Sebastian Saavedra Is In As The New Driver Of The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No. 7

Mikhail Aleshin
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) has announced Sebastian Saavedra as the driver of the No. 7 Honda for the next two Verizon IndyCar Series races. The Colombian will join teammate James Hinchcliffe at Pocono Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park.

The event at Pocono will mark the 27-year-old’s 64th career IndyCar start and third at the Tricky Triangle. Saavedra will once again be paired with race engineer Blair Perschbacher with whom he has won previously in the Indy Lights Championship.

“I am very excited to be back with the SPM organization,” Saavedra commented. “It’s another late call to jump in, but I take it with pride after a promising start of our relationship in Toronto. Looking forward to a challenging event as the Tricky Triangle can be, and support Hinchcliffe in his pursuit of championship points. I’m thankful to my sponsors and my continued relationship with AFS Inc.”

President and CEO of AFS Inc. Gary Peterson noted: “It’s great to team up with Sam after the great rivalry we had in the Lights championship. After Sebastian’s positive performance in Toronto, the next two events will be an opportunity to show his strength on ovals and that he is a great candidate for the 2018 season with SPM.”

“Delighted to have Sebastian back with the SPM team following what was a very encouraging performance at the Toronto event,” said Piers Phillips, General Manager of SPM. “He is experienced and competent, and I have no doubt he will contribute to the overall performance of the team. We’re heading to Pocono full of confidence as a team and we’re looking forward to hopefully seeing Sebastian and James at the front of the pack.”

The No. 7 Lucas Oil Honda will highlight AFS Racing for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 and next week’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Fans will be able to see Saavedra in action beginning with practice at9:00 a.m. ET this Saturday, August 19 at racecontrol.indycar.com.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Mikhail Aleshin Part Ways

Mikhail Aleshin
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today that Mikhail Aleshin will not return to drive the No. 7 Lucas Oil Honda for the remainder of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. The first Russian driver in Indy car racing will instead continue working with his sponsor, SMP Racing, in sports-car racing.

The INDYCAR team issued a statement on the decision:

“Mikhail Aleshin, the Russian SMP Racing program driver, will not be returning to the No. 7 Honda for the remainder of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season,” the statement read. “Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and SMP Racing have mutually agreed that the Russian driver will focus on the design and development of the new BR1 LMP1 car.

“Aleshin is the key SMP Racing driver working on the new LMP1 prototype BR1 which shall be ready for its first test session in the near future. Designed by Russian company BR Engineering, in cooperation with Dallara, the BR1 of SMP Racing team will debut in FIA World Endurance Championship in 2018.”

Aleshin, 30, has driven in 46 Verizon IndyCar Series races for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports since 2014, with a best finish of second place twice (Houston-2 in 2014 and Pocono in 2016). He is 16th in this year’s standings with a best finish of sixth in the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader weekend.

The team did not name a replacement driver for the remainder of the 2017 season.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The Mayor Of Hinchtown Is Looking At NASCAR

James Hinchcliffe
Don’t be surprised to see Canadian IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe, who’s in Canada to compete in this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto, racing in a stock car sometime in the near future.

Although he’s committed to his open wheel Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) team, the 30-year-old Canadian would like to get his feet wet on a road course in NASCAR’s second tier Xfinity Series sooner rather than later.

“We hit the ground pretty hard in the last 18 months trying to make it happen,” says Hinchcliffe, who has had contact with some NASCAR outfits but things haven’t progressed to the point where there’s any solid lead on a seat.

“I have always wanted to try it and a road course is the best way to ease into it. We want to do it right but it’s not something I am looking at in anticipation of a career switch.”

In addition, the Xfinity Series will visit the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course on Aug. 12, where Hinchcliffe has raced twice in Indy Lights and five times in IndyCar. As a bonus, he will have started his sixth IndyCar race there (the Mid-Ohio 200) two weeks before the Xfinity Series arrives at the track.

It sounds like another “open wheel dude” wants to try his hand at racing “door slammers”!  These days racing “taxi cabs” appears to be much safer than driving the open wheel cars.  Additionally, it appears that the paychecks are much higher in NASCAR over what the IndyCar drivers earn per annum.

As always, this is a sport that requires a whole lot of sponsorship dollars to accompany the driver!  You could be the most talented driver, but if you do not have a “sugar daddy” sponsorship package, your chances of securing a competitive ride in NASCAR is next to zero!

