INDIANAPOLIS – On Wednesday, Arrow McLaren Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced their 2020 NTT IndyCar Series driver lineup. While everyone kind of assumed that James Hinchcliffe would be back with the team despite being in a lame duck status, the announcement said otherwise.
Defending Indy Lights Series champion Oliver Askew will be in one seat while Pato O’Ward will be in the other.
O’Ward wasn’t too shocking as the 2018 Indy Lights champion was recently let out of his Red Bull contract. It’s crazy to think that the last calendar year has seen O’Ward let out of contracts early only to see him land in this coveted ride.
See, the Mexican driver initially wanted to stay in Indy Car but his funding dried up. O’Ward, 20, had the Road to Indy scholarship money and was initially set to drive for Harding Steinbrenner Racing in a newly formed second team for the 2019 season. Unfortunately, HSR didn’t have the funding or resources to make it happen so they let O’Ward out of his contract early to pursue other opportunities. The problem was, not much was open.
So, O’Ward landed with Carlin for what was supposed to be a 13 race deal including the Indy 500. The kid started off fast finishing eighth in his season debut at COTA. The problem was, Carlin didn’t have a ton of funding available either and when both he and Max Chilton missed the Indy 500, it put O’Ward’s future with them in peril. So, O’Ward landed a gig with Red Bull Racing and was put overseas. He didn’t have enough points on a Super License to compete for an F1 gig yet, but he was in a series in Japan hoping to gain some. Unfortunately, changes were made to the points system which left O’Ward high and dry. Red Bull and O’Ward knew that other opportunities in Indy Car could come up and without a direction now to F1, O’Ward was let out of his contract early once again and come back to the United States with a McLaren seat waiting.
It’s a no brainer for McLaren/SPM to hire him. O’Ward ran one full time season in Indy Lights and he only won nine races en route to a championship. He also had 13 podiums in 17 starts in 2018.
He won an IMSA championship in 2017 and was second in the final standings in Pro Mazda competition in 2016 after winning seven times in 16 tries.
The kid is the real deal.
So is Askew. The Florida native had a stellar season in Indy Lights this past year. Askew, 22, won seven times as a rookie and took home the championship. He also had 13 podiums in 16 starts this past year as well.
In 2017, Askew finished third in the Pro Mazda championship as that comes after a banner season in 2016 in USF2000 where he won seven of the 14 races run in another title year.
Askew, tested with Chip Ganassi Racing in an Indy Car late in the season and wowed them. Rumor was, he’d use his scholarship money and race in an expanded Ganassi outfit. But, when Ganassi announced a third car to come out of the garage full time in 2020 and it was Marcus Ericsson, not Askew listed, the dominoes started falling McLaren/SPM’s way.
It’s big for such a big outfit like McLaren to use the Road to Indy Program and snatch the last two Indy Lights champions.