The 2018 IndyCar season marked the second consecutive year that Lincoln Tech students had the exciting opportunity to be part of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) Mentor Program, giving them up-close access to life on a pit crew. Selected students, along with the SPM team and driver James Hinchcliffe, got to experience both the highs and lows of life on the racing circuit.
The 2018 season included a strong showing for Hinchcliffe to start the season, but was tempered by a devastating accident for another member of the team later in the summer. Five races found top Lincoln Tech students, along with their instructors, in the pit, and it was a life-changing experience for each of them.
“I still can’t believe I’m here,” Niko said as he stood in the pit for the season’s first race. “This is an amazing opportunity; it’s what happens when you come to school every day.”
That was the message he had when asked what it meant to be selected for the SPM program. Niko and instructor Kevin Carman from the Queens, NY campus attended the IndyCar Grand Prix in Indianapolis May 12th, where Hinchliffe opened the season with a strong 7th place showing.
Lincoln Tech sent Erroel and instructor Jerry King to the Indianapolis 500 at the city’s famed Motor Speedway. They had the opportunity to join the SPM team for two weekends: first, the qualifying laps and Carb Day, and then the “big show” – the Indy 500 – Memorial Day Weekend.
It was a fitting selection for the race, as Erroel was nominated by the nearby Indianapolis campus to take part in the event. Hinchcliffe, unfortunately, didn’t qualify for the run, but for Erroel it was still invaluable career experience and the chance of a lifetime as he assisted the crew of Robert Wickens’ #6 car.
Benjamin, a student at Lincoln Tech’s Nashville campus, was joined by instructor James Maxwell for the DXC Technology 600 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Hinchcliffe placed 15th at the June 9th event.
“Racing is something I’ve always wanted to get into,” Benjamin says. “If I didn’t attend class every day, if I didn’t actually try when I came to school, I never would have gotten this opportunity.”
Jacqueline and Nathalie Mische
In a first for Lincoln Tech and the SPM Mentor program, two students from the same campus were selected for a race – and they happened to be twin sisters! Jacqueline and Nathalie, along with instructor Kristopher Fluckiger – a Lincoln Tech graduate himself – caught the attention of NBC Sports and were even profiled on their website prior to the event.
The sisters from the East Windsor campus were selected for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway the weekend of August 18th. But the race was overshadowed by a serious crash involving multiple cars, including those of Hinchliffe and Wickens. Wickens, who earlier had been named 2018’s Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, suffered extensive injuries and is now on the long road to recovery. At the end of the season, Wickens was also named the season’s overall Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
Thomas, a student from Lincoln Tech’s Union campus, joined the SPM team for one of the season’s final events – the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois. He was on hand to watch Hinchliffe log a 15th place finish, and got to do something he never thought he’d have the chance to.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Thomas says. “I love the sport and would have never thought I would get the chance to join the Schmidt Peterson team. It feels unreal.”
You never know where a Lincoln Tech career training program will take you – just ask Cole Jagger, a Lincoln Tech grad who now works on the SPM team! Lincoln Tech is proud to partner with Schmidt Peterson in helping students get a firsthand look an incredible, high-speed career path. Looking forward to 2019!