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.