McLaren drops SP name in INDYCAR, why this isn’t necessariliy a shock

INDIANAPOLIS — On Monday, McLaren Racing announced the NTT INDYCAR Series side of things will be rebranded. They’ll drop the “SP” portion of the name essentially eliminating the Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson, and naming it Arrow McLaren.

While some may wonder what this means for Schmidt and Peterson, their roles however remain unchanged. Which brings up a question as for why make this change then? I get from the outside it sounds petty, but when you take a step back and fully take a stock at the timeline, it’s none to surprising at all.

Back on Aug. 8 of 2021, it was announced that McLaren Racing had taken the next step in its full-time return to IndyCar by announcing that it had entered into an agreement to acquire a majority share in the formerly known Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team. The transaction closed at the end of 2021 which allowed McLaren Racing to take a 75% share of the team. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

At the time of that announcement, the team would be governed by a new five-person board, comprising three McLaren Racing appointees together with Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson, chaired by Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing. Taylor Kiel, President of Arrow McLaren SP, was to continue to lead and oversee the operations of the team, reporting directly to the board.

Pato O’Ward drives out of pit lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Now, look at the moves since. Kiel is out. They’ve reshuffled the front office and even the pit boxes and who’s in charge of what. Kiel, a long-time Schmidt employee is out. Gavin Ward and Brian Barnhart are in. This has McLaren’s fingerprints all over it. They’ve been slowing inching further and further away from the Schmidt Peterson brand each year.

This has always been the plan since McLaren came back to the 2017 Indy 500. The partnership with Andretti then later Schmidt was always the start but the end goal was to eventually branch out on their own. Each step of the way slowly got them there and this fully puts them on their own.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has Arrow and in 2020, McLaren returned to full-time IndyCar competition in 2020 after a 40-year absence to create Arrow McLaren SP, forming a strategic partnership with title sponsor Arrow Electronics and SPM, bringing technical and engineering expertise to the existing operation. In addition, McLaren has helped strengthen the team’s commercial portfolio with the addition of sponsors Vuse, Mission Foods, Darktrace, Tezos and QNTMPAY while supporting the team’s communications, social and content activities to help build its growing fanbase.

Right away, the brought their own drivers in replacing James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson with Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew. The No. 6 was still on hold for Robert Wickens. For 2021, they kept O’Ward but replaced Askew with Felix Rosenqvist. Last year remained status quo on the driver front but they used the No. 6 again for Juan Pablo Montoya in a third straight year of having an Indy part-time entry. Fernando Alonso ran in 2020, while Montoya did so in 2021 and 2022.

Next year, O’Ward and Rosenqvist once again return while Alexander Rossi takes over the third car but on a full-time basis. However, the 6 will be used by Rosenqvist, signaling another silent move away from the “SP” portion.

Now you get this move which was the final move to which McLaren is fully here and the SP is just an in house board member. There’s no denying that the No’s 5, 6 and 7 teams within the NTT INDYCAR Series paddock are McLaren and have nothing to do anymore with the “SP.”

Which is why this isn’t a shock because it’s been moving in this direction for the last 3-4 years now.

The announcement underlines the continued growth of the McLaren Racing organization, with four fully-fledged teams, headed by McLaren F1 and complemented by the McLaren IndyCar, McLaren Extreme E and McLaren Shadow esports and gaming teams.

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