Schmidt Peterson Motorsports had a mixed Verizon IndyCar Series season opener at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg on Sunday as Mikhail Aleshin in the No.7 SPM Racing Honda ended the race with a great drive to fifth place having qualified for the race in 17th place.
The Russian came through the field and ending his first Verizon IndyCar Series race in over a year just behind Helio Castroneves and speaking following the race, Aleshin stated:
It’s amazing to be here at this first race in St. Petersburg with IndyCar, 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.
Aleshin’s team mate James Hinchcliffe making his return to IndyCar for the first time since his accident at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway started the race in the No.5 Arrow Electronics Honda in eighth place however went a lap down on the opening lap following contact with another car.
The Canadian gained the lap back on lap 46 when a caution was called. On lap 56 however the Mayor of Hinchtown got caught up in an eight car incident at Turn 4 suffering another cut tyre.
Hinchcliffe ended the race in 19th place and speaking following the event he commented saying:
Certainly, it wasn’t the day we planned, 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.
Hinchcliffe went on to say:
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.