Leeds, Ala – James Hinchcliffe couldn’t find much speed in the March 21 test at the Barber Motorsports Park. He was 16th in the two Verizon IndyCar Series test sessions that day. But, the Canadian has since found a ton of speed in his No. 5 Honda.
Hinchcliffe, has now qualified in the Fast Six for all three races this year, as he qualified his Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports entry sixth for Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama (3 pm ET/NBCSN/INDYCAR Radio Network).
The Canadian, started third at St. Pete and was leading before an ill-advised caution on Lap 25. It would flip the field and he’d finish ninth as a result. In the next race at Long Beach, Hinchcliffe showed his might and started fourth. He’d end up in victory lane.
This weekend, he’s been strong in both days so far too.
On Friday, Hinchcliffe was eighth and 16th respectively in the two practice sessions, but in this morning’s practice, he had his SPM car back up front and was sixth overall.
That’s where he ended up in qualifying too.
“It’s super competitive in the Verizon IndyCar Series at the moment and track position and a good starting position is such an important part of it,” Hinchcliffe said after making the Firestone Fast Six on Saturday. “We focused a lot of our energy and efforts on that in over the offseason. We were decent and had a decent strike rate in that last year but certainly consistently getting the No. 5 Arrow Honda in the Firestone Fast Six is great and has put us in the position to lead laps so far this season and obviously take a victory last week in Long Beach. Proud of the Arrow Electronics guys, and everybody at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to consistently be giving us a car good enough to be competing with the best of the best.”
It’s not just him being strong either. His SPM teammate of Mikhail Aleshin has been fast too.
Aleshin, did have speed in the test a month ago as he was sixth and seventh respectively in the two sessions. In practice this weekend, he was 11th, seventh and fourth in the trio of 45-minute practices at the 2.3-mile track.
In qualifying, he backed that speed up in his No. 7 Honda and qualified eighth.
“Well that was a very good qualifying,” Aleshin said Saturday afternoon. “I think it was great for the whole team. James (Hinchcliffe) was in the top six and I was in the top eight, so I think it shows our potential for tomorrow. I was definitely happy to move on from the first group of qualifying. Tomorrow we’ll have different weather. We might have rain, but definitely cooler weather. We’ll see how the car setup does in warmup, but I think it’s a great result for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with both cars starting in the top 10.”
Now, the duo is showing they’re the next best overall team this weekend outside of the Team Penske dominance going on. To me, SPM is the team that has something for Penske and can contend for dual top fives on Sunday.