McLaren returns to IndyCar through partnership with Chevy, Arrow SPM

The logo of the McLaren Formula 1 team is seen at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit in Monza on August 31, 2018. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – McLaren will return to full-time IndyCar competition for next year, teaming up with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after decades away from the racing series.

The team will be renamed Arrow McLaren Racing SP and will field two Chevy-powered cars for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Racing Series.

The deal has been in the works for months, fueling speculation in the racing world. The Arrow SPM team infrastructure will remain intact while McLaren adds its technical expertise and marketing muscle. Arrow SPM co-founders Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson will continue in their current roles.

McLaren Racing Sporting Director Gil de Ferran will lead McLaren’s IndyCar involvement with a group independent of the Formula 1 team.

“IndyCar has been part of McLaren since our early years of racing, and the series today provides not only a commercial platform to continue to grow our brand in North America, but competition with some of the best teams in international motorsport,” said Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing.

“I’m extremely proud of the team that Ric [Peterson] and I have built and that a legendary brand like McLaren Racing has decided to partner with us to form Arrow McLaren Racing SP to continue our march to the top of IndyCar,” said Sam Schmidt, co-owner of Arrow SPM.

Ric Peterson, Schmidt’s fellow co-owner at Arrow SPM, said he was excited to pull off the deal and continue working with Schmidt.

“I’m equally thrilled that Sam [Schmidt] and I are able to continue on in our long-standing relationship together and maintain our ownership position in the company. I can’t wait to see what the future holds,” Peterson said.

In 2017, McLaren teamed up with Andretti Autosport to field a car for Fernando Alonso in the Indianapolis 500. Mclaren & Alonso returned with a partnership with Carlin Racing in 2019, but failed to qualify.

Adding some drama to the deal is Arrow SPM’s existing contract with Honda. The team will use Chevrolet engines while Arrow SPM had one year remaining on its Honda deal, according to the IndyStar.

Honda has a contentious relationship with McLaren because of how the two companies parted ways in Formula One. That acrimonious split prevented McLaren from forging a permanent partnership with Andretti Autosport.

Arrow SPM stepped up as a potential suitor despite having a year remaining on its Honda deal and proceeded with the McLaren partnership against Honda’s wishes, the IndyStar reported. Since Arrow SPM will use Chevy engines, it appears Honda has agreed to let Arrow SPM out of the final year of its contract.

The IndyStar, citing sources, also reported that Honda officials were unhappy with the McLaren deal. If that’s the case, Arrow SPM and Honda are in the awkward position of sticking together for the four remaining IndyCar races.

Arrow McLaren Racing SP hasn’t made any announcements regarding who will drive for the team, and James Hinchcliffe in particular will be in an awkward position if he stays on with the new team. One of IndyCar’s most popular drivers, Hinchcliffe is personally sponsored by HondaCanada and is a spokesman for Honda in various commercials. Could he possibly drive a Chevrolet for an entire IndyCar season with that agreement in place?

“It’s rather unfortunate what this (deal with McLaren) means for our relationship with Honda,” Hinchcliffe tweeted out Friday afternoon. “They are (a) company that has done so much for me, and when the time is right, a discussion to what that means for my partnership with them and HondaCanada will need to occur, but that is secondary right now to this exciting news.”

Hinchcliffe has one year remaining on his deal with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

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