Photo from indycar.com
IndyCar’s first Russian driver in nearly a century features menacingly in our latest driver test.
In an age when seemingly everything’s tied to Vladmir Putin – either rightly or wrongly – it’s surprising Aleshin hasn’t been similarly smeared yet. To the contrary, he enjoys warm relations with Americans as allegations of undue influence are unfounded. The upcoming 2017 season will be his third in IndyCar, all of them for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Photo from ap.org
Baron de Rachewsky was the only other driver from Mother Russia ever to race an Indy car. Putin shirtless on horseback obviously doesn’t count. Rachewsky’s lone U.S. effort came in Atlantic City in 1926 on a wooden track. Harry Hartz won the three hundred mile race as the baron’s Bugatti boisterously blew up.
Photo from usatoday.com
Getting poured through the sieve of international sanctions (it’s not what you strain, it’s who you strain), Aleshin missed out on all but one race of the 2015 season due to funding issues related to Russia’s rough behavior. The Muscovite’s had some limited success in his two seasons, winning the pole last year at Pocono before battling to a career best second place finish in a riveting race. In thirty five starts, he’s had four top five and twelve top ten results. Aleshin’s crash rate is on the high side however, as he only finishes 69% of the time.
Image from roadandtrack.com
To his credit, the twenty nine year old came back from a horrific practice crash at Fontana during the conclusion of the 2014 season. He suffered multiple broken bones and a concussion in what was remarkably only his second most spectacular wreck in an IndyCar. Remember this debris field at the inaugural GP of Indy when he plowed like a T-38 into a stalled Sebastien Saavedra?
Photo from foxsports.com
Other than his accent – admittedly, his English is far superior to our Russian – the Russkie does well with the media, as exemplified in a recent piece at motorsport.com. In it, he echoed our sentiments on racing almost exactly. Saying video games are more enjoyable than driving “European tracks like Paul Ricard,” a road course in France, the speedy slav prefers exciting ovals with their thrills, velocity and risk. He continued, “excuse me, [but] the people who are really worried about danger, I advise them to leave the sport and do something safe. . . . If you take [fear] away, what kind of sport would this be?” Right on, Russian!
Photo from twitter.com
So what if he prefers borscht to burgers? Former team mate and current series champ Simon Pagenaud called IndyCar “better and way more fun” with Mikhail in the mix. For once, the Frenchman’s right. Here’s hoping for a second cold war to erupt at the race track this season – as long as we’re not the ones sent to the eastern front (e.g. Mid-Ohio).