Can James Hinchcliffe put together a sponsorship deal that will allow him to comfortably transition from IndyCar to NASCAR soon?  Can he learn how to race these “taxi cabs” and be competitive quickly?  There are a number of questions and obstacles that “The Mayor of Hinchtown” will be confronted with, and must overcome, if he does transition to NASCAR in the near future.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Sebastian Saavedra Will Pilot The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports No.7 At Toronto

Mikhail Aleshin

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has just released a very interesting statement regarding the new/interim driver for their No 7 IndyCar entry at Toronto!
TORONTO, ONT. (July 13, 2017) – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced today that 27-year-old Colombian Sebastian Saavedra will pilot the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. This will see “Seb” partner with his former race engineer Blair Perschbacher; the duo won multiple races together during their time in the Indy Lights Championship including one pole position and one win at the Toronto Grand Prix.

The Entry will carry branding from AFS Racing and longtime supporter Gary Peterson who has competed against SPM for years. “We welcome the opportunity to compete with Ric and Sam at a venue where Seb and I have had great success in the past,” said Gary Peterson. Mikhail Aleshin will be on-site for this weekend’s event supporting the SPM team, however neither the team nor Aleshin will be providing any further comments at this time.

Is there something brewing between Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Mikhail Aleshin?

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Reviews Indy Qualifying

James Hinchcliffe
James Hinchcliffe
No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
“The No. 5 Arrow Electronics car was really good, very consistent. That was always our strength here: our strength last year to get pole, our strength yesterday across four laps; not a lot of degradation and hopefully that helps us out here today. We don’t have the out-and-out pace that we wanted and what we were hoping for, but not for a lack of trying. Everyone at SPM worked really hard for that. The track throws you a lot of curveballs in four laps… I’m representing a lot of hard work. That’s what it comes down to. So many man hours have gone in to preparing this car and just preparing for this race in general. It means so much to everybody on this team, and I do feel a tremendous amount of responsibility when they strap me in to go out there and do them proud.”

Mikhail Aleshin
Mikhail Aleshin
No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
“I think just looking at the result of all three SPM cars, we’ve gained some speed today without even practicing, because we don’t need to practice (haha)! Just kidding. Seriously, we were just working so hard, and the team did a fantastic job. Qualifying is going well so far, but most importantly we need to work on the race and that’s what we will focus on.”

Jay Howard
No. 77 Lucas Oil Team One Cure Honda
“It keeps going back to the same thing I’ve said since I got here: the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys are such an awesome team. We never panicked, same as Honda, thanks to all those guys who work together — this is truly a team effort. We knew we lost a little speed after yesterday… We stayed calm, looked at the data, looked over the facts and figured out what we needed to do. Ultimately we found the right call because we got some of the pace back. So we’re happy campers! A huge thank you to Team One Cure, Tony Stewart Foundation – not sure when Tony’s back, maybe we’ll pick up a couple more mph as he’s our good luck charm – Jim Beam, Lucas Oil, the list goes on. It’s been unbelievable so far and we’re going to keep enjoying it!”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Indy Test Brings Big Smiles To The Drivers, Despite The Winds

Helio Castorneves
If there are the sounds of Hondas and Chevrolets rumbling around the hallowed oval at Georgetown and 16th Street, then that must signal that spring is in the air!

Warm spring temperatures provided an optimal platform for 11 Verizon IndyCar Series cars to turn laps today on the hallowed 2.5-mile oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as they prepare for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in little more than two months.

Drivers for Chip Ganassi Racing, Rahal Letterman Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports participated on a manufacturers test day for Honda. Team Penske used the chance as a team test day for its four full-season drivers. Since it was a private test day, no official times were released.

Despite winds that picked up in the afternoon and limited running, there was no place the 11 drivers would rather be.

“It’s always cool to be at this place,” said Scott Dixon, the 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner who drives the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. “It’s fantastic to be back at the speedway and May is just around the corner.

“We were lucky enough to win in 2008, but once you win you just want that second one much, much more. There’s nothing like this place.”

Dixon was joined at the test by teammates Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan. The 2013 Indy 500 winner, Kanaan has his sights set on making his 16th start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 28. But it never gets old.

“It’s everything,” the 42-year-old fan favorite said of each time he returns to IMS. “This is why I grew up wanting to race, this is why I wanted to be here and this is why I insisted after all the disappointments to try to win this race over and over and over again.

