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.
- 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.