By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
After months of speculation, Arrow McLaren Racing SP have confirmed Oliver Askew and Patricio O’Ward as their driver lineup for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season.
The team confirmed that the two most recent Indy Lights champions will pilot their Arrow Electronics Chevrolet entries in what will be the youngest driver lineup in the IndyCar paddock. By hiring Askew and O’Ward, the team had to release James Hinchcliffe from his driving duties after switching manufacturers from Honda to Chevrolet.
“It’s a dream come true to be joining Arrow McLaren SP for my first year in IndyCar,” said Askew in a team statement. “The new team brings together three great partners and it’s an honor to be representing them in this new chapter for the team and for my career. This is an exciting new challenge for me and the next natural step after winning the Indy Lights title this year. I can’t wait to get started.”
Askew won the 2019 Indy Lights championship and the 2017 USF2000 championship on the back of some dominant wins in both championships. O’Ward narrowly lost the 2016 Indy Pro 2000 championship to Aaron Telitz but won the 2017 Prototype Challenge class championship in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship before winning the 2018 Indy Lights title.
O’Ward qualified fifth and finished ninth in his debut at Sonoma Raceway in 2018 before signing a deal with Harding Steinbrenner Racing ahead of the 2019 season. That deal fell apart shortly before the 2019 season started after more funding failed to materialize, leading the Mexican racer to sign with Carlin for a partial 2019 campaign and being picked up by the Red Bull young driver program.
“I couldn’t be happier to be with Arrow McLaren SP for my first full season in IndyCar,” said O’Ward in a team statement. “I’ve had some great opportunities over the last year, but this is by far the greatest thing that could possibly happen for my career. I had a taste of IndyCar earlier this year and cannot wait to represent Arrow McLaren SP in the best way possible for a full season in 2020.”
The odd man out in this situation is Hinchcliffe. To further their commitment to the IndyCar Series, McLaren bought into what was Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and renamed the team. Because of McLaren’s acrimonious split with Honda in Formula One after years of underperformance, Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson’s team were forced to switch to Chevrolet ahead of the 2020 season after McLaren announced their involvement.
Hinchcliffe has been a Honda driver almost his entire career except for a two-year stint with Chevrolet engines at Andretti Autosport in 2012 and 2013. The Canadian has appeared in numerous advertisements for Honda and is backed by Honda Canada. While AMRSP intended to honor the 2016 Indianapolis 500 polesitter’s contract, the manufacturer conflict and other issues arising from a photoshoot for the ESPN Body Issue resulted in the perfect storm for dismissal.
“James has been a great ambassador for our team, and for the sport, over the last five years,” said Schmidt in a team release. “Our history dates back to his early days in Indy Lights and we’ve been on a tremendous journey together. Most impressive was James’s determination to come back after his accident in 2015. I have the utmost respect for James and would like to thank him for his hard work and accomplishments during that period and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
There is no word yet on whether Robert Wickens’s contract with the team is still valid. Wickens was partially paralyzed after a crash in the 2018 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway and the team have said that when Wickens is ready to drive, a car will be ready for him.