St. Petersburg, FL – March 13, 2016 – Mikhail Aleshin started the 2016 season strong for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) with a fifth place finish on Sunday afternoon at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Teammate James Hinchcliffe finished 19th.
Aleshin started the race in 17th and completed an incident-free race. He was able to steadily advance forward and avoid trouble to earn a fifth place finish.
“It’s amazing to be here at this first race in St. Petersburg with IndyCar,” said Aleshin. “It’s great to finish in the top five and bring some good points for our team and the No. 7 SMP Racing car. I didn’t have any tests but the car was so good that I was able to just drive and enjoy the race.”
Hinchcliffe started eighth but encountered contact with the No. 20 on the first lap. He went a lap down but was able to gain it back on lap 46 when the yellow flag flew.
On lap 56, the Canadian driver got caught in an eight-car incident in turn four. After making a pit stop, the No. 5 Arrow Electronics crew noticed another cut tire, forcing another pit stop. When the checkered flag fell, he finished in 19th.
“Certainly, it wasn’t the day we planned,” said Hinchcliffe. “I joke that when you make plans A through P going into the first corner at St. Pete and usually by turn one, they all go out the window. That was definitely the case for us. We got tagged and cut a tire, then ended up spending the whole race a lap down. We finally got the yellow we needed, got the lap back, just to get caught up in turn four on the restart there. It’s disappointing.
“There was some aggressive driving out there today but I guess that’s the first race and that’s what happens when a series is competitive. I’m happy for the progress we made on the car. I think we had a pretty decent fast lap there and we learned a lot about the new street course tire, and hopefully we can just take this knowledge and move forward to Phoenix.”
The Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race took place early in the day on Sunday. RC Enerson, returning for a second season with SPM, was involved in an incident on lap one and pitted for a replacement nose.
With 32 laps to go, Santiago Urrutia was flagged by race control for a broken front wing on the car, forcing him to pit for a replacement.
When the checkered flag fell, Brazilian driver Andre Negrao came in fifth and was the highest-placing finisher for SPM. Teammate Scott Anderson earned a P9, Enerson finished eleventh, Urrutia thirteenth.
“I think it was a pretty good start for the championship,” said Negrao. “The car was good all weekend, especially in the second race. We expect even more at Phoenix. Overall, I’m happy for the beginning of the season and we hope to see more.”
In two weeks, IndyCar and Indy Lights will head west for the Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway. The IndyCar race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network at 8:30 p.m. ET and tickets are available online at PhoenixRaceway.com.