Team Outlook 2016: Schmidt Peterson welcomes back a healthy 'Mayor'

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Drivers:

James Hinchcliffe, No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda

Mikhail Aleshin, No. 7 SMP Racing Honda

Chief engineers: Allen McDonald (Hinchcliffe), Blair Perschbacher (Aleshin)

Race strategists: Robert Gue (Hinchcliffe), Nick Snyder (Aleshin)

Owners: Sam Schmidt, Ric Peterson

2015 highlights: The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports season changed dramatically when James Hinchcliffe suffered serious injuries in a practice crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 18. Conor Daly and Ryan Briscoe filled in admirably, collecting five top-10 finishes in 11 races between them, but continuity suffered with the No. 5 car. James Jakes drove the entire season in the No. 7 Honda, but aside from a third-place finish in the rain-plagued NOLA Motorsports Park race that Hinchcliffe won in April, Jakes ran mostly mid-pack.

What’s new for 2016: Most importantly, Hinchcliffe, the Mayor of fictitious Hinchtown, is fully recovered and eager to compete again. His teammate is Mikhail Aleshin, who was impressive with the team as a rookie in 2014 but missed all of 2015 except the season finale, when he finished 10th at Sonoma Raceway. Visa issues that prevented Aleshin from participating in the promoter test Feb. 26-27 at Phoenix have apparently been cleared up, so he should be ready for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg opener next week. Aleshin will be paired with engineer Blair Perschbacher, who joins Schmidt Peterson from Andretti Autosport.

They said it: “Obviously having James back is fantastic, said McDonald, his engineer. “It’s been great having him back. He’s super fast, his feedback is good, he’s really, really helped the team. Last year, the different drivers we had in the car did a fantastic job, but it was kind of difficult to build a consistent picture. Like all teams, we put a huge amount of effort in over the winter. I think we’ve improved in quite a few areas. In testing we’ve kind of proved that out so that’s very promising. We’ve taken on a couple new key people and they’ve helped bring the team together. The new Honda aero kit seems really promising, very sensible, very logical to changes. We’re still learning it, but it’s very encouraging.”

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