James Hinchcliffe in testing. Photo: IndyCar

IndyCar 2017 team preview: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

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MotorSportsTalk looks through the teams competing in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was a front-running team for much of 2016 but was unable to seal the deal for a race win, its first year since 2012 without one.

Drivers (Engineer, Strategist)

5-James Hinchcliffe (Allen McDonald, Robert Gue)
7-Mikhail Aleshin (Blair Perschbacher, Nick Snyder)

Manufacturer/aero kit: Honda

Sponsors: Arrow Electronics, Lucas Oil, Petro-Canada Lubricants (No. 5), SMP Racing (No. 7)

What went right in 2016: Despite no trips to victory lane, both drivers scored podiums and were consistent challengers either via improved qualifying pace or good strategic moves. Hinchcliffe (Texas) and Aleshin (Mid-Ohio, Pocono) were close to wins three different times during the year.

What went wrong in 2016: Going hand-in-hand with what’s written above, the missed opportunities stick out from a year that could have otherwise seen Hinchcliffe and Aleshin higher than 13th and 15th in points, respectively. Hinchcliffe’s end to his season and Aleshin’s start to it both affected the team’s bottom line.

What’s changed for 2017: For once, not a ton. SPM maintains the same two drivers and it doesn’t have the added story line of Hinchcliffe’s return to racing factored in. Hinchcliffe has his same engineer and crew back and Aleshin has a bit more time from preseason compared to last year.

What they’ll look to accomplish in 2017: The team has the potential to win with both drivers, but must maximize and finish their opportunities when they present themselves. Hinchcliffe should be able to crack the top-10 in points, if not the top-five.

New livery for Aleshin. Photo: IndyCar
New livery for Aleshin. Photo: IndyCar

MST PREDICTIONS

Tony DiZinno: The effervescent Canadian and likable Russian make for one of IndyCar’s more intriguing pairings, but I can’t see them both winning this year even though they’ve both said publicly they think wins are possible. A win for Hinchcliffe would probably carry a little better from a “good for the series” standpoint. I’ll say he wins once and breaks back into the top-10 in points.

Kyle Lavigne: Both Schmidt Peterson Motorsports drivers have the speed to be front-runners on a regular basis, but need to find consistency. James Hinchcliffe finished on the podium three times, (including a near-win at Texas Motor Speedway), but also finished 18th or worse five times. It’s more of the same for Mikhail Aleshin, who only finished inside the top ten on four occasions in 2016.

This team has the speed to challenge for wins and both drivers are a highly motivated competitors underneath their intriguing personalities. Hinchcliffe in particular is poised to enter the upper echelon of current IndyCar drivers, and both he and Aleshin should contend for wins in 2017. But, they’ll need to find consistency to jump into the upper echelon of IndyCar drivers.

Luke Smith: Probably the most likable driver line-up on the grid, James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin succeeding this year would certainly be no bad thing for the series. And there were flashpoints in 2017 where the SPM boys proved they had the pace, particularly in qualifying as they took one pole apiece. Both are capable of hitting victory lane this year, but opportunities will need to be snapped up: the opposition is too strong to let chances pass by.

Dakar Rally Stage 13: Carlos Sainz has second overall victory in sight

Dan Istitene/Getty Images
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Editor’s note: Check out expanded video highlights of Stage 13 Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Carlos Sainz is nearing his second Dakar Rally victory while Nasser Al-Attiyah strengthened his bid for second by winning Friday’s 13th stage of the endurance race.

Sainz finished sixth in his Team Peugeot ride and holds a lead of 46:18 over Al-Attiyah’s Toyota.

“I tried to play it safe, even if there were plenty of tricky parts,” said Sainz, who won the Dakar Rally in 2010 but had failed to finish the past five races because of mechanical problems. “Since the start, there has been a lot of drama in this race and it’s not over until we’ve crossed the finishing line. It’s not a crazy Dakar, but it’s very difficult. I hope everything will go OK (Saturday).”

Defending race winner Stephane Peterhansel is in fourth overall, trailing by 1:28:08 after crashing and finishing 20th in the penultimate stage. The Frenchman has a record 13 overall wins in the Dakar but is unlikely to earn another despite rebounding well from a crash in the seventh stage that had knocked him from the overall lead.

In other divisions, Eduard Nikolaev (trucks), Matthias Walkner (motorcycles), Ignacio Casale (Quads) and Reinaldo Varela (SxS UTV) are on the cusp of capturing overall wins entering the final stage.

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STAGE 13 RESULTS, CARS

  1. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toyota, 5:02:22
  2. Argentina’s Lucio ALvarez, Toyota, 5:13:38
  3. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, Toyota: 5:15:28
  4. Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, X-Raid, 5:17:29
  5. Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen, X-Raid, 5:21:46

OVERALL 

  1. Spain’s Carlos Sainz
  2. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, 46:18 behind
  3. South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, 1:20:00 behind
  4. France’s Stephane Peterhansel, 1:28:08 behind
  5. Poland’s Jakub Przygonski, 2:46:32 behind

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TRUCKS

  1. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev, Kamaz, 5:59:02
  2. Russia’s Airat Mardeev, 5:59:52
  3. Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy, Tatra, 6:05:08
  4. Belarus’s Siarhei Vlazovich, 6:26:47
  5. Czech Republic’s Dmitry Sotnikov, 6:31:56

OVERALL 

  1. Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev
  2. Belarus’s Siarhei Vlazovich, 3:53:59 behind
  3. Russia’s Airat Mardeev, 5:21:05
  4. Czech Republic’s Martin Kolomy, 9:01:18
  5. Czech Republic’s Dmitry Sotnikov, 10:04:29

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MOTORCYCLES

  1. Australia’s Toby Price, KTM, 4:48:33
  2. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, Honda, 4:50:36
  3. France’s Antoine Meo, KTM, 4:51:17
  4. Austria’s Matthias Walkner, KTM, 5:00:05
  5. Spain’s Juan Pedrero Garcia, 5:03:45

AMERICAN RIDERS

15th: Mark Samuels (Honda), 5:19:40

18th: Shane Esposito (KTM), 5:27:14

37th: Andrew Short (Husqvarna), 5:58:14

68th: Bill Conger (Husqvarna), 7:16:00

OVERALL 

  1. Austria’s Matthias Walkner
  2. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, 22:31 behind
  3. Australia’s Toby Price, 27:45
  4. France’s Antoine Meo, 50:17
  5. Spain’s Gerard Farres, 1:01:19

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QUADS

  1. Argentina’s Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 5:55:16
  2. Paraguay’s Nelson Augusto Sanabria Galeano, 5:58:34
  3. Chile’s Ignacio Casale, 5:59:19
  4. Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso, 6:02:22
  5. Brazil’s Marcelo Medeiros, 6:02:23

OVERALL

  1. Chile’s Ignacio Casale
  2. Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso, 1:37:16 behind
  3. Argentina’s Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 2:05:12
  4. Brazil’s Marcelo Medeiros, 4:25:26
  5. Peru’s Alexis Hernandez, 4:34:37

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SxS UTV

  1. France’s Patricie Garrouste, Polaris, 6:29:40
  2. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela, Can-Am, 6:39:39
  3. France’s Claude Fournier, Polaris, 7:33:17
  4. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, Polaris, 7:41:200

OVERALL 

  1. Brazil’s Reinaldo Varela
  2. France’s Patricie Garroueste, 53:28 behind
  3. France’s Claude Fournier, 10:02:12
  4. Spain’s Jose Pena Campos, 10:06:01

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SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE

Champions in all five classes will be crowned Saturday after the 14th and final stage concludes in Cordoba, Argentina.

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