Aleshin returns to seat of No. 7 Honda at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Mikhail Aleshin is back and ready to race.

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver missed the opening day of KOHLER Grand Prix weekend at Road America due to visa complications leaving France. Issues resolved on Friday, the driver of the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda flew to the United States and hurried to eastern Wisconsin.

Aleshin was in the car for this morning’s practice, turning 16 precious laps before this afternoon’s qualifying to determine the Verizon P1 Award pole sitter for Sunday’s race. While he ranked 20th of the 21 cars in practice, with a fast lap of 1 minute, 44.4452 seconds (138.354 mph), Aleshin couldn't express enough after the session how elated he was to be at Road America.

"I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to enter the country," he said. "I’m happy I got the visa. I’m happy to race for this team, in this series, in this country. Thankfully, there was a flight to Chicago (from Paris). It wasn’t a difficult trip, it was just difficult to make sure I was going to receive the visa in time to qualify and race.

KOHLER GRAND PRIX: Practice 3 results; Combined practice results; Qualifying groups

Simon Pagenaud and Esteban GutierrezTouring car driver Robert Wickens substituted for Aleshin in Friday's two practice sessions, posting a best lap of 1:44.7085.

“The things is," Aleshin explained, "even if you receive a visa, it doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get into the country. But still, I’m here. I think I got some gray hair the past couple of days. I don’t know if you see it, I don’t. I hope not, but I think so because I was so nervous.”

Team Penske drivers once again dominated the sharp end of the 45-minute practice, with its four drivers ranking first through fourth. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Simon Pagenaud was fastest in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet at 1:42.0439 (141.610 mph). Trailing the Frenchman were teammates Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, 1:42.0698), Helio Castroneves (No. 3 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet, 1:42.4047) and Josef Newgarden (No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet, 1:42.4564).

Newgarden recovered from going off course earlier in the session in Turn 14 and getting stuck in the gravel, causing the only red flag of the session.

Scott Dixon, the championship points leader heading into race weekend, was fifth in practice with a lap of 1:42.7835 in the No. 9 NTT Data Honda. Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Max Chilton, missed the bulk of the session while his crew worked on brake issues on the No. 8 Gallagher Honda, but made it on track late and was 12th fastest despite completing just four laps on the 4.014-mile, 14-turn permanent road course.

Three rounds of knockout qualifying begin at 4 p.m. ET today (live stream on RaceControl.IndyCar.com), with NBCSN’s same-day coverage starting at 5 p.m. Sunday’s 55-lap race kicks off with coverage on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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