Watkins Glen, NY – September 3, 2016 – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) drivers Mikhail Aleshin and James Hinchcliffe were headed toward the Firestone Fast Six during Saturday’s Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying. Both were handed interference penalties that put them in 10th and 13th place respectively, on the starting grid for Sunday’s IndyCar Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International.
Hinchcliffe finished the first session with a 1:23.7342, however he was penalized by INDYCAR and forced to forfeit his fastest lap for a spin that allegedly caused interference. Despite a time fast enough to advance to the second round, the Canadian driver’s qualifying effort was aborted.
“It was an incredibly frustrating day at the office,” said Hinchcliffe. “Honestly, the spin is irrelevant. We’re not advancing because of the decisions INDYCAR made. It’s just really disappointing. We put a lot of work into the Arrow Electronics car and made it a lot better from yesterday and we had P4 in that session. The guys did such a good job and we’re going to be starting way further back than we deserve to be for really no reason. The next step is to make a wicked fast race car and pass them all.”
The penalty for Hinchcliffe’s car allowed Aleshin, who was seventh in the first group, to advance to round two. The Russian driver earned a sixth place spot with a time of 1:23.2640 and was prepared to advance to the Firestone Fast Six. Just as the final qualifying round was about to start, Aleshin was handed an interference penalty and dropped from the remainder of qualifying.
“I think that I did all that I could,” said Aleshin. “I thought that I just needed to let the other drivers go so that I could have a clear lap. I knew that Montoya was behind me so I moved to the right. You can see it on the replay. They’re far away and I’m moving to the right. INDYCAR gave me the penalty when I had two identical laps and I was in the top six. They didn’t take only one lap, they took away two fastest laps, even though I moved to the right. I think it’s not very fair. I have no words. I’m just sorry for my fans because I did all I could and the team did a fantastic job to bring the SMP Racing No. 7 car up there but here we go. We’re going to forget about today and fight for tomorrow.”
The IndyCar Grand Prix will take place on Sunday, September 4 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The 60-lap competition will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network from 2:00-5:00 p.m. ET.
Earlier in the day, SPM Indy Lights teammates Santi Urrutia and Andre Negrao started first and second for their 25-lap race.
Just one lap into qualifying, Urrutia broke the Lights track record with a 1:33.3598, which set the stage for a neck-and-neck battle for most of the session. When the checkered flag fell, the Uruguayan driver grabbed his third pole position of the season.
Negrao managed to keep his car out of trouble for the entire race around the 3.4-mile, 11-turn, natural-terrain road course. He held on to third place to earn his fifth podium of the 2016 season.
Urrutia lead the field to the green flag but dropped to P2 on the first lap. He maintained a spot in the top three for the first two-thirds of the race. On lap 18, his left front tire went down and forced him off track. The Uruguayan driver was able to limp the car back to pit lane for a full tire change and front wing replacement.
Despite finishing 12th in the race, Urrutia holds onto his lead by one point in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship. The season finale weekend will include a double-header at Laguna Seca on September 10th and 11th.