UPDATE Press Release: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) announced today that it will cease operations in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Series, starting in 2017.
SPM began as a Lights-only entity in 2002 and currently holds the longest-running tenure in the series. During its 15-year operation, the Indianapolis-based team became the most successful in Series history, acquiring seven championships, 74 race wins, 82 poles and eight Freedom 100 victories.
The team's presence can be seen in the forward progress of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system, with nine of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series drivers having competed for SPM at some time in their racing careers. Team co-owner Sam Schmidt considers this a benchmark of the team's legacy and cites economics as his decision to withdraw from the series.
"This is probably the most difficult decision I have had to make as a team owner since our founding," said Schmidt. "Indy Lights has been our cornerstone for 15 years and not being on the grid at St. Pete next March will certainly be disappointing.
"Unfortunately or fortunately, our IndyCar commercial opportunities are expanding greatly, the SAM Project has several new initiatives for 2017, and Conquer Paralysis Now is exploring new programs. Ric [Peterson] and I want to make the IndyCar team great, not just good, which requires time and resources.
"We are hopeful our legacy will continue through the many IndyCar drivers that are now competing full time in the series as well as engineers and mechanics that have graduated as well."
Despite the redirected focus on its Verizon IndyCar Series entries, the SAM car (a semi-autonomous vehicle collaboration with Arrow Electronics), and Schmidt's foundation Conquer Paralysis Now, SPM will continue to support the growth of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires.
11/15/16 Schmidt Peterson has closed down its 2nd place finishing Indy Lights team in a move that team owner Sam Schmidt has described as “one of the toughest things I’ve had to do in the last 15 years."
Speaking to Trackside Online, Schmidt said: "It’s unfortunate. We went from coming away from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca thinking that we might be able to facilitate all three support series and the IndyCar program, to two months later not being able to support any of it.
"I think the majority of the reason is simply just economics on both sides. Things are going so well on the IndyCar program; the commercial side is doing well, the team doing well, and given the complexity and the size and scope of those programs, I felt guilty splitting my time between Indy Lights and IndyCar."