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Sam Schmidt’s team – we’ve no idea who this Peterson fellow is – endured a severe reversal of fortunes after a moderately successful 2014. The seemingly snake-bit SPM dealt with a host of issues apart from having two brand new drivers – the Two Jameses, Hinchcliffe and Jakes – as well as humpback Hondas. The poorly performing team failed to overcome devastating injuries, spectacular wrecks and more than their fair share of rotten racing luck. The group regressed this season and received low marks as a result.
Their tough year started quickly at St. Pete where a perfectly healthy team couldn’t crack the top fifteen, a harbinger of the season to come. Canuck funny man Hinchcliffe won at swampy NOLA – where one stop was enough – before being gravely wounded during practice for the Indy 500. His injuries at IMS resulted from a one hundred and twenty five G-force collision with the wall due to the failure of a right front suspension part.
Photo from indycar.com
Upon impact, a suspension arm penetrated the cockpit, striking him in the thigh and gouging his artery. Schmidt likened it to “a dagger through the bottom of the seat.” Suffering extreme blood loss, Hinchcliffe was immediately taken to a nearby ER. He ended up in intensive care, though it’s reported the quick actions of safety crewmen at the track saved his life. Unknown at the time was that the injury would be season ending, requiring numerous surgeries.
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Along with the Mayor’s top five in the aforementioned bog were two top ten finishes. While he ran at the finish of all five of his starts, the only other highlight in a troublingly truncated year was seventh at Barber. Twelfth was the best SPM could manage at Indy, Hinchcliffe in the Grand Prix and then after the accident Ryan Briscoe – despite spinning – in the 500. From then onward, SPM’s season went off without a Hinch.
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Veteran part timer Briscoe filled in competently, ending up eighteenth in points. In eight starts the Aussie re-tread was running at the end of six of them, scoring a top five and four top tens. Nicole’s husband finished fifth in the finale at Sonoma and also managed to walk away from a vicious flip at Fontana, an incident highly indicative of the team’s up and down year.
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After sitting out all of last year Englishman James Jakes showed flashes of talent but was otherwise unremarkable in the second car. Making sixteen starts, JJ wound up sixteenth in points. Taking only one top five and the team’s lone podium he came in third at – you guessed it – NOLA. SPM’s the one team that may actually miss the trip to the bayou next year. The lad from Leeds added four top tens, running consistently at the finish in fourteen races. At least his model WAG Megan Williams is smokin’ hot.
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Hoosier hot rod Conor Daly made five starts including Indy where he literally caught fire. Embarrassingly, his car ignited during the parade laps, the poor guy never seeing the green flag. On a more positive note, he scored a sixth place finish in Detroit‘s slippery second race and even led twelve laps. Daly was running at the finish everywhere except for the flaming 500 fiasco, of course. “Mad” Russian Mikhail Aleshin made his Putin-like return to the series at the Sonoma finale, bringing it home in one piece and earning a top ten – barely.
Photo from sports.usatoday.com
Hinch bemoaned his summer of recovery recently, quipping on Twitter that he’d had to spend most it “on the couch.” Let’s hope next season’s better, for both Hinch and the team.
2015 Grade: D+
2015 Midseason Grade: C
2014 Grade: B-