Schmidt trio of Aleshin, Razia, Harvey complete first oval tests

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Sam Schmidt’s IndyCar and Indy Lights teams ventured to Homestead-Miami Speedway this week for a pair of oval tests, to give three drivers their first crack at an oval.

On Tuesday, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar rookie Mikhail Aleshin took his official oval rookie test.

The Russian passed with flying colors, and, judging by the tweets below, he seemed happy with the experience.

On Thursday, the team’s Indy Lights program took to Homestead with three drivers. Tristan Vautier, who Aleshin replaces in IndyCar, is still proving an invaluable asset to both SPM and the series as he spent the day doing tire testing for Cooper Tire. Cooper replaces Firestone as Indy Lights’ tire partner, and will also serve as the series’ presnting sponsor in 2014.

Meanwhile Jack Harvey, who is confirmed, and Luiz Razia, who appears all but confirmed to SPM’s Lights cars, had their first runs on the oval.

Razia, who was named to Marussia’s F1 team in 2013 before sponsorship fell through, was quite excited after his first run.

Harvey was a little more measured, but still pleased.

Where Harvey and Razia, assuming he’s confirmed, will stack up on the ovals remain to be seen. Jack Hawksworth, another Englishman who won three races in 2013 for SPM’s Lights organization, struggled to match up versus teammates Sage Karam and Gabby Chaves on the five oval events.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.