Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2016 Verizon IndyCar Team-By-Team Preview: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' 2015 season started out in a surprising fashion with a victory in the second race of the season but SPM's season was shaken up when their lead driver James Hinchcliffe was sidelined with severe leg injuries. The ragtag team of Ryan Briscoe and Conor Daly split the role of substitute for the Canadian and scored five top tens in the final 11 races. James Jakes ran all 18 races and finished third at NOLA but scored only three top tens in the next 14 races.

2015 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Review
Wins: 1 (NOLA)
Poles: 0
Best Start: 2nd (Milwaukee)
Final Championship Positions: 16th (James Jakes), 18th (Ryan Briscoe), 23rd (James Hinchcliffe), 28th (Conor Daly), 33rd (Mikhail Aleshin)

2016 Drivers:

James Hinchcliffe
The 2015 season ended unexpectedly prior to the Indianapolis 500 after Hinchcliffe suffered a significant leg injury on the final practice day. The Canadian took a surprise victory in the monsoon that hit NOLA on race day. A seventh at Barber would follow two weeks later. When Hinchcliffe's season ended he was tied for seventh with Josef Newgarden and was the second best Honda driver in the championship behind only Graham Rahal.

Numbers to Remember: 
25.8- Points per start for Hinchcliffe in 2015. The tenth-best amongst drivers with at least five starts.

20.75- Hinchcliffe's average finish in races after victories.

11- Eleven of Hinchcliffe's 36 career top tens have come in races prior to the Indianapolis 500.

First goal should be to run all 16 races. I don't see his injuries having any carry off effect into 2016 and I think Schmidt Peterson Motorsports could be a threat for more victories and the team should be able to climb up the championship. A lack of consistency has plagued Hinchcliffe ever since he joined IndyCar. He has never finished in the top ten after a victory. He has yet to earn his first career pole but has started second on nine occasions. He has one victory, three top fives and seven top tens in those second-place starts. I think Hinchcliffe can get another victory in 2016 and I think he will be in the top ten of the championship.

Mikhail Aleshin
After a year running an LMP2 car in European Le Mans Series for SPM Racing, Aleshin returns to IndyCar for his sophomore season. The Russian's rookie season ended in a hospital bed after suffering injuries in final practice for the 2014 season finale from Fontana. He made a cameo in the 2015 season finale at Sonoma for SPM and finished tenth from 14th on the grid. In 2015, Aleshin finished 13th in LMP2 at Le Mans and fifth in the ELMS championship with three consecutive podiums to close out the season.

Numbers to Remember: 
8- Top tens in 18 career starts.

4- The longest stretch in his career between top ten finishes. Also, Aleshin has led four career laps led.

3- Career top ten starts.

Aleshin's rookie season was noted for his consistency and his controlled aggression. He had seven top tens from 17 starts but only two of those top tens were finishes better than seventh. Aleshin made a few mistakes and he did not do well in qualifying. Only three times did Aleshin qualify in the top ten and one of those was an eighth at Fontana, where he didn't take the green flag. I think the combo of Hinchcliffe-Aleshin is a dangerous one and SPM could put both cars in the top ten of the championship but that will all come down to whether Hinchcliffe can be consistent and whether Aleshin can take a step forward from 2014. Aleshin will be on the edge of the top ten of the championship and will surprise a few people with a top five or two on ovals.

The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series seasons commences with Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13th. ABC's coverage of the race will begin at 12:30 p.m. ET.