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Mikhail Aleshin official at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 2017 IndyCar campaign

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Mikhail Aleshin’s return to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season is now official following an announcement from Russian backers SMP Racing.

Aleshin, 29, made his IndyCar debut in 2014 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and returned for a second campaign in 2016, scoring his first pole position in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono in August.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports co-owner Sam Schmidt said back in October that Aleshin would be returning for 2017, but the deal was not made official until Wednesday during an SMP Racing press conference.

“Thanks to both the SMP Racing program and our American team, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, I am to keep fighting for even better results this season in IndyCar,” Aleshin said.

“With the Russian flag on my car, and with James [Hinchcliffe] and the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew, I will push hard to bring more poles and hopefully victories in 2017.”

“We are thrilled to have Mikhail back for 2017. We know he is capable of winning races and competing for the championship,” Schmidt added.

“This also means we have maintained continuity across drivers, engineering and team member staffing which is critical for success.”

Aleshin’s return marks the first time since Schmidt Peterson Motorsports expanded to a two-car team that it has continued with the same line-up into a new season.

Aleshin and Hinchcliffe will hit the track at Sonoma Raceway on February 7 for a private test, followed by the first collective test at Phoenix International Raceway later that week.

The new Verizon IndyCar Series season kicks off in St. Petersburg on March 12.

MRTI: Telitz gets creative to help racing career

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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To say that Belardi Auto Racing’s Aaron Telitz has endured a difficult start to the 2018 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season would be an understatement. The Wisconsin native only completed four corners through the first three races – Races 1 and 2 at St. Petersburg, and Race 1 at Barber Motorsports Park – with St. Pete being especially problematic.

He took the pole for Race 1, but a crash during qualifying for Race 2 prevented him from actually starting. What’s more, the damage was so severe that the Belardi team needed a brand new chassis, with Telitz’s Dallara IL-15 damaged beyond repair.

They also had to borrow a car from Carlin for Race 2, but Telitz’s race ended after he got tangled up with Victor Franzoni in Turn 2 on Lap 1.

With the damage bill well into the six figures as a result, Telitz has taken to some unique, or rather, creative ways to raise money in the aftermath to help cover the costs. “Creative,” in this case, meaning Telitz is using his art skills.

An artist in his spare time, Telitz has begun selling his own original paintings to help raise money.

 “I’ve been to a lot of art shows and I see stuff and I go, ‘Holy cow, someone’s going to pay a thousand dollars for that thing?’” Telitz quipped in a story posted on the Milwaukee Journal.

In discussing his artistic abilities, Telitz added, “I’m working at getting better. I’d like to be able to paint some animals, those types of things. I got a request from Alexander Rossi to see if I could paint his dog. Unfortunately I can’t do that yet.”

Further, in a partnership with The Styled Garage, Telitz is selling his own merchandise, and accepting donations, to help his cause.

Telitz finished fourth in Race 2 at Barber on Sunday, and sits seventh in the Indy Lights championship, 59 points behind leader Pato O’Ward.

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