Three-time IndyCar Series race-winner James Hinchcliffe has signed a multi-year deal to race with the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) team to drive its #77 Honda-powered entry, it has been confirmed.
The widely expected announcement comes after news of the departure of SPM race-winner Simon Pagenaud, who will join Team Penske’s expanded four-car line-up next year.
Hinchcliffe will join the team – which has finished inside the top-five of the IndyCar Series championship standings for the past three seasons – with immediate effect to commence off-season testing and prepare for next year’s championship season.
“To see what they have accomplished in the last few seasons has been incredible. Winning races, being competitive at all tracks and finishing in the top five in the championship against more experienced teams at this level is impressive. Because they are young, there is still room for them to grow and improve, and that’s an exciting thought for me,” Hinchcliffe said of his appointment.
It’s not the first time that Hinchcliffe has raced for SPM, having contested the 2009 Indy Lights feeder championship with the outfit, finishing fifth overall.
Team boss Sam Schmidt admitted that the Toronto-born driver has been in his sights for a number of years.
“James had great success in Indy Lights and other series on his way to IndyCar. In fact, he would already be with us driving the No. 77 if he would have been available three years ago. We went after him in 2011, but it didn’t work out then,” he said.
“We know that his success in the Verizon IndyCar Series is no fluke. We’ve now won races and contended for championships, and we believe he’s going to be the person we need to keep moving forward as a team. It’s a very big compliment to the team that James wants to come drive for us and that he thinks that he can win and contend for championships with us.”
The 2014 IndyCar Series season – his fourth in the championship and third with the Andretti Aurosport stable – has not been particularly kind to Hinchcliffe, who has suffered particularly with poor qualifying performances. Finishing twelfth overall in the Drivers’ Championship standings (worst-placed of the team’s four-car stable), his sole highlights were a front-row start at the Indianapolis 500 and a sole visit to the podium at Mid-Ohio.
Images via Motorsport.com
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