Report: Russia’s Mikhail Aleshin won’t return to IndyCar in 2015, will compete instead in WEC LMP2

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Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin, who finished a promising 16th in his rookie season in the Verizon IndyCar Series, will not be returning for a sophomore campaign in 2015.

Ongoing struggles in the Russian economy, as well as United Nations sanctions against the Russian government, have forced Aleshin to forego his return to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, according to a report by SportsCar365.com.

But that doesn’t mean Aleshin will not be racing in 2015. The 27-year-old will switch to the FIA World Endurance Championship for the upcoming season, competing for SMP Racing’s LMP2 effort, according to a recent interview SMP principal Sergey Zlobin had with Russian sports website Sports.box.ru.

“It’s complicated for Mikhail to sign a contact in IndyCar this year,” Zlobin told sportsbox.ru. “It takes a lot of [resources] and he will take a hiatus, unfortunately.

“However, Mikhail will go for the top prize in the FIA WEC in LMP2, where he will pilot the [Russian] car we are building now.

“Hopefully we can win the championship with the [Russian] machine, and God willing, the economic situation will stabilize and Mikhail can go back to Indy in 2016.”

SMP won the 2014 WEC LMP2 championship and believes the addition of Aleshin will further enhance its chances of repeating with the title in 2015.

Aleshin became the first Russian driver to ever compete in the Indianapolis 500 last May, finishing 21st.

The news of Aleshin’s inability to return to IndyCar is not completely unexpected. Indianapolis Star writer Curt Cavin predicted in late November that Aleshin would not be back in an IndyCar in 2015 due to the current economic and political climate in Russia.

There is one bit of good news for Aleshin: he’s finally fully recovered from one of the worst racing crashes of his career, suffered last fall at Fontana (video below). While practicing for the season-ending IndyCar race at the two-mile Southern California track, Aleshin’s car went into a spin in Turn 4, where he was t-boned by the car of Charlie Kimball.

The impact sent Aleshin’s car up into the catch fence. He was removed from the wreckage and taken to a nearby hospital, where he was admitted in critical condition (Kimball was uninjured).

Aleshin has since recovered from his injuries he sustained in that wreck, which left him hospitalized for more than two weeks, including broken ribs, a broken right clavicle, a variety of other chest injuries and a concussion.

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Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”