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

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!”