SPM could hold out for the highest bidder. And, in light of 2018’s struggles at the Speedway with Hinchcliffe failing to qualify, and an oval rookie like Ericsson to support, the team could take a different tack, signing the best driver available, even if he can’t match the funding level offered by others.
Determining which direction to follow is the hardest decision to make, according to Kiel.
“It’s something that you have to take into account every year. We’re racers, but we’re also operating a business here, so we do have to look after the bottom line,” he said. “We have to understand that there are guys out there that have a paycheck, and then there are guys that haven’t. And, typically, the way it works, it’s the guys that have the money don’t have the same type of talent as the guys that don’t have any money, right?
“I think everybody understands that dynamic. So, it’s a fine line between losing a little bit on the revenue side and gaining a little bit on the performance side. But I think that we’ve kind of turned the corner as a company with the support that we have from our partners to now be able to look solely at, ‘How can we improve our program?’
“And I think with that being the mindset, it narrows your search down to just a handful of candidates that you know can pop in, can contribute to the program, not take anything away from what the other two are doing, but in fact, add value to what we’re doing on track, not just commercially. So, that’s where we’re at. That’s where our mindset is.
“We’re not here to mess around with anything but trying to win this race. So, that’s certainly how we approached our driver search this year, and how we will continue to pursue it in the future.”