“Every time you come here, by the time you drive through the tunnel in your car, it’s an unbelievable feeling that I don’t think it would be fair for me to try to describe because I don’t think it will do it justice.”

The Honda testing contingent was filled out by James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Graham Rahal from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Rahal will have a teammate, Oriol Servia, in May, but was the lone test driver for RLL today.

“We’re a one-car team and we’ve got to try and make the most of it,” said Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Honda. “I wish Oriol was here running. It would have been nice having him here running for the test as well just to get some more data, but he’s not.

“We’re always trying to overcome the same battle but it is what it is. We just have to stick to our game plan and try to do what we need to do to be at our best.”

Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power turned laps in their Chevrolet-powered cars. The team test day gives the Penske group the chance to double up on Indy testing since the quartet will return for a Chevrolet manufacturer day April 1.

Team Penske has more Indy 500 wins (16) than any team in history but is determined to improve on 2016, when Power’s 10th-place finish was the best among its drivers. Newgarden is new to the team this year, but echoed the thoughts of most drivers today when discussing the gusting winds and how to prepare for them.

“It’s understanding the balance shifts that the wind provides but also the unpredictability,” he said. “You get these gusts sometimes when the wind hits the car in different directions that you don’t suspect and the car reacts in a way that you wouldn’t suspect as a driver. It’s trying to understand that and just be on your toes so that when the car does move one way of the other, not knowing where it’s going to go, you can react and keep it off the fence.”

Despite the gusting winds, there were no incidents on the day. Three more private tests are scheduled in the next two weeks. Andretti Autosport and Ed Carpenter Racing are scheduled to test March 28 at Sebring International Raceway in Florida. The April 1 Chevrolet test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway includes Team Penske, AJ Foyt Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing. Honda has scheduled another manufacturer test April 4 at Sonoma Raceway for all 13 of its full-season cars.

The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, slated for April 7-9 on the 1.968-mile temporary street course in Southern California. The race airs live at 4 p.m. ET April 9 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Hinchcliffe Getting Caught Up In This Whirlwind Indy 500 Week!

James Hinchcliffe
His alarm clock sounded off early this morning, but this was one time a groggy James Hinchcliffe appreciated the wakeup call.

He had to be on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 7 a.m. to take part in the front-row photo for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

“That’s an alarm you don’t mind going off for,” said Hinchcliffe, understandably ecstatic a day after claiming his first Verizon IndyCar Series pole in what will be his 79th start, in one of the most prestigious races of his life.

Jeremy and Arlene Hinchcliffe arose early, too, to watch their son in the photo shoot.

“It’s still sinking in, to be absolutely honest,” Jeremy said.

As the pictures were taken of Hinchcliffe, Ed Carpenter Racing’s Josef Newgarden and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, reality came more into focus.

“It began sinking in at that point,” Jeremy said. “It’s pretty spectacular.”

On this same Monday after qualifying last year, James Hinchcliffe nearly died in a practice crash. By the time his parents had arrived at IU Health Methodist Hospital from Canada, their son was out of surgery and stable.

“We knew the worst was over,” his father said, “and I had every confidence he would get back in the car. That’s just James.”

Truth be told, as childhood memories are shared from their days just outside of Toronto, James has always been driven about wanting to drive. As a young child, he would sit for hours in his father’s Austin-Healey Sprite sports car. At 7, he made new friends while watching his father participate in vintage car racing. At 9, James received his first go-kart and started racing.

“By the time he was 12,” Jeremy said, “he was going to be an Indy car driver and there was absolutely no doubt in his mind.”

Although he never raced vintage cars, the Vintage Automotive Racing Association of Canada proudly claims him as a member.

Those happy for “The Mayor of Hinchtown” include his fellow competitors. When he arrived in the media center for his Sunday news conference after winning the pole, Hunter-Reay embraced his former Andretti Autosport teammate and said “a few words that meant a lot.” A few minutes earlier, Hunter-Reay had said, “I’m super happy for Hinch.”

Hunter-Reay teammate Townsend Bell, who qualified fourth, shared the same sentiment today.

“If it wasn’t me, you cannot help but smile for Hinchcliffe,” Bell said. “Amazing. Just terrific.”

