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IndyCar: Aleshin to make series return at Sonoma

Mikhail Aleshin will return to the Verizon IndyCar Series with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the season finale at Sonoma Raceway.
Russian racer Mikhail Aleshin is to make his long-awaited return to US open wheel racing later this month after Schimdit Peterson Motorsport added his name to the official entry list for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the final race of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

Aleshin has not raced in IndyCar since taking part in practice for last year's season finale which was held at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

During the session, Aleshin ran low on the track through turn 4 and clipped the apron, which sent him spinning into the path of Charlie Kimball's Ganassi. Aleshin was diagnosed with a concussion, fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle and chest injuries as a result of the collision.

Although he convalesced at home in Moscow over the winter and made a full recover, trade sanctions between the US and Russia meant that Aleshin was unable to re-sign with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 2015.

Instead, he turned his attention to competing in the European Le Mans Series with the Nissan for SMP Racing team in the LMP2 category. Aleshin and his co-drivers Anton and Kiril Ladygin claimed their first ELMS podium with second place in the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring last month.

But now he's been given a second chance to see out a season in IndyCar, and the 28-year-old was clearly thrilled by the prospect.

"Friends! Officially! I'm coming back to Indycar!!!" he tweeted on social media on Wednesday. "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."

Prior to joining SPM, Aleshin drove in the GP2 Series in 2011 with Carlin and competed in Formula Renault 3.5 in 2012 and 2013 before moving to the States. Overall in his first Verizon IndyCar Series season, Aleshin recorded seven top-10 finishes in his 16 starts and led three races.

SPM team boss Sam Schmidt said he was happy to welcome back Aleshin whom he said "feels like he has some unfinished business" in IndyCar.

"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."

Aleshin stressed that his priority this year was his ELMS campaign, but that he was open to whatever possibilities presented themselves for 2016.

"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."

As part of his preparations for this return to IndyCar racing, Aleshin will take part in a refresher test session to be held at the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway road course next week on August 13.

Aleshin will be in a third SPM car at Sonoma for the race on August 30, with the team's regular drivers James Jakes and Ryan Briscoe also taking part. Briscoe has become the full-time driver of the team's #5 entry since James Hinchcliffe was injured in a practice accident at Indianapolis in May.

Hinchcliffe has now completed his final round of surgery designed to 'tidy up' the emergency work that stemmed major blood loss from leg and pelvic injuries and likely saved his life. He will soon be able to start rehab and training to get him race-fit for the 2016 season.

“The big goal for the doctors was to make sure that I recovered as well as possible from not only the surgery that I had, but from the trauma that my body experienced to prepare for the next surgery to make sure I'm as healthy as I am [before I went] under the knife,” Hinchcliffe said. "That way I can bounce back quickly from that one, so the physical side of it will take place more so after that is done."

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Mikhail Aleshin slides into his machine prior to the evening Open Test session at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Mikhail Aleshin goes slightly off-course in the Turn 9 Esses during practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mikhail Aleshin prepares for Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport   [pic credit: Indycar Media/Joe Skibinski]
Simon Pagenaud (Team Penske) celebrates winning the 2016 IndyCar title with victory at Sonoma   [pic credit: Chris Owens]
Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Santiago Urrutia - Schmidt Petersen Motorsport
Mikhail Aleshin - Schmidt Peterson Motorsports   [pic credit: Indycar Media/Chris Owens]
Mikhail Aleshin - Schmidt Peterson Motorsports   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Owens]
Mikhail Aleshin - Schmidt Peterson Motorsports   [pic credit: Indycar Media/Chris Jones]
James Hinchcliffe - Schmidt Peterson Motorsports   [pic credit: IndyCar Media/Chris Jones]
James Hinchcliffe - Schmidt Peterson [credit: Chris Owens]
James Hinchcliffe - Schmidt Peterson [Credit: IndyCar]
James Hinchcliffe - Schmidt Peterson [Credit: Jim Haines/IndyCar]
Ed Jones, Carlin, IndyLight [Credit: Ed Jones PR]
James Hinchcliffe   [pic credit: Indycar Media/Chris Owens]
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6 takes the chequered flag to victory Sunday, March 13, 2016 during the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is the second year in a row Montoya has won this race. (Photo by Sam Cobb/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Oriol Servia in his pit stand following practice for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)

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