SPM preps for night racing at Texas Motor Speedway

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Fans at Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600 will also be entertained by "Big Hoss," the world's largest high-definition video board.

INDIANAPOLIS - A Frenchman and a Russian walk into Texas Motor Speedway, looking for six-shooters and a cowboy hat in victory circle.

It sounds like the start to a bad joke, but Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) drivers Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin enter the Firestone 600 race weekend with one serious goal: victory on the 1.5-mile oval on Saturday night, June 7.

The Firestone 600 is the first Verizon IndyCar Series night race of the 2014 season, which Pagenaud said presents a unique set of challenges for drivers.

"Vision is the most important thing during night races," Pagenaud said. "The race starts in daylight, and heads into darkness as laps progress. While you're driving you have to make an adjustment to the steering wheel to ensure you can see the lights and info it displays. And your helmet visor gets very tricky. You can use a different visor than normal, or tinted peel offs for the visor.

Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda
Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda

Photo by: Walter Kuhn

"It's very stressful preparation for the race because you have to know when the sun is going to set to layer your peel-offs properly. There's obviously no time to reorder them during the race."

Rookie Aleshin drove the first oval race of his career last month at the Indianapolis 500, but negotiating the 24-degree banking at Texas Motor Speedway will present a new challenge for the Russian.

"The banking comes up very fast in the turns at Texas, which makes the car loose," Aleshin said. "I've spent the whole week leading up to the race watching previous years' races on the track. I know we'll have more downforce this year than the drivers did last year, so hopefully that will give us a bigger range of options to use for car setup."

Finishing the 372-mile (600 km) race is crucial for Aleshin.

"For me, this weekend will be about learning the track, but the most important thing will be to finish the race," he said. "While that's the main point, of course I want more. I loved the competitive edge I found in Indianapolis, and I'm hoping that translates to the oval in Texas."

Aleshin enters the Firestone 600 coming off a seventh-place finish in Race 2 at the Indy Dual in Detroit last weekend, his best result since finishing sixth April 13 at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"We've been competitive at the past three races, but we had bad luck in each of them," Aleshin said. "Our No. 7 SMP Racing Honda is fast everywhere we go, but things weren't going our way until the second race in Detroit. It's difficult when you know you have the pace, but your results aren't showing it. It was a relief to get a solid result last weekend, and I hope to bring that energy to Texas Motor Speedway."

The Firestone 600 will air live on NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. (ET) Saturday, June 7 from Texas Motor Speedway.

Of Note:

In addition to watching Verizon IndyCar Series action live on the track, fans at Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 600 will also be entertained by "Big Hoss," the world's largest high-definition video board.

Big Hoss Television on the back straight at Texas Motor Speedway
Big Hoss Television on the back straight at Texas Motor Speedway

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

The screen is 218 feet wide and roughly 95 feet high. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers first saw "Big Hoss" during open testing earlier this year at Texas Motor Speedway. They already have decided what they would watch on the massive screen, given the chance.

"I would love to watch Ayrton Senna's pole-winning lap at the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix in 1990 on the Jerez circuit," Pagenaud said. "That onboard lap is one of the best pieces of driving we'll ever see. Seeing it on 'Big Hoss' would make it feel like real life."

While Pagenaud's choice stayed in the racing realm, his teammate would prefer a more refined viewing on "Big Hoss."

"I would watch a classic movie, of course," a smiling Aleshin said.

SMP

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Series INDYCAR
Article type Preview
Tags indycar, mikhail aleshin, simon pagenaud, tms