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In the wake of the crash that sent Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin to the hospital with broken bones and destroyed his No. 7 SMP Racing Honda, the team confirmed the championship contenders will focus on running a single car during tonight's MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.

"We're here at the hospital with Mikhail; everything is fine here, but we're still concerned, so from our perspective, we're going to focus on [Aleshin] right now," team co-owner Sam Schmidt told RACER. "From a car perspective, we do have a backup car, but it's in road course trim and wouldn't perform suitably here, and even more relevant, this isn't the kind of place to throw someone in with no practice. So we're going to pass on [running a second car] this evening for all those reasons."

With SPM driver Simon Pagenaud sitting third in the championship with the No. 77 MAV TV Honda, putting Aleshin's spare car on track with a replacement driver could aid the Frenchman's slim chances of earning the title tonight, but as Schmidt noted, the risks outweigh the possible reward.

"We'd love to have a competitive car out there in case Will [Power] has a problem – we could potentially put that driver in front of him, but given how tough this track is, how long the race is and all those things, we'll focus on Mikhail today and Simon tonight and let the chips fall," he added.​

Kimball-damageA sizeable crash involving three drivers brought an early end to Verizon IndyCar Series night practice at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca.

Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball and Mikhail Aleshin were involved in the turn 3 incident, with Aleshin’s No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda receiving the brunt of the damage. TV cameras showed a section of the fence had been ripped away and a wheel from a car – possibly Aleshin’s – left stuck in the fence.

Aleshin spun while approaching Scott Dixon, who was on the apron headed towards pit lane. As the Russian rookie’s car moved up the track, Kimball, who was running at full speed, had nowhere to go and hit the SPM car. The No. 7 climbed the barrier, hit the fence, and rotated numerous times before landing.

The front of both cars were tattered. Andretti slid to a halt as debris covered the track.

Kimball, who struck the side of Aleshin's spinning car at full speed, emerged without injury, but his No. 83 Novo Nordisk Dallara DW12-Chevy sustained heavy damage to the front of the tub. His Ganassi Racing team is preparing the spare No. 83 chassis for the MAV TV 500 and will also install a fresh Chevy engine. Work is expected to be concluded by the end of the night.

"I saw [Aleshin] spinning and figured I'd either make it through the cloud of tire smoke, or we were going to have a pretty hard hit," Kimball told RACER. "I'm fine and I hope Mikhail's all right."

Aleshin was airlifted to Loma Linda Hospital complaining of pain in his right shoulder and right foot. It was subsequently determined that he had suffered fractured ribs, a broken right clavicle, a concussion and chest injuries. (Click here for a medical update on Aleshin.)

broken-fencing

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The RACER Channel speaks with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves after the Brazilian claimed pole position for the season finale at Auto Club Speedway.


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2014FontanaMPruettFri82914 862Helio Castroneves struck the first blow in the championship showdown between himself and Team Penske teammate Will Power when he took pole position for tomorrow's MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. Power, by contrast, struggled with his car's handling as he was among many drivers who discovered the 102degF heat left them with little downforce. He will start the crucial season finale from 21st on the grid.

The cars sliding also meant the cars scrubbed the edge of their tires, and this caused major dropoffs in performance, from lap 1 to 2 and in some extreme cases, from warm-up laps to lap 1. Castroneves set a 218.5mph average to spring to the top of the timesheets with the final run of the day, having adjusted his car in response to feedback from his two teammates.

"It ain't over; it's just beginning," said Castroneves, who earned his third pole of the season and 41st of his career, lifting him to a clear fourth in the all-time pole-winner list. "Our job is to be aggressive over the 500 miles and finish where we started."

Power's run started off with the quickest warm-up lap speed but he had to get out of the throtttle on Turn 3, which scrubbed his first timed lap down to 210mph. He did well to recover his momentum to set a 214.6 on the second lap.

"I'd rather start at the very front or the very back to stay out of trouble early on," Power shrugged afterward with a 1000-yard stare. "It's obviously all about the race; it's very long and we'll be racing in different conditions."

