IndyCar: Russian rookie Aleshin continuing to gain confidence


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.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Gabby Chaves

Gabby Chaves
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series. In 15th and the rookie-of-the-year for 2015, was Gabby Chaves.

Gabby Chaves, No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport Honda

  • 2014: Indy Lights champion
  • 2015: 15th Place, Best Finish 9th, Best Start 12th, 0 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 31 Laps Led, 19.3 Avg. Start, 14.4 Avg. Finish

Some drivers finish better than their performances show. Some drivers have performances better than their results show. The latter statement applied to Gabby Chaves in his rookie year, in what was an impressive first season after making the step up from Indy Lights, which deservedly earned him rookie-of-the-year honors.

The best comparison I’d make for Gabby is of Josef Newgarden in 2012 with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, a first-year driver on a single-car, newish team to the series.

Chaves rarely dazzled in qualifying but that wasn’t his fault; he and engineer John Dick worked well together and Chaves recounted multiple times this year that a tweak here or tweak there, the wrong way, on the aero kit would send them down the wrong setup path.

Results in races didn’t measure up either but again that was through almost no fault of his own. The only time Chaves looked truly like a rookie was at St. Pete, when he had several collisions. Otherwise he was ahead of eventual winner James Hinchcliffe at NOLA before getting punted off, reliable through the month of May in Indianapolis, finally able to break through for a ninth place in Detroit race two, overachieving in Texas, 11th at Milwaukee after some great wheel-to-wheel racing with series winners and champions, and then phenomenal at Pocono as he was on course for a first career win or podium before late-race engine issues – his first DNF of the season.

For both Chaves and Herta, you’d love to see them together for another season, and the results and confidence for both parties will grow as a result. Those who’ve seen Newgarden’s rise over four years with Fisher and now CFH will note the long-term stability, and that’s what Chaves could do if he gets the time.

He planted the seed of being a great IndyCar driver, and he became pretty versatile during the year too with additional appearances in the DeltaWing prototype, a short-track midget and one of Herta’s Red Bull Global Rallycross cars. To boot, he’s a smart, great kid who is mature beyond his years, and someone you should be buying stock in now. Anyone who saw Chaves in the Mazda Road to Indy should not have been surprised by his rookie season in the big cars.

Off The Grid: Monza preview (premieres Saturday 10/10 on NBCSN)

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
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Having already taken you behind the scenes in Barcelona, Budapest, Singapore, Melbourne and Silverstone, Will Buxton and Jason Swales now head to one of Formula 1’s most iconic venues for the latest episode of Off The Grid.

Monza has appeared in all but one F1 season since the formation of the world championship in 1950, and is a firm favorite among drivers, teams and fans alike.

However, there is far more to the Italian Grand Prix than meets the eye, as we find out in Saturday’s premiere of Off The Grid: Monza at 9:30am ET (follows Russian GP qualifying).

Having honed his talents in go-karts as a kid, Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is now trying to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of racers. But can he teach Will or Jason a thing or two?

We also catch up with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and get a feel for life on the road as he takes us for a tour of his lavish bus in which he travels in for the European F1 races.

Have you ever wondered just how the suits F1 drivers wear are made? We go behind the scenes at Alpine Stars’ factory in Italy and find out.

Off The Grid: Monza premieres on Saturday at 9:30am ET on NBCSN following Russian GP qualifying.