Mikhail Aleshin will return to the Verizon IndyCar Series as a full-time driver in 2016, rejoining Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after the fall 2014 crash that hospitalized the Russian rookie. The league made the announcement on Wednesday.
Aleshin joined SPM for the 2014 season, and posted solid results at several tracks, including seven top tens and a podium finish in the second race at Houston. But during preparation for the season finale at Sonoma, Aleshin clipped the apron and spun out, sending his car directly into the path of a full-speed Charlie Kimball. Aleshin suffered a concussion, fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle and unspecified other chest injuries.
He recovered from the accident in time to rejoin SPM for the 2015 closer at Sonoma Raceway on Aug. 30, where Aleshin finished 10th – a very strong showing for a driver who had missed an entire season behind the wheel.
“I had an unbelievable experience with IndyCar in 2014 and I can’t wait to be back in this great series,” Aleshin said in the league’s statement. “I’m very motivated and 100 percent ready to win.”
Aleshin now partners with James Hinchcliffe, who will likewise be in his second season driving for SPM after recovering from his own crash in May. The Russian’s return to the team means that the incumbent second driver, James Jakes, is now added to the list of IndyCar athletes without a ride for next year’s campaign. It also rules out Jack Harvey, who had been hoping to claim that seat after success in Indy Lights.
Schmidt Peterson continuing to field two cars makes it consistent with other small teams in IndyCar. CFH Racing will also have two entries in 2016, although it doesn’t yet know who if anyone will drive the street courses for Ed Carpenter’s No. 20 car; Carpenter only races on the oval courses.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing only has one full-time entry with Graham Rahal, but will operate a second ride for Indy Lights champ Spencer Pigot in three races next season, and hasn’t ruled out retaining Pigot for additional events if funding can be found. Meanwhile, KVSH Racing has been said to be downsizing from two cars to one after releasing rookie driver Stefano Coletti.
Bryan Herta Autosport and Dale Coyne Racing are still finalizing their plans for 2016. DCR is planning to announce the driver of their one full-time IndyCar entry at the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis on Friday, Dec. 11 at 11 a.m. local time.
For more on the Verizon IndyCar Series, visit the league’s website.