IndyCar Driver Review: Mikhail Aleshin

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MotorSportsTalk continues its 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver review with a look at Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin, who quickly endeared himself to the paddock and who we’re all pulling for a fast recovery after his Fontana accident.

2014 SEASON PREVIEW

Mikhail Aleshin

  • Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
  • 2013: Did Not Participate
  • 2014: 16th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 7 Top-10s, 4 Laps Led, 14.4 Avg. Start, 13.7 Avg. Finish

At the start of the year, I wrote of Mikhail Aleshin’s potential this season: “Realistically, this entry could achieve a top-15 finish in points with one or two top-fives, and maybe a podium. Anything more would be a bonus.” Sixteenth, with exactly one top-five that was a podium almost perfectly bares that out.

But stats don’t tell the story of Aleshin’s first season racing in America. The Russian had to adapt to the culture, the tracks, the scenery, the competition level and a competitive teammate – one who sought a new number two rather than an overly presumptuous wanna-be 1A. Aleshin made both friends and enemies on track with his aggressive nature, but he also endeared himself to the paddock – and few had that pegged given the early year angst about Russia and some of the things were going on in that part of the world. Frankly, there were some concerns he’d see out the year given the sanctions imposed against his backer SMP Bank.

So it spoke volumes of how far he’d come that the concern when his accident occurred at the Fontana finale was so overwhelming. Yes, you’re always anxious when an accident as scary as Aleshin’s happens, but for 30 minutes it felt like a 10-year paddock veteran had been involved, rather than someone who’d only been there 10 months.

The level of support for Aleshin has been staggering this year, and that only makes us all want to root for him even more throughout the recovery process into 2015. He wants to return; he’s a fighter; and if he gets the all clear I’d expect him back with SPM next season.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).