Two races could mean twice the trouble in Toronto (VIDEO)

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In recent years, the Honda Indy Toronto has developed a reputation for being a bit of a crash-fest. In 2011, six drivers were knocked out of the race because of accidents, and last year, just when we thought we were going to get away relatively clean from Exhibition Place, the final laps turned into a complete mess that forced the race to end under yellow, with Ryan Hunter-Reay as the victor.

The common thread in all of this is perhaps the IZOD IndyCar Series’ most controversial corner: Toronto’s Turn 3, a right-hander that comes following a full-throttle sprint down Lakeshore Boulevard. Scintillating passes and groan-inducing crashes are the norm at this part of the 1.75-mile street circuit, and in the cases of the latter, angry drivers also become common.

Another potential hot spot is Turn 1, another right-hander that comes at the end of a straight (this time, the main straight). While it’s overshadowed by Turn 3’s reputation for action and mishaps, it’s another good place to see the sparks fly in this longtime open-wheel staple.

Tight confines are part of the challenge at any street course, including Toronto, but it seems that they help make for crazier days here than at any other temp circuit on the IndyCar landscape. This year, the Honda Indy Toronto has become a doubleheader, with full, 85-lap races on both Saturday and Sunday – and that means the potential for more mayhem.

Also, Saturday’s Race 1 features the IZOD IndyCar Series debut of standing starts, so the “unknown” factor is also in play as well – at least, temporarily, as Sunday’s Race 2 will feature a standard rolling start.

You can catch the Honda Indy Toronto this Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network and on your online and mobile devices with NBC Sports Live Extra.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Firestone Racing

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Ed Carpenter

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.

Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

  • 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish

Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.

While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.

Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.

Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.

In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.