Like at Phoenix International Raceway, it was a tough day for the Honda aero kit package in comparison to the Chevrolet in Sunday’s Iowa Corn 300 at the other short oval this Verizon IndyCar Series season, Iowa Speedway.
Still, some teams got the handle on it better than others – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports arguably being the best of those this weekend with Graham Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team having an off weekend, and the Andretti Autosport team never really in with a shout for its seventh consecutive win at the track it’s owned.
After being a top-10 regular all day and sneaking up as high as fourth in the later stages, Mikhail Aleshin nailed an important and welcome fifth place finish in his No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.
Meanwhile James Hinchcliffe turned in one of the drives of the day, overcoming what he called “his worst ever oval qualifying in an IndyCar” on Saturday and starting 22nd to a needed ninth place finish in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, breaking a poor run of results since the Indianapolis 500.
The double top-10 is the first double top-10 of the year for SPM, as it’s Aleshin’s first top-five and top-10 since the season opener in St. Petersburg.
“Fifth is definitely a decent result and really good for the whole team,” Aleshin said. “The guys did an amazing job to put the SMP Racing car together overnight after some technical issues we had yesterday.
“The car was pretty good to drive compared to most of the field. We were moving up in position constantly during the race and I was pretty patient. I knew that we were going to be up there, but at the same time, I knew that we had to be aggressive with some things. Overall, we put everything together today and P5 was definitely good.”
Hinchcliffe gave his team and his brother Christopher – who was visiting this weekend as part of a double dip before going on to Toronto next week – something to cheer about.
“I think we can be pretty pleased with that,” said Hinchliffe. “To start shotgun in the field and end up in the top ten without really any lucky breaks or lucky yellows. It was just on pace, we had quick stops from the guys and stayed out of trouble. There weren’t a lot of cautions or a lot of guys going out today, so we kind of just had to race our way up there.
“Big credit to the No. 5 crew and everybody on the Arrow Electronics team. The car was good all weekend, other than that issue with qualifying obviously, so it sucked to start back there but to be able to work our way back up showed the strength that we have. Obviously congrats to Mikhail with his top five, it was a great day for the SPM team.”
Alexander Rossi in sixth was the only other Honda in the top-10 in a Chevrolet-dominated afternoon.