Frustrated Biffle confronts Johnson in post-race

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Believing that Jimmie Johnson had made contact with him during the race and caused his car’s rear bumper cover to come apart, Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle confronted the five-time Sprint Cup champion after today’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

Biffle’s bumper cover was spotted flapping in the air and he was eventually forced to go to pit road while running seventh. The No. 16 RFR team quickly tore off the bumper, but the sizable loss of track position put Biffle in catch-up mode for the remainder of the afternoon.

He would rally to finish ninth, but that didn’t keep him from having some words with Johnson in the pits. Television cameras caught the brief exchange, which had Biffle drop some expletives while warning Johnson: “You better watch it.”

“If he’s running for the title, he better not tear my rear bumper cover off because that will be the last race he finishes,” Biffle said of Johnson according to Bob Pockrass of The Sporting News.

Johnson admitted that he made contact with Biffle during the race, but according to NASCAR.com’s Kenny Bruce, it was actually Dale Earnhardt Jr. who ran into Biffle and initially caused the cover to become dislodged. Eventually, the cover came loose again, causing Biffle to have to pit.

Biffle would later apologize on Twitter for his actions against Johnson, who seemed to take the incident in stride at the time.

“[For] about a five-lap window, I was trying to get by him and I was inside him two or three times,” Johnson said according to Bruce. “We made contact and I didn’t quite understand why he was down [here] like he just did, but we’ll get it sorted out.

“Short-track racing at its finest – things get heated up and there it was right there…I was surprised he was still that [ticked] but he came down and was obviously pretty mad.”

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!”