Changing the culture is never easy, but Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is making it look that way.
The newest additions of Todd Malloy, Eric Pinkham and Billy Vincent bring in a wealth of veteran experience as the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season approaches.
Malloy joins the team as technical director after serving as an engineer at Chip Ganassi Racing for the past three years. His experience spans 21 years and includes stops at Team Green, Player’s Forsythe Racing and Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, among others. Notably, he engineered the late Dan Wheldon to an Indianapolis 500 win in 2011 with Bryan Herta Autosport and Paul Tracy to an Indy car title in 2003 with Forsythe.
Although the role is new to him, Malloy believes the uncharted waters will be navigated well.
“The thing at this stage in my career, I’ve had exposure to a lot of different sizes of teams and sizes of organizations and budgets,” said Malloy. “So I have a fairly well-rounded background in that regard. Literally, from the lowest-budget one-car deal, to a proper four-car team with good development program.
“I’ve been through the entire range of programs, so I have a decent feel for what the low-hanging fruit is in terms of performance versus cost, and also race weekend information flow and things like that, that make a real difference to how you perform on the race weekend – particularly averaging more than one car and driver.
“I’m hopeful that I can use that experience and try and raise the level of the team here.”
From a small town in Ontario himself, Malloy gets the “Team Canada” theme at SPM, with drivers James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens, as well as team co-owner Ric Peterson also hailing from north of the border. However, Malloy’s biggest takeaway is seeing what the veteran additions can add to the program.
“It’s a really great team with a lot of really talented people,” Malloy said. “I think Sam (Schmidt, co-owner) is growing the commercial investment in the team. He’s making a commitment to having two full-time paid drivers here on merit. If we were to hone in on a single thing, philosophically that is the single biggest shift in this team going forward, is to have two hot shoes in the cars, each pushing each other and the rest of the organization focused on elevating them both. I think that is going to make a massive difference.”
Pinkham comes on as vice president of partner strategy after most recently serving as vice president of brand strategy for CSM Sport and Entertainment (formerly Just Marketing). Vincent embarks on the unique challenge of multi-tasking dual roles. On race weekend, he will be the chief mechanic for Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda. Away from the track, he will oversee the crews of both cars.
Vincent worked with Team Penske as late as May last season, having been a part of Simon Pagenaud’s Verizon IndyCar Series championship campaign in 2016. He spent most of 2017 working as the outside front tire changer on Takuma Sato’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.
The Wisconsin native is eager to put his 17 years of experience to use at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
“It’s almost like building a new team or a full remodel,” said Vincent. “I like that challenge to be on a team like this that has a good family atmosphere. I think there are some benefits as well to being a smaller operation than the big guys. I think we can react to changes and things like that quicker because it’s not such a big wheel that is turning with so many people.
“I’m excited for the challenge and try to make Schmidt Peterson Motorsports grouped in that saying when people talk about the big teams.”
Hinchcliffe won at Long Beach in April and collected an additional pair of podium finishes on street circuits in an otherwise disappointing season. The second car, shared by Mikhail Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra and Jack Harvey, had only a single top-six result – forcing co-owners Schmidt and Peterson and general manager Piers Phillips to do a serious evaluation of how to retool the organization going forward. That included bringing on Wickens to team with Hinchcliffe, plus the additions of Malloy, Vincent, Pinkham and several new crewmembers.
“Even before I got here,” Malloy said, “Piers and Sam had already decided on a plan from a development point of view and that’s already started before I got here. It’s a matter of shepherding that through and trying to get the most out of it and be ready to race in 2018.”
Schmidt sees the changes taking the team in the right direction for 2018 and beyond.
“Our team is competing in INDYCAR to win races and fight for championships,” he said. “The recent additions to our team reflect the effort to make this vision a reality. On the commercial side, our partners are expanding significantly and you will see a noticeable difference in appearance and presence in the paddock.”