Schmidt Peterson team makes strides after Sebring IndyCar test

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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team accomplished a fair bit in two days of testing at Sebring earlier this week. Engine development with Honda’s new twin-turbo V6, street course setup and further tire development were all areas the team attacked at the central Florida short course.

“The test was excellent,” said SPM general manager Rob Edwards. “We had a long list of things to get through from a chassis, engine and team perspective. I think we ticked just about every box that we wanted to tick. We saw a lot of progress in Simon Pagenaud’s car with the twin-turbo Honda engines, and Mikhail (Aleshin) continues to hang right in there with Simon which is incredibly important with a rookie to make sure both cars are competitive.”

Aleshin’s engineer Allen McDonald said the Russian rookie is already getting a good handle on the tires, while Pagenaud’s engineer Ben Bretzman called this test our “sort of dress rehearsal for the street course running” in 2014.

Pagenaud, whose development skills are as widely renowned in the paddock as his overall ability, praised Honda’s improvements in particular.

“HPD and the whole SPM team were on top of their game,” he said. “We’ve made major improvements on the engine and it really is a huge plus. I can only congratulate Honda on the job they’ve been doing over the winter.”

Also of note, the team confirmed Aleshin will race with car No. 7, a number he has experience with in Europe. The No. 7 SMP Racing-backed entry shifts from the No. 55, which Tristan Vautier raced with in 2013.

Pagenaud’s No. 77 tested in the same black, blue and white livery at Sebring, as the commercial partner on that car is still to be determined.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.