Russian Mikhail Aleshin will make a full-time comeback to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016, following a one-off appearance in the Sonoma season finale and after his first full season in 2014 was cut short by one race.
Aleshin will again be in the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, this time teaming with James Hinchcliffe.
It brings to an end the race to arguably the most coveted seat remaining in IndyCar this offseason, with Jack Harvey and Conor Daly also among the names in consideration.
Reports emerged last week, first from Motorsport.com, that Aleshin was set for the rejoin.
As early as June this year at Le Mans though, then driving one of SMP Racing’s BR01 Nissans, he told this writer he had “unfinished business” in IndyCar following his serious accident in practice at Fontana’s Auto Club Speedway.
“I’m very happy about the agreement between Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and the SMP Racing Russian driver development program,” Aleshin said in today’s released. “I had an unbelievable experience with IndyCar in 2014 and I can’t wait to be back in this great series. I’m very motivated and one hundred percent ready to win.”
Added team co-owner Sam Schmidt, “Ric and I are very pleased to have Mikhail back for a second season with SPM. He was extremely fast in 2014 and we think, given that year of experience and last year competing in ELMS, he will be able to contribute significantly to the program in 2016.”
As for Harvey and Daly, Schmidt has occasionally run a third car on weekends without Indy Lights races – he has four cars – while Daly has been linked to a test and perhaps greater role with Dale Coyne Racing in recent days.