IndyCar: Russian rookie Aleshin continuing to gain confidence

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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.

Gabby Chaves to sub for Joao Barbosa at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.

The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.

Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.

“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”

Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”

Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.

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