Castroneves' other teammate, Juan Montoya will start alongside him, while Josef Newgarden will be seeking the first win of his career from third on the grid. Takuma Sato qualified fourth, ahead of three of the Chip Ganassi Racing cars, led by reigning but outgoing champion Scott Dixon.

Simon Pagenaud, the outsider in the title race, will start 13th, some six places behind his impressive Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate, Mikhail Aleshin. He said: "“We didn’t really focus on qualifying. The focus was to be really good in the race and we were really strong here on Wednesday in practice so I feel good.

"I feel like we have a car to go forward, to fight for the win. Whatever happens in qualifying is not that important. We’ve seen it last year. You know, we had an issue when we were a lap down after two laps and came right back up to fourth after two stints so I think it’s very much, a very interesting track for passing and I’m looking forward to it.”

As well as Power, other notable names who ran afoul of the conditions were Ed Carpenter and Marco Andretti who will roll off the grid from 14th and 18th, respectively.

There is a further 30min practice, at 6.15 p.m. PT.

 
Pos.Car #DriverTime (sec.)Avg. Speed (MPH)
1 3 Helio Castroneves 65.8918 218.540
2 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 66.1700 217.621
3 67 Josef Newgarden 66.1765 217.600
4 14 Takuma Sato 66.2607 217.323
5 9 Scott Dixon 66.3420 217.057
6 83 Charlie Kimball 66.3544 217.017
7 10 Tony Kanaan 66.4032 216.857
8 7 Mikhail Aleshin (R) 66.4432 216.726
9 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 66.5726 216.305
10 15 Graham Rahal 66.5746 216.299
11 27 James Hinchcliffe 66.6983 215.898
12 8 Ryan Briscoe 66.7042 215.878
13 77 Simon Pagenaud 66.7433 215.752
14 20 Ed Carpenter 66.8753 215.326
15 11 Sebastien Bourdais 67.0662 214.713
16 19 Justin Wilson 67.1371 214.486
17 98 Jack Hawksworth (R) 67.2354 214.173
18 25 Marco Andretti 67.2556 214.109
19 34 Carlos Munoz (R) 67.2926 213.991
20 17 Sebastian Saavedra 67.2958 213.981
21 12 Will Power 67.7316 212.604
22 18 Carlos Huertas (R) 71.1749 202.319

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Tony Stewart says returning to NASCAR Sprint Cup competition at Atlanta Motor Speedway is part of his recovery process following the sprint car accident that fatally injured Kevin Ward Jr.

Stewart missed three Cup races after his sprint car struck and killed Ward at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York three weeks ago. The 20-year-old had left his wrecked car and walked across the track to remonstrate with Stewart following an on-track incident.

"This has been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with both professionally and personally," said Stewart in a press conference on Friday in his first public appearance since the accident (pictured). "This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life.

"I've taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family, and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.

"I miss my team, my teammates. I miss being back in the racecar. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time."

Stewart spoke only from a prepared statement and declined to take questions, citing an ongoing investigation into the crash by police. The three-time Cup champion also faces the possibility of civil action being launched by Ward's family.

Atlanta marks one of Stewart's two remaining chances to qualify for the Chase, although even if he wins this weekend or at Richmond next weekend he will require dispensation from NASCAR to qualify for the title run-off due to the series' requirement that drivers attempt to qualify for every round.

NASCAR President Mike Helton, expounding upon a statement released Thursday by the sanctioning body, said that series officials consulted with outside experts to assist with reaching their decision to clear Stewart for a return to competition. Helton added that should Stewart win either Sunday's race or next weekend's regular-season finale at Richmond, he would be eligible for the Chase. While this year's rules for postseason eligibility include a clause mandating routine participation, Helton said Stewart's "very rare set of circumstances" would fit under a special exception granted by NASCAR.

"I think particularly those of us that follow this sport every weekend know that driver's healing processes are unique, but they are racecar drivers, and a lot of times getting back in a racecar is something they shoot to do as quickly as they can," Helton said. "So once Tony decided to come back, we then had to go through the policies and the procedures and the steps that we've historically built over time to make the absolute most correct decision we could make under the circumstances we were handed."

 

 

Nico Rosberg

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Nico Rosberg has publicly apologized to Lewis Hamilton, his Mercedes team and Formula 1 fans for his part in the collision with his teammate at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Following a meeting at Mercedes' Brackley, UK factory on Friday between the two drivers and team bosses Paddy Lowe and Toto Wolff to discuss what happened at Spa-Francorchamps, Rosberg admitted to an "error of judgment" in the accident.

Although initially adamant that the clash was nothing more than a racing incident, Rosberg revealed on Friday that his feelings on what happened had changed over the past week, and especially in the meeting on Friday.

Posting on his official Facebook page, Rosberg said: "In the days since the Belgian Grand Prix in Spa, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what happened during the race and discussing it with the team. I have already expressed my regret about the incident but, after meeting with Toto, Paddy and Lewis today, I wish to go a step further and describe it as an error of judgment on my part.

"The number one rule for us as teammates is that we must not collide, but that is exactly what happened. For that error of judgment, I apologize to Lewis and the team. I also want to say sorry to the fans who were deprived of our battle for the lead in Belgium."

Mercedes has made it clear to both drivers that it will not tolerate repeat incidents in the future, and Rosberg said he hoped the rest of the season would be without controversy.

"Lewis and I have been given clear instructions about how we race each other," he added. "As drivers, we have a clear responsibility to the team, the fans of the sport, our partners and Mercedes-Benz to deliver clean racing. We take that responsibility very seriously.

"I look forward to concluding the season with hard, fair competition on and off track right up to the final lap of the season in Abu Dhabi."

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

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2014Indy500MPruettSAT51714 571Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin has given an impressive account of his talents since making the transition from Europe's open-wheel ladder to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Seven top-10 finishes from 17 rounds, including a strong second-place finish on the streets of Houston, has the 27-year-old Moscow native perched between IndyCar veterans Justin Wilson and Charlie Kimball in the championship, and with a solid run this Saturday in Fontana, he could move ahead of Kimball and Josef Newgarden to secure 13th in the final standings.

With the 2014 season set to conclude in less than 48 hours, Aleshin tells RACER he and his backers at SMP Racing have already begun to look toward 2015 and beyond as talks have started with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to continue their relationship.

"Definitely," said the Moscow native. "When we came here with SMP Racing, it was not a decision to only do one year of racing. We are working very hard setting everything up for next year.

"Personally, I want to continue here. This championship is one of the strongest I have competed in, and the level of drivers is really good. Next year we're going to have some new parts on the cars (aero kits) and it is going to be very interesting to develop these things. The team has very good potential."

Aleshin's teammate Simon Pagenaud holds third in the championship, and along with the Frenchman's engineer Ben Bretzman, technical director Nick Snyder, general manager Rob Edwards and the rest of the SPM team, finds himself learning from one of the most effective teams in the IndyCar paddock. Like Aleshin, Pagenaud has yet to sign with SPM for 2015, but the driver of the No. 7 Honda says his interest in returning doesn't hinge upon Pagenaud's decision to stay with SPM or move to Andretti Autosport.

"No, I have had a thousand teammates, Simon has had a thousand teammates, so you can only make your decision on what is best for you," he added. "I would like very much to have Simon with me in the team; I feel we work very well together and this will only get better when I gain more experience, but we do not base what we will do because of who I will have as my teammate."

Image460aAleshin and Pagenaud have formed an effective partnership, but the rookie doesn't see that as essential to his future with SPM.Asked to assess his progress this year, Aleshin has mixed views on how things have gone across the various types of tracks he's encountered, and how he's adapted to American-style competition.

"There's always a place for improvement; I think I can do a better job sometimes, but at the same time, it has been a good year, we need to finish this race [at Fontana], and we're happy with how this year went," said Aleshin, who has been surprisingly quick on ovals despite having no experience in the discipline prior to the Indy 500.

"I lacked experience here; I've never raced on any of the tracks and many of the rules are different, so I have a lot to learn. At Sonoma I was racing and I see someone was going to overtake me, and I wanted to defend (Aleshin makes a hard steering motion to the right), but I remembered this is not allowed in America so I did not make this [blocking] move. I still have some of these tendencies from European racing I must not use, so I know it will take more than one year to completely adapt to racing here."

