Aleshin’s ‘long, strange trip’ ends in 10th at Road America

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(via — Mikhail Aleshin’s journey to and in Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix may best be summed up by lyrics from the Grateful Dead’s famous song “Truckin” that read “what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

It wasn’t until early Saturday morning that the Russian knew he would be competing in the race at Road America, so to come away with a 10th-place finish Sunday brought relief and mild satisfaction to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver.

Although he missed an important full day of practice Friday on the 4.014-mile permanent road course, Aleshin climbed from a 19th-place starting position in the 55-lap race to score his third top-10 finish of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Following his participation in last weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Aleshin faced visa issues, delaying his return from France to the United States until late Friday evening. DTM touring car driver Robert Wickens took the wheel of the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda in Aleshin’s absence at Road America

Aleshin flew to Chicago on Friday and arrived at Road America on Saturday morning, taking part in one Verizon IndyCar Series practice ahead of qualifying. With technical issues slowing his team’s progress on the car, he struggled in qualifying but fought through a tightly competitive field in the race. The 10th-place finish matched his second-best showing of the season.

“I think the team did a good job to bring car No. 7 (home) in the top 10,” said Aleshin, who now sits 14th in Verizon IndyCar Series points. “We had nice pit stops, and the car balance was fine.

“I think especially this result is not bad at all (considering) the problems we struggled with (Saturday), the lack of speed. So, yeah, the result is pretty all right, also regarding I didn’t do any practice on Friday, so the team did a good job.”

Once again, Road America’s high-speed circuit treated fans to an exciting race, with battles throughout the field for all 55 laps. Aleshin provided a couple of those moments when he swung wide at the 90-degree Turn 5 and went through the grass before regaining control and getting back on track. But by avoiding trouble around him and working his way forward, Aleshin was pleased with the outcome.

“It was a pretty intense race for me,” Aleshin admitted. “It was good, we needed those points, we were struggling (Saturday) with technical issues, but (Sunday) the car seemed to be fine and here we go, top 10.”

Aleshin is entering the portion of the schedule where he began to excel last year. The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway on July 9. In 2016, Aleshin started ninth and finished fifth on the 0.894-mile oval, the first of three top-six finishes in a four-race span for the 30-year-old driver. The run included Aleshin’s first Verizon IndyCar Series pole position and a second-place finish at Pocono Raceway.

NBCSN carries single-car qualifying from Iowa live at 3 p.m. ET July 8. Coverage of the 300-lap race at the series’ shortest circuit begins at 5 p.m. July 9 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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