When Mikhail Aleshin was announced as the driver for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ second car over the off-season, some fans weren’t sure what to make of him.
But eight races into his inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series season, the Russian rookie is changing their minds with some steady performances.
Aleshin is still looking for his first IndyCar podium, but has quietly put together some decent runs. Attrition helped him pick up a sixth-place finish at Long Beach, but he has earned back-to-back sevenths in the last two races (Detroit Dual 2 and Texas Motor Speedway).
The latter effort is particular noteworthy considering that Aleshin had never contended with such a track like the high-banked oval at TMS. And drives like that are only helping to boost his confidence.
“It’s good that I can fight with many of the other drivers that have raced here for years and years,” he told the Associated Press while testing last week at Iowa Speedway.
“Sometimes, be on the same level with them. Sometimes, even faster. All that makes you a bit more optimistic.”
A bit of optimism is always nice to have for any driver, but especially so for a rookie that’s battling with IndyCar’s incredibly deep field of competitors.
Prior to joining IndyCar, Aleshin was a veteran of multiple open-wheel leagues including Formula Renault, GP2, and GP3. He’s also had experience in European sports car racing.
But to him, IndyCar has been his biggest challenge to date.
“It’s definitely one of the toughest, if not the toughest, series that I have raced in,” he added to the AP.
“Every driver here has a history. Every driver has a background. Every driver has won something. I can tell you that it’s very hard to race against them, that’s for sure.”
This season has not been a perfect one for Aleshin, who suffered back-to-back DNFs earlier this year at Barber Motorsports Park and the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, where he was involved in a violent crash at the race’s standing start.
But Aleshin has begun to win himself a modest fan base for his aggressiveness. He may be an IndyCar rookie, but that’s not stopping him from mixing it up with the big names of the sport.
You have to expect that he’ll be pushing the envelope further as he picks up more experience in the summer ahead.
The IndyCars return to action on June 28 and 29 at the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. NBCSN will air LIVE coverage on each day starting at 3 p.m. ET.