A banzai final run was “Lucky 7” for Mikhail Aleshin at Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS – Perhaps it’s fitting that DOOM is the sponsor for Mikhail Aleshin this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The driver of the DOOM-adorned No. 7 Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which usually has SMP Racing branding and logos, was on the verge of doom all day on Saturday.

But then courtesy of one final, literally down to the last second qualifying attempt, Aleshin spelled doom for Alexander Rossi’s hopes to make the Fast Nine Shootout in qualifying for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

The Russian hung it out like seemingly no one ever has in recent times without crashing on his first qualifying run. It was a roller coaster ride, when he posted his first two laps north of 230 mph but then tailed off to 229.5 and then 226.7 after four laps – his four-lap average was 229.190 mph.

Then when he went back out just before 6 p.m. later in the evening, he posted a 229.568 mph average as the track cooled and shade fell over the track. That put him into eighth and temporarily into the Fast Nine.

That run kicked off a frantic, crazy final hour when runs were occurring left and right. Others who went out included Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, Conor Daly, JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, Juan Pablo Montoya, Scott Dixon, Will Power, Oriol Servia, Gabby Chaves – several of them twice.

But it was Aleshin’s team who beat the gun by a second – literally, one second – to get him out a fraction before 7 p.m. An improved run of 230.209 for the four-lap average put the No. 7 car, fittingly, seventh in the Fast Nine.

“I think everything was in seconds in the end,” Aleshin said. “I just managed to go out on track and that was my only chance to get up there. You know, with team help I obviously used it for 100 percent. I want to congratulate the team, all the team with the results that we had. I think all the team is very strong and especially James’ results shows it.”

Aleshin said the track conditions, more than anything he did, were what contributed to the improved final run.

“We didn’t do much to be fair. I think mostly it was weather just came to us a bit,” he said. “Track cooled down and I think it was less wind as well. That’s what I felt. I don’t know. But yeah, it was definitely better. Unfortunately we couldn’t — James couldn’t help us at this moment because we were already in the line, so you cannot change anything in the car.

“But yeah, I think everything was just all together in one piece at this time.”

Aleshin, who turns 29 on Sunday, will be looking for even more in the Fast Nine Shootout this afternoon.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III