Drivers don’t like to be reminded of their mortality, but racing has a lengthy history of being brutally cruel. Two of the more popular drivers in recent years were killed on track, Justin Wilson last year and Dan Wheldon in 2011.

Hinchcliffe said he’s seen his Turn 3 crash at Indianapolis “a thousand times.” What helps is he doesn’t remember how a suspension wishbone went through his right leg and into his left and broke his pelvis. He lost about 14 pints of blood. It wasn’t until five days later that he realized the seriousness of his accident.

That’s why the Canadian who always seems to have a smile on his face is one of the more popular Indy 500 pole winners in recent history. That and the fact that fans love to root for underdogs. He certainly qualifies, especially after losing his ride with Andretti Autosport in 2014 after three seasons.

Just like after the crash, Hinchcliffe didn’t stay in neutral any longer than necessary. He accepted a job with Sam Schmidt.

“Is it going to help worrying about it? It’s not,” Hinchcliffe said today. “I’ve always tried really hard to be very aware of the situation that I’m in, in the sense of how lucky I am that I get to do this. You lose one opportunity, you get another one. I’ve always wanted to be the guy who understood that and appreciated that. A door closes, a window opens. I still have the opportunity to be here and be doing this.

“Those negative thoughts, I’ve watched it happen, I’ve watched it bury guys. I’ve watched it get into the head and ruin careers. I like my career. I don’t want it to end just yet.”

He considers this Indy 500 pole about as important as a win, considering the buildup and magnitude of the 100th “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“A win is still a win and those are always going to be special, but what we did as a group here at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports over the weekend was awesome,” he said. “Getting all three cars in the top 10, Mikhail (Aleshin) and I running in the Fast Nine Shootout, and obviously getting the (No.) 5 car on pole, 100th running, my first pole, a year on from everything else that happened, to be the last guy on track, the way it all went down, the drama behind it all, it made it a really special day, for sure. And we got 42 points, which is almost like a race win.”

On Sunday night, he took to Instagram to share his thoughts before going to bed.

The social media post showed a picture of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway scoring pylon at night, with his No. 5 in the top spot.

“Tough to put today into words,” he wrote. “It was a good day. All I can say is ‘thank you.’”

Hinchcliffe is well aware a pole sitter hasn’t won the Indy 500 since 2009, so there’s a limit to how much he can savor the accomplishment.

“I’m kind of stuck trying to find this nice balance between enjoying this because it is a big moment and focusing on the race,” he said.

Sure, he deserves to take a bow. So, too, does his crew. But then it was back to work for this afternoon’s last full practice, when teams finalize race setups with long runs.

“It’s not just me who went through something last year,” Hinchcliffe said. “All of these guys are massively invested in what we do, we’re all close friends on a personal level, it was hard for everybody. As a team, to come back and do what we did Sunday, it’s just incredible. It’s as emotional for those guys as it was for me.

“It’s not the win yet. We’ve got 10 miles out of the way. We’ve got 500 to knock out. But I am trying to let myself enjoy it a little bit more than maybe I would have last year. New me lives even a little more in the present than old me did because you don’t know when the present stops happening.”

Tune in Sunday morning at 1 am EST for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing on ABC and see if “The Hinch” can be the first pole winner to win the Indy 500 in 17 years!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

James Hinchcliffe Is Now The Mayor Of Indy

James Hinchcliffe
One of the things that turns human beings into sports fanatics are great story lines. James Hinchcliffe is working on a beauty of a story this month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On Sunday at IMS, Hinchcliffe won the pole for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

He did it in a Honda owned by relatively small Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and he did it a year after Hinchcliffe was nearly bled to death in a wreck at Indy when he was impaled by a piece of his car.

“You know,” Hinchcliffe said, “I came into this month really hoping we’d have a new story to talk about after what happened last year and I think we did it.”

Hinchcliffe, going out last among the nine drivers in the Fast Nine Challenge because he was the fastest qualifier from day one, posted an four-lap average speed of 230.760 mph to earn the pole – his first in an Indy car.

Starting with him on the front row will be Americans Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud, a three-time winner in 2016, was first onto the track in the Challenge round as a result of him being ninth fastest Saturday. His four-lap average in his No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet was 229.139 mph. That was 1 mph slower than his average from the day before.

Pagenaud was quickly knocked off the provisional power by Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport, who was second in the qualifying line. Munoz average in his No. 26 Honda was 230.287.

