Top five for Mikhail Aleshin and 19th for James Hinchcliffe at IndyCar season opener
St. Petersburg, FL - 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."
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports