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INDYCAR: Aleshin Wins Pole For ABC Supply 500 At Pocono Raceway

August 21, 2016 GMT

LONG POND — A pit road mishap three weeks ago took Mikhail Aleshin out of contention for his first Verizon IndyCar Series win. He showed no lingering effects from the disappointment Saturday at Pocono Raceway. Aleshin was fastest in the 90-minute morning practice session, then followed it up during qualifying in the afternoon to claim the pole for the ABC Supply 500. The 29-year-old Russian piloted the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda around the 2½-mile triangular track in a two-lap average speed of 220.445 mph for his first career IndyCar pole. “It’s difficult to explain my emotions,” Aleshin said. “I’m just happy for the team. We’ve gone through many things, some difficult situations.” Josef Newgarden was second (220.195 mph), Takuma Sato was third (220.067), Helio Castroneves was fourth (219.781) and Carlos Munoz rounded out the top five (219.647). James Hinchcliffe, Aleshin’s teammate at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, qualified sixth (219.463). “The team deserves a ton of credit. You can see how much effort went into the speedway cars,” said Hinchcliffe, who won the pole for the Indianapolis 500. “Honda’s done a lot of work on the engines and aero kits.” There’s something about Pocono that Aleshin likes. In his only other start here in 2014, he finished seventh. That is somewhat surprising since his background is on road courses. “When I came over here, some of the drivers told me I was going to hate ovals because it’s a completely different idea from what you do in Europe,” Aleshin said. “But I came over here and the first time I tried it, I actually loved it. It’s just so interesting; very intense racing. You have to think two times faster.” It has been a rough ride in IndyCar for Aleshin. Following that seventh-place finish at Pocono, Aleshin went to Fontana Speedway for the 2014 season finale. In practice, he was involved in a violent crash that left him with fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle, chest injuries and a concussion. He spent the 2015 season in the European LeMans Series, although he did run the IndyCar season finale at Sonoma. He rejoined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports this season. Three weeks ago at Mid-Ohio, Aleshin appeared to be on his way to his first victory, leading a race-high 33 laps. However, on lap 65 of 90, Aleshin pulled out of his pit stall and made contact with Newgarden’s car, then clipped a member of Juan Pablo Montoya’s crew. Aleshin was penalized for a pit safety infraction and for hitting personnel. His shot at the win was done and he finished 17th. “When you have something that goes wrong, something that you don’t want, like at Mid-Ohio, you just need to leave it behind you and forget about it,” Aleshin said. “That’s what I told the team. We were fast, everything was there. We just need to move forward.” Saturday at Pocono, Aleshin certainly moved forward. The 12th of 21 drivers to make a qualifying attempt, he bumped Munoz from the top spot. Munoz was the second car out in qualifying. Newgarden, the penultimate car to attempt qualifying, came the closest of the remaining driver to surpassing Aleshin. Instead, he settled for the second starting spot for the third time this season and eighth time in 80 career IndyCar starts. “It’s not a bad thing, but it is tough. You want to get those pole victories,” Newgarden said. “We just missed out, but I’m not dissatisfied. Starting up front is a good place to be at this type of track.”