Munoz’s speed stood until American Josef Newgarden, who came out fourth in his No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, posted 230.700 mph.

Newgarden withstood challenges from Townsent Bell, who went out fifth in an Andretti Honda; three-time 500 winner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske; former series champion Will Power of Team Penske; former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Honda.

Then came Toronto, Canada’s Hinchcliffe, who was fastest on Saturday.

Timing and scoring showed that Hinchcliffe was slightly behind Newgarden as the final of his four laps began. But on that last lap, Hinchcliffe, who called his car “a absolute smoke show”, tracked down and passed Newgarden.

The margin of .060 mph between Hinchcliffe and Newgarden was the narrowest in the history of the event.

Prior to the start of the Fast Nine Challenge, the drivers who were not among the fastest nine in Saturday’s qualifying session took to the track to decide the makeup of spots 10 through 33 on the starting grid.

Fastest in that session, and securing the No. 10 starting spot, was veteran Oriol Servia.

Defending race champion Juan Pablo Montoya had an interesting day. On the third lap of his run in the non Fast Nine session, his car ran over a plastic trash bag at speed. Montoya lifted immediately and his speed dropped well off the pace. He drove the car into the pits where team members checked his car. INDYCAR officials then ruled that he would be granted another full run.

“It caught the front wing scared the hell out of me,” Montoya said, adding that his car on the run was fast enough to be best in the session.

On this Sunday, a week before the running of the 100th running of the Indy 500, The Mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe, unanimously became the mayor of Speedway, IN!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Could Vickers Be In The Running For An Indy 500 Seat?

Brian Vickers

The race to land one of the most coveted open seats for the Indy 500 is winding down as a NASCAR driver, an Indy veteran, a new team, and the most recent Rookie of the Year chase the third Schmidt Peterson Motorsports entry.

RACER has learned that current Stewart-Haas Racing Sprint cup driver Brian Vickers, who is filling in for the injured Tony Stewart, nine-time Indy 500 starter Townsend Bell, the new Grace Autosport team, and 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series/Indy 500 Rookie of The Year, Gabby Chavez, are in the running for SPM’s available Dallara DW12-Honda.

“Those four are on the list, and we’d really like to run any of those people,” Schmidt told RACER.

Among the four options, Bell has the most experience with the team, having raced for SPM at Indy from 2010-2012 with a best finish of ninth. The Grace team, owned by Beth Paretta, has Katherine Legge as its driver for the 500, and from her two starts at the 500, the most recent came in a last-minute deal with SPM in 2013 where she qualified 33rd and placed 26th. Grace is also known to be in discussion with other teams about partnering for the 500.

Chaves, who was unexpectedly released by Bryan Herta Autosport weeks before the season opener at St Petersburg, has targeted a return for the Indy 500 where he started 26th and finished 16th – on the heels of defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay – on his debut last year. The Colombian-American driver stood in for SPM’s Mikhail Aleshin during pre-season testing and earned rave reviews from the team for his immediate pace and chassis feedback.

With the allure of the 100th Indy 500 in mind, more first-timers like Vickers could try to make the race, although according to Schmidt, running a driver with no recent open-wheel experience on the sport’s biggest stage could be a stumbling block.

“I’d think Brian is the least likely only because he hasn’t done it before and we’re unsure if he’ll still be driving for Tony [Stewart], so with that unknown, it’s hard to figure out the costs and the logistics,” Schmidt said. “Granted, he’s very experienced and very mature, so I’m sure he’d get the job done, but I’m not sure we need any distractions with a rookie. He’s an option, though, and we aren’t ruling him out. I know how badly he wants to be in the race. We’re still trying to find money for all of them, they’re all trying to find money, but it’s not completely there.”

Whoever reaches the funding finish line will partner with full-time SPM drivers James Hinchcliffe and Aleshin. Schmidt expects to have a deal done before the month of May arrives, but doubts it will happen in a timely manner.

“We’ve been working on all three cars and think we have a good program, but we can’t do [the third car] for free,” he said. “We don’t have any internal sponsorship, and I find it amazing that it’s the 100th running of the Indy 500 and nobody seems to have all the money they need. It’s frustrating.”

It is just about two months til the green flag drops for the 100th running of the Indy 500.  This last domino in the Indy 500 seat puzzle will be interesting to see where it falls and fits in!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!