Mikhail Aleshin will make a return to the IndyCar Series grid at this year’s season-ending Grand Prix of Sonoma, almost a year after sustaining injuries in a post-qualifying practice crash at last year’s MAVTV 500 finale at Auto Club Speedway.

The Russian will return to racing for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports – with whom he finished second overall in last year’s Rookie driver standings – in a third Honda-powered entry to be run by the team alongside regular drivers James Jakes and Ryan Briscoe. A refresher test session will be held two weeks before the August 30 GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at the 2.385-mile circuit.

Aleshin had impressed in his debut IndyCar Series season in 2014 and was aiming to claim his eighth top-ten finish of the season at last year’s final event before he suffered a high-speed accident in the pre-race warm-up session at the Californian superspeedway. He lost control at Turn 1 and was spun into the path of Charlie Kimball, with the impact pitching him into the catch fencing.

He suffered concussion, fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle and chest injuries, and spent the off-season recovering before returning to racing in the second-tier FIA European Le Mans Series championship with the Russian-run SMP Racing LMP2 squad.

“I am incredibly happy to make my return to this entertaining championship and my team, with which I raced last year and achieved considerable success,” said Aleshin, who scored a career-best start and finish with second place at Houston.

“This year, my priority is my (European Le Mans Series) campaign and the continuous development of the BR01 (Nissan for SMP Racing in the LMP2 category). As for next year, we’re doing all we can to continue in IndyCar and I hope this race can be a significant step towards that goal.”

Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

Aleshin performed impressively in his maiden IndyCar Series season, claiming seven top-ten finishes which included one podium.

Team co-owner Sam Schmidt said Aleshin ‘feels like he has some unfinished business’ in the Verizon IndyCar Series. They had remained in contact since last year.

“He was very quick last year and didn’t want things to end the way Fontana did,” Schmidt said. “Sonoma, being the last race, is obviously an important one. If he does well, maybe we’ll see him back here next year.

“We’ve been talking all year. At first, it was an effort to try to make the ‘500’ as a third car. That didn’t happen because of a conflict with his racing schedule in Europe. Now he’s wide open so we’ll see what happens.”

Ten drivers are mathematically in contention for the IndyCar Series championship with two races remaining. The penultimate round is the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on August 23. Further intrigue is added to the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma finale with the double points gimmick corresponding to race finishing position. It is the tenth consecutive year that the series title will been decided down the wire in the final round.

Aleshin, 28, of Moscow, has competed in Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2013 and 2012, along with driving in the GP2 Series in 2011 with Carlin before moving to the United States. Overall in his first Verizon IndyCar Series season, Aleshin recorded seven top 10 finishes in his 16 appearances and lead three races.

Images via IndyCar Series and XPB Images

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Michael Terminello

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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