Sunoco, Turbo on board Tony Kanaan’s car for four races

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It’s taken until June for Tony Kanaan’s No. 11 KV Racing Technology-SH Chevrolet to find sponsorship for all remaining races, but the last one is a big one.

The team announced Wednesday that Sunoco and “Turbo,” the upcoming DreamWorks Animation film about a snail’s quest to race in the Indianapolis 500, will serve as primary sponsors of Kanaan’s car at the Texas, Iowa, Pocono and Mid-Ohio races.

“We are thrilled with our partnership,” said Cynthia Archer, Sunoco’s vp of marketing development. “Teaming up with DreamWorks Animation and 2013 Indianapolis 500 champ Tony Kanaan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It gives us a great platform to create excitement for our annual Free Fuel 5000 promotion and the TURBO movie.”

Kanaan couldn’t contain his excitement during a teleconference Wednesday, noting how the movie is targeted toward a younger demographic.

“My kid is the most excited kid right now,” he said of his son Leo. “He’s familiar with the Turbo movie. That for me is big. As you knew we were struggling and Sunoco and Turbo picked up the races that were left! I’m very excited about that.”

It’s a great fit for both parties; Sunoco’s history in IndyCar dates to 1968, and won the first IndyCar race at Pocono in 1971 with Mark Donohue. Donohue led 126 of 200 laps for Roger Penske in that race. IndyCar returns to Pocono this year, for the first time since 1989.

At the Indianapolis 500, the Sunoco/”Turbo” colors ran on Townsend Bell’s No. 60 Panther Racing Chevrolet.

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”