The Frontstretch: IndyCar In Depth: Shell And Pennzoil Grand Prix Of Houston by Toni Montgomery -- Friday October 4, 2013

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IndyCar In Depth: Shell And Pennzoil Grand Prix Of Houston

Toni Montgomery · Friday October 4, 2013


What’s News

It’s October and as NASCAR fans are well aware, ‘tis the season for the pink race car in support of Breast Cancer Awareness. James Hinchcliffe will also “wear” pink in the No. 27 GoDaddy entry this weekend in Houston as part of the growing initiative.

“Well, I’ve been told real men wear pink, so I am all for it,” Hinchcliffe said. “But seriously, it’s a great opportunity to support a fantastic cause and I’m really happy that GoDaddy has let us be a part of their campaign.”

Scott Dixon will have two chances to try to run down Helio Castroneves for the points lead this weekend in Houston. Castroneves holds a 49-point advantage.

GoDaddy is also donating $50,000 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Firestone will also get in the spirit as Hinchcliffe, along with his Andretti Autosport teammates Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and E.J. Viso will all sport pink sidewall tires.

“Andretti Autosport’s primary Firestone Firehawks for the Houston doubleheader will be pink, to complement the livery and reinforce our collective commitment to this important cause,” said Lisa Boggs, Director of Bridgestone Americas Motorsports.

About the Track

Houston marks the last of the three doubleheader race weekends in 2013 so there will be double the fun, double the trophies, and double the points. The 10-turn, 1.683-mile street circuit is laid out in Reliant Park, in the city’s sporting complex. Race distance for both events will be 90 laps for 153 miles. This circuit hosted Champ Car events in 2006 and ’07, both won by Sebastien Bourdais, and returns as part of the IZOD IndyCar Series for 2013. Will Power was the last pole winner, with a track record speed of 105.545 mph in 2007. Race 1 will feature a standing start, while Race 2 will employ the rolling one. Both races can be seen on NBC Sports Network and heard on IMS Radio as well as Sirius/XM Channel 211. Race 1 will air at 3:00 PM ET on Saturday with Race 2 on Sunday at 1:00 PM ET.

What’s the Points? – Drivers

Helio Castroneves is hanging on to the points lead, holding an advantage of 49 over second-place Scott Dixon. Technically, ten drivers are still mathematically in the race, but with the second-place driver trailing by a full race’s worth of points, and third place Simon Pagenaud another 21 in back of that, it’s looking like a two-horse race at best. Castroneves has one win this season, at Texas, but the real secret to his success has been 12 consecutive top-10 finishes, combined with completing every single lap of competition so far this year.

What’s The Points? – Manufacturers

It’s a tie! What once looked to be an easy Chevrolet title has heated up considerably, and the manufacturer is now tied with Honda heading in to Houston. Given that there are three races left, someone will definitely come out on top and a dominating weekend in Houston for either manufacturer could lock this up