After an exploratory year in IndyCar, it's believed Aleshin and SMP Racing will look to arrange a multi-year deal that will allow him to steadily work his way up the rankings. And as part of the SMP Racing academy – something akin to a ladder system for Russian drivers – he says more of his countrymen could follow in his footsteps.

"You can see the really good tendencies with the [SPM] team in the past few years, and I think this year showed the team made another big step to be one of the top teams," he noted. "We're doing very good with Simon; he's a very good driver and I think he has everything to win the championship. I believe we make a good team together.

"And it is not only me that SMP works to develop. In Europe we have sports cars and in America, now we have Indy cars. SMP supports young drivers who do not have the money to continue; I come from a normal family and only because of SMP my racing career continues. I am not the only one [being developed by SMP], so there could be more Russian drivers who also race in America."​

 R6T5577Audi Sport driver Andre Lotterer says he was pleased with his first taste of Formula 1 at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, and despite the short-lived nature of his debut, the German tells RACER he's keen to have a second shot with the minnows at Caterham F1 if it fits within his World Endurance Championship duties.

"We're still in touch and I think there's opportunities to do more races," said the three-time overall winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (BELOW). "I really have to think about it. It was a great experience for me and I have to look at the schedule and see if it is more of a one-off chapter for me or if it makes sense to do more."

2014LM24PruettSun61514 1173 1The 32-year-old was brought in to lend his considerable chassis development experience to the underperforming outfit, and came away feeling satisfied with his efforts to point the Caterham team in a better direction.

"We had some very constructive meetings and I could give them some good input after driving many high-level cars throughout my career, so there were a few fundamental things that could be better," Lotterer explained. "The current race drivers felt these things as well, and were maybe driving around them, so it was good to confirm some of the things that needed to be better."

Without the luxury of pre-race testing to learn the Renault-powered Caterham CT05 chassis, Lotterer was left with everything to learn once Free Practice 1 commenced. A wet qualifying session added to his learning curve, yet the former Jaguar F1 test driver managed to impress, outpacing his teammate Marcus Ericsson by almost full second to start 21st. Despite rocketing away from the grid and gaining a few positions on the opening lap, an electronics failure brought an end to Lotterer's first grand prix on lap 2.

"I would have preferred some dry conditions because I could have built on Friday's experience – I had to learn from zero again – and it was not ideal for qualifying, but it was part of my challenge and it went quite well," he said. "I was very satisfied with my performance. Then the fuse box failed in the race when I drove over the exit curbs, so I didn't get to race for very long, but it was a good experience for me"

 SBL7895Lotterer also carried plenty of support from the world of sports cars during his weekend at Spa.

"It was nice; I had a lot of hilarious feedback," he added. "It felt like everybody at Audi was behind me and all of the people who supported my career before and in Japan. I felt like I carried the whole WEC paddock on my back, Audi was very happy with everything, and I was surprised in general how much everyone was supporting me. It was a nice feeling for me; I didn't expect that. Formula 1 is another dimension."

If less than five minutes of Formula 1 action left Lotterer somewhat unfulfilled on Sunday, he says he can't wait for the next WEC round, a six-hour race held at Circuit of The Americas.

"It's a very long break after Le Mans, I can't wait to be back with my teammates, and there cannot be any better venue than Texas to enjoy this more," he noted. "Great fans, a great track and it should be a wonderful day of racing with so much going on."

mx5The all-new 2016 MX-5 Miata will be revealed for the first time LIVE on Mazda's YouTube channel.

You can stream the full event on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 6pm PT here: http://bit.ly/2016_MX5. #LongLiveTheRoadster

Video: The Great Cars III Issue

The Great Cars III Issue is on sale now. Click here for more information.

FROM THE RACER CHANNEL ON YOUTUBE

The Eagle Soars. Episode 2 of "Dan Gurney: All American Racer," presented by Bell.

 

The First 200mph Lap. Episode 5 of "Dan Gurney: All American Racer," presented by Bell.

 

Verizon IndyCar Series: News and views from Robin Miller and Marshall Pruett.

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