IndyCar: Aleshin stars, Pagenaud keeps pace in Pocono

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Just two years ago, a then oval rookie named Simon Pagenaud wowed the Verizon IndyCar Series veterans in his first few races on the left-hand only circuits for Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports.

Two years later, and Pagenaud’s rookie teammate Mikhail Aleshin is doing the same through his first three oval starts.

Aleshin, the Russian who’s been exciting to watch most of the season in the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda, continued his flare for the excitement on the ovals by mastering Pocono and finishing seventh in his first start on the “Tricky Triangle.”

It followed his good run that was spoiled at the Indianapolis 500, and then his first oval top-10 last month at Texas Motor Speedway, when he finished seventh.

Sunday in Pocono, Aleshin started 12th but already cracked the top 10 by Lap 7. He ran as high as fifth during pit stop sequences, and consistently ran between fifth and seventh the rest of the day.

“The car was fast, and we didn’t struggle anywhere mechanically,” Aleshin said. “We did have some radio issues we had to deal with, however. The car was strong, which allowed me to push out there and challenge other drivers.”

Aleshin moved up to 13th in the points on 263 points, second best in the four-driver rookie class of 2014. Down 77 points, it’s doubtful he’ll catch Carlos Munoz for top rookie honors (sixth), but he is now 36 and 39 points clear of Jack Hawksworth and Carlos Huertas in 16th and 17th, respectively. Additionally, Aleshin now sits only eight points out of the top 10 in points, with 10th-placed Sebastien Bourdais on 271.

Meanwhile Pagenaud fell back to earth a bit after leading the team’s 1-2 in Houston Race 2 last week. Pagenaud started 11th and finished sixth in what was a fairly nondescript race in the No. 77 Oculus Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda. The team started with a high downforce setting and spent the rest of the day trying to get the balance right; Pagenaud said it was difficult to pass.

But with Will Power finishing 10th after his latest penalty earned, the two-time winner gained 15 points on his rival in the championship and now sits third heading to Iowa next week behind the Team Penske teammates Power and Helio Castroneves.

“I’m very happy with how the team handled the challenges we were faced with today,” he said. “The beginning of my race may have looked a little boring to the fans, but I was just trying to understand what I would need at the end. Finishing sixth today is great considering we didn’t start up front with the strongest race package.”

Recapping the proper Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel rivalry (VIDEO)

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Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel are the two most decorated drivers currently on the Formula 1 grid, with seven World Championships between them (four for Vettel, and three for Hamilton).

However, their paths have rarely crossed on the track, and only in 2010 did both drivers battle each for a World Championship in the same year. They also battled Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber that year, with Vettel emerging on top to claim his first World Championship.

However, the 2017 season sees Hamilton and Vettel in the two best cars on the grid, and they have gone head-to-head multiple times already this year, with each claiming two victories through the first five races. Currently, Vettel leads Hamilton 104-98 in the world championship, and the two men are developing a strong on-track rivalry.

Monaco Grand Prix coverage continues with FP3 and qualifying on Saturday. Full times are linked here.

 

Take a look behind the scenes of Fernando Alonso’s Indy 500 qualifying runs (VIDEO)

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In Friday’s NASCAR AMERICA Motorsports Special on NBCSN, we take you behind the scenes during F1 superstar Fernando Alonso’s qualifying runs for the Indy 500, including when he was on the pole for a brief period. He’ll eventually start fifth. 

Simulator ride tells what Fernando Alonso can expect in Indianapolis 500 (VIDEO)

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On Friday’s NASCAR AMERICA Motorsports Special on NBCSN, Parker Kligerman and his backseat driver, Kyle Petty, took to the iRacing simulator to make a mock run around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

They look at the challenges of IMS, as well as the challenges two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will face in the first oval track race in his illustrious career. Alonso is among the favorites in the race and will take the green flag from the middle of Row 2 (fifth position).

Check out the above video.  

Legendary announcer Ken Squier gets you ready for Sunday’s big day of racing (VIDEO)

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Sunday is the biggest day of the year in motorsports, starting in the morning with Formula 1’s legendary Monaco Grand Prix.

Then, at Noon ET, it’s the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The final part of the tripleheader of racing is NASCAR’s longest race of the season, the 400-lap, 600-mile Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Newly-named NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 inductee Ken Squier gives you a great primer for what promises to be a memorable day around the world (see video above).