Mikhail Aleshin returns to the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time after nearly a year’s absence. The Russian driver made one appearance last year, in the IndyCar season finale at Sonoma where he finished an impressive P10. He has spent most of his past year testing and racing sportscars in the European Le Mans series with AF Corse and SMP Racing, the latter of which he competed in the 24 Hours of LeMans with.
Aleshin stated that he missed racing in IndyCar, noting the level of competition in the series. He also expressed his happiness to be back and confidence that Schmidt Peterson Motorsport and Honda will be even more successful this season. Aleshin will be racing the No. 7 alongside Canadian teammate and local comedian, James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5.
Max Chilton, driver of the No. 8 Chevy for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2016 told us how the reality of an IndyCar ride started to come into light during a very bittersweet time last year… the taste of victory was fresh in the midst of a tragic loss,
“It came about when I won the Iowa (Indy Lights) race. It was the day my (former) teammate (Jules Bianchi, F1) passed away. The team looked into it and they realized it was my second only oval race. In the following weeks I got contacted by every team. It was a filter system. I got it down to two pretty quickly. There was one that I wanted to be with.”
Chilton is looking forward to simply having the opportunity to win, explaining that while racing in F1 was his dream, he hasn’t had a true shot at victory in years. He is well aware of the learning curve ahead of him but with folks like 3-time Indy 500 winner and 4-time champion Dario Franchitti “on speed dial”, he knows that his nerves are fair and founded – Franchitti reminded the rookie that it took him years to truly feel comfortable on oval tracks.
Spencer Pigot will pilot the No. 16 with Rahal Letter Lanigan racing in the 2016 season. He and the team are hoping to add to the three confirmed races for the Indy Lights champion, with all sides working hard to find additional funding. Pigot has been learning a lot from Graham Rahal and taking opportunity to listen to radio feeds and be a part of discussions during pre-season testing of the No. 15 Honda, in order to soak up as much as possible. Pigot will only be afforded two days of testing prior to the season kick off in St. Pete’s.
Conor Daly gave massive thanks to Dale Coyne for making a full-time ride happen for him this season. Finally! Daly was so excited, he actually showed up to the presser in his firesuit. It was actually rather endearing and of course he was self-deprecating when it was brought up in jest. Outside of dress code guidelines, Daly is ready for the season in his No. 18 Honda. He is very much looking forward to being able to actually prepare for a race, as opposed to jumping in the car minutes before qualifying.
Daly also touched on the family aspect of this achievement, saying that his dad seems to be smiling a lot more and he thinks he finally made him proud. He’s enjoying having discussions with this father based around racing advice, instead of just funding and the commercial side of motorsports.
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