Long Pond, PA – August 22, 2016 – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) driver Mikhail Aleshin earned a season-best, second-place finish for the ABC Supply Co 500 on Monday at Pocono Raceway.
The 500-mile race was scheduled for Sunday afternoon but postponed after severe weather canceled the day’s track activity. At noon on Monday, Aleshin lead the field to the green flag after earning the pole position during Saturday’s qualifying.
Aleshin, now nicknamed the “Mad Russian” because of his aggressive driving style, battled back and forth for the lead with the second-place driver for the first ten laps of the race. From lap 11 through 49, he lead the field. For most of the 200-lap race, the Moscow native held onto a spot in the top four.
With fifteen laps remaining, Aleshin fought hard to overtake leader Will Power. He managed to reduce the margin to 0.3 seconds at one point but when the checkered flag fell, Aleshin tied his Verizon IndyCar Series career-best finish of second.
“I’m very proud of my team and everyone who works on the SMP Racing car No. 7,” said Aleshin. “They did a fantastic job today and it payed off. Will [Power] was just faster in the end and I couldn’t do anything with him. When I was catching him, I almost put my car into the wall a couple of times but I still couldn’t overtake him. He has a fair win for sure, but I’m happy to be in second place because we had some difficult moments this race and this year, so this is a good position to move forward.”
Teammate James Hinchcliffe started the race on the outside of row three in sixth place. He battled balance issues throughout the first half of the race on the 2.5-mile oval. Just when the Arrow Electronics crew found the best balance of the race, they noticed that part of the No. 5 car’s engine cover was coming loose.
Taping the bodywork on Hinchcliffe’s next pit stop didn’t help but the team was able to secure it two stops later. The Canadian driver managed to stay mid-pack and cross the finish line in tenth place.
“It was a solid top ten,” said Hinchcliffe. “It certainly wasn’t the result we were hoping for after qualifying but if you heard the whole story of the race, I think you could understand that we’re pretty pleased with that.
“We had a decent top-five run going for the first half of the race and then we had a piece of bodywork start to separate on the engine cover. It was not only creating a bit of drag but also changed the handling of the car quite a bit. We went wicked loose for about the last four laps of one of those stints and we were just really losing a lot of lap time. We came in and made some repairs to the bodywork. Anytime we’re chucking tape onto a car during a pit stop in a race, you know things have gone a bit south, but the Arrow Electronics guys did a great job to get that fixed and we played some strategy a little bit there to stop early and have a shorter last stop than everyone else when that yellow came out.
“So like I said, it wasn’t the true pace of the Arrow Electronics car but from where we were around lap 135, I think we can be pretty happy with a top ten.”
In six days, the Verizon IndyCar Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway for the continuation of the Firestone 600. The 248-lap race originally started on Saturday, June 11 but 72 laps in, severe weather forced a red flag and the race was rescheduled for Saturday, August 27. At the time of the red flag, SPM drivers Hinchcliffe and Aleshin were running first and third, respectively, and will reclaim their spots when the race resumes.