St. Petersburg, FL – March 12, 2016 – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) drivers James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin qualified ninth and 18th, respectively, for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener.
Hinchcliffe makes his return to racing after ten months out of the car following a life-threatening crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last May. The Canadian fan-favorite said the team came off the truck strong to start the weekend and improved from there.
“I think we can be happy with that,” said Hinchcliffe. “Certainly, only being a tenth out of the Fast Six and a tenth away from top Honda is tough, but from the imbalance we had this morning, the Arrow Electronics crew did a great job to tune it in for qualifying. It’s tough when you throw on those Firestone reds for the first time in ten months to try and figure out how much grip there is but like I said, it was a solid effort from everybody in the No. 5 car.
“I think we can race from ninth place. We’ve seen that these guys are as good as anybody at calling strategy so the goal is just to get through turn one and take the rest of the race from there.”
Aleshin, who competed with SPM in 2014, kicked off his 2016 season with three solid practice sessions, steadily improving with each outing.
“It was a good day at the beginning and everything was going well,” said Aleshin. “We didn’t put everything together for our red set of tires. It’s a bit of a shame because the No. 7 SMP Racing car had good speed in the last practice and I think it shows that we could be top ten. It’s going to be a long race so we’re just going to need to prepare for it, and it’s going to be good.”
The green flag for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place on Sunday at approximately 12:52 p.m. ET. Fans can follow all the action live on ABC from 12:30-3 p.m.
SPM Indy Lights drivers RC Enerson, Andre Negrao, Santiago Urrutia and Scott Anderson qualified P6, P8, P9 and P15 respectively, early Saturday morning for the first (of two) races on the streets of St. Petersburg.
Urrutia had the best team finish in fourth. “Overall, I’m happy,” said the Uruguayan driver. “During qualifying, the red flag caught us out so we should have been better. The race was good. The strategy we had was to make a good start, which we did. We had a really good pace for the car. Tomorrow, we have to make the same start. If we can do that, for sure we can make the top five again.
Enerson and Negrao finished close behind in fifth and sixth. Teammate Anderson finished thirteenth.
The second Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires race will take place on Sunday at 9:45 a.m. ET.