By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
One of the more storied teams in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires will close the garage doors as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports confirmed they will not be fielding a team in the 2017 championship.
Despite nearly winning the 2016 championship with Santiago Urrutia, the team will be centering its focus on the Verizon IndyCar Series program after winning seven championships in the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder
The team had tested 2016 Pro Mazda standout Pato O’Ward alongside Garett Grist at the recent test at Barber Motorsports Park, but a lack of funding to the Indy Lights program led team owner Sam Schmidt to close the part of his organization that made him more of a mainstay in open wheel racing.
Schmidt formed his team in 2001, running in the IndyCar Series in 2001 and 2002 and then focusing on the Indianapolis 500 starting in 2003. During that time, the team ran full time in Indy Lights starting in 2002, first tasting victory lane in 2004 with Thiago Medeiros at Phoenix International Raceway.
The team won seven Indy Lights championships with Medeiros in 2004, Jay Howard and Alex Lloyd in 2006 and 2007 respectively, and then four championships in a row from 2010 to 2013 with Jean-Karl Vernay, Josef Newgarden, Tristan Vautier and Sage Karam behind the wheel.
Since Karam’s title in 2013, Schmidt’s team has come close to winning the Indy Lights championship in each of the three seasons. In 2014, Jack Harvey tied with series champion Gabby Chaves, but lost the championship by not having as many second place finishes as Chaves.
In 2015, Harvey was leading the points until the last race weekend of the season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca before Spencer Pigot swept the weekend and beat Harvey to the title by 27 points. In 2016, Urrutia led the points by one over Carlin’s Ed Jones but Jones was able to win the championship in the last race of the season after Jones’s teammate allowed him past to secure the title over Urrutia.
The recent announcement brings a close to the most successful Indy Lights team of the past decade. However, Schmidt did not rule out a Freedom 100 one-off attempt.