Race Weekend Central

Mikhail Aleshin Snags Final Fast 9 Spot with Valiant Late Drive

It had to be Mikhail Aleshin.

Known as “The Mad Russian” for his homeland and fearless driving style, Aleshin spent the better part of Saturday afternoon thrilling the fans at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as he kept finding ways to get closer to the wall.

In the final seconds of the first day of Indy 500 qualifying, as Ryan Hunter-Reay was celebrating a second-place effort that bumped teammate Marco Andretti from the bubble, Aleshin beat the closing gun by a mere second to give himself a shot at transferring to Sunday’s pole qualifying.

Aleshin’s warmup lap went smoothly. His first timed lap of 230.372mph left him sixth. The second lap the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver increases his speed, averaging 230.520mph.

The final two laps were tense. Aleshin dropped off to 230.134mph on lap three, forcing him to hold serve. Aleshin drove his car the edge for four final corners, refusing to lift and hoping the car stuck.

As ninth-place Alexander Rossi watched from pit road, Aleshin dove off of Turn 4, ripped down the front straightaway and took the checkered flag across the yard of bricks.

The result?

Aleshin completed his final lap with a speed of 229.811mph, keeping his average pace at 230.209mph, good for seventh on the grid.

In the final moments, after the closing gun had been shot, Aleshin had drove his way into the Fast 9.

The Russian will join SPM teammate James Hinchcliffe tomorrow for a shot at the pole.

“I’m happy for all the team. I’m happy two cars are in the top nine,” said Aleshin. “I think it shows our potential, and it shows that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is up there. We just need to hold on.

“It’s been a really long day working with the team. It’s good all the team was working together; all three drivers. We’re very close. We’re sharing lots of different information, and I think we can see as a result how much we improved. I think Schmidt Peterson is going to be very competitive here in the Indy 500. We just need to keep working in the same direction and my congratulations to James (Hinchcliffe).”

About the author

A graduate of Ball State, Aaron rejoins Frontstretch for his second season in 2016 following a successful year that included covering seven races and starting the popular "Two-Headed Monster" column in 2015. Now in his third year of covering motorsports, Aaron serves as an Assistant Editor for Frontstretch while also contributing to other popular sites including Speed51 and The Apex. He encourages you to come say hi when you see him at the track.

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