IndyCar return for Mikhail Aleshin "a big present" - Sam Schmidt

IndyCar returnee Mikhail Aleshin has the potential to be a major star in American racing, believes Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team owner Sam Schmidt

IndyCar return for Mikhail Aleshin "a big present" - Sam Schmidt

Aleshin impressed as an IndyCar rookie with Schmidt's team in 2014 before being injured in a practice crash at the Fontana season finale.

He raced in the European Le Mans Series last year but returned to Schmidt for the final 2015 IndyCar race at Sonoma.

The 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 champion has now secured a full-time '16 deal as team-mate to James Hinchcliffe, who is also returning after an injury break following his Indianapolis accident last May.

"Getting Mikhail signed up before Christmas has been a big present," Schmidt said.

"And we have a three-year deal with James and we are excited to have him back.

"When we had Mikhail in 2014 I thought he was an excellent talent.

"First time on ovals he took to it like water and really loved being in America and the American culture.

"That was a big hit at Fontana that set him back a bit but he raced the European Le Mans Series last year in P2 and got a lot of seat time.

"He wanted to get back to IndyCar and have worked on the programme for a long time.

"He would have finished sixth last year at Sonoma had we not made a pit strategy error. He performed flawlessly all weekend and we moved forward.

"I'm excited. We've never had the same driver in the second car for a second season so that continuity is something we are looking forward to."

Schmidt said there had been six contenders for Aleshin's seat, including SPM's 2015 driver James Jakes, Hinchcliffe's primary stand-in Ryan Briscoe and Indy Lights runner-up Jack Harvey.

"There were a half-dozen guys - everybody from Jack Harvey to Ryan Briscoe to James Jakes and Mikhail," Schmidt said.

"It came down to whoever could make it happen on the commercial side first and that was Mikhail."

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