I'm a Fan of Mikhail Aleshin

Let's first backtrack to the offseason, specifically in November. Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports officially announced that they had signed a 27 year old Russian named Mikhail Aleshin (pronounced Mick-hail Ail-low-shun) to their Indycar team. My first reaction was that of frustration. Not only did Mikhail replace 2012 Firestone Indy Lights Champion Tristan Vautier, whom I liked, but I didn't think he was a smart selection. I just thought Mikhail would be another media drone with a rod up his ass that would waste a formidable seat. After all, he had never raced on an oval, nor had he ever even been to America.

I am happy to report that I have been proven wrong, completely wrong. Turns out Mikhail, who is the first Russian to ever race in Indycar, is a very funny, charming, and black-and-white person. He wears his heart on his sleeve, never holding his opinions or emotions back. He is very good at using Twitter to express who he is as a person as well as sharing his opinions, as seen below:

Aleshin has adjusted very well to Indycar. The biggest challenge for him was adjusting to ovals. If you gave me a sheet of Mikhail's session times and results on ovals without his name on it and I had to guess which driver in Indycar it was, I would have guessed it was a seasoned Indycar veteran. Although he did not get the result he was looking for at Indianapolis, he was impressively quick. His latest race was a work of magic. Mikhail, who had never been to Texas Motor Speedway before this year, ran with the front runners after working his way from the back to finish P7. That is fantastic! Not only that, but he was aggressive and ambitious, two great qualities for any rookie.

Forget the fact that he had never raced at Texas before, Mikhail had never been to America before the season. The amount of courage that it takes to ditch the European racing circuit and to try your hand at American racing is courageous. This man deserves a lot of credit for what he has done. He may not be as consistent as Carlos Munoz, or as fast as Jack Hawksworth, but Mikhail sure does belong in the same sentence as them.

Mikhail Aleshin - Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America

For now, I can see Mikhail fighting to crack the top-ten in the championship standings. But I'm trying to think long term. I wish to see Mikhail in the series for a long team. His sponsor, SMP Bank, has been given sanctions by the United States and Europe following the Ukrainian crisis. The owner of the bank is a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. These sanctions could put Aleshin's sponsorship money in jeopardy. The question remains, will Aleshin have money to race following 2014?

Aleshin has proven to be quite the driver. The lesson I have been taught is when a new driver comes to Indycar, don't be so quick to judge. This man has turned out to be a stud.

I am indeed now a big fan of Mikhail Aleshin.

Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey