Mikhail Aleshin

It’s official: Mikhail Aleshin is returning to drive for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Aleshin’s return to the team had been speculated since the conclusion of the 2016 season, but was not confirmed until today. The announcement was made in Aleshin’s native Russia that the 29-year-old from Moscow will drive the No. 7 Honda with sponsorship once again from SMP Racing, the Russian motorsports program.

Aleshin drove full seasons for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2014 and 2016, as well as the 2015 season finale. For the second year in a row, he will team with James Hinchcliffe, who is driving the No. 5 Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

“Thanks to both the SMP Racing program and our American team, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, I am to keep fighting for even better results this season in INDYCAR,” Aleshin said. “With the Russian flag on my car, and with James and the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew, I will push hard to bring more poles and hopefully victories in 2017.”

Aleshin came on strong in the second half of 2016, winning the pole for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, then leading 87 laps before finishing second. He also finished fifth at Iowa Speedway and sixth on the streets of Toronto. A late-race pit incident at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course cost him a shot at his first Verizon IndyCar Series victory.

“We are thrilled to have Mikhail back for 2017,” Schmidt Peterson Motorsports co-owner Sam Schmidt said. “We know he is capable of winning races and competing for the championship. This also means we have maintained continuity across drivers, engineering and team member staffing, which is critical for success.”

Aleshin has captured two podium finishes and 12 top-10 performances in 34 Verizon IndyCar Series starts, all with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He also holds Formula Renault 3.5 Series (2010) and Formula Renault 2.0 Italy Winter Series (2004) championships.

“It goes without saying that we are all so happy to have Mikhail back with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the 2017 season,” said team co-owner Ric Peterson. “I have no doubt in my mind that he will find much success this year, and I can’t wait to watch this team continue seeing their hard work translating into great results.”

Aleshin and Hinchcliffe are scheduled for a private team test Feb. 7 at Sonoma Raceway in California before joining the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series teams for an open test Feb. 10-11 at Phoenix International Raceway.

The 17-race Verizon IndyCar Series season begins March 10-12 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.