By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Heading into Saturday night’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, Mikhail Aleshin appeared to have a top 10 within reach, until mistimed strategy and a spin coming to pit road ended the Russian’s chances and left him with an ill-fated result of 17th.
Aleshin, 28, was out to prove early on that his No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda could keep up with the daunting pace Chevrolet teams set in qualifying at the Desert Mile. The Russian started 13th and was one of the biggest movers early on, charging all the way up to seventh in the opening 100 laps of the 250 lap event.
During green flag pit stops, caution came out while Aleshin was pitting and put him down one lap to the leaders.
Aleshin, who has nine top 10’s in 20 IndyCar starts, hung around 14th following the strategy miscue. The Russian was trying to come down pit road while the field was under caution with less than 50 laps to go, when he locked up the rear tires and spun at the pit entrance, ending any hopes of a late race recovery for a solid finish.
“I have mixed feelings after this race,” said Aleshin. “I think the No. 7 SMP car was good. The car was very good, actually. I was fighting like – as we say in Russia – like on the last day. Then we got unlucky with a set of tires, that’s why we needed to do the extra pit stop. Then we got a bit unlucky with yellow flags. Then I made a mistake coming off the banking into the pits. I lost the car on the way in.
“I’m happy that we showed the potential of the car but it was really hard to fight with Chevy. It’s something to think about for the next races and I’m happy to finish my first oval race since the crash (at Auto Club Speedway) in 2014.”
Image: Chris Jones/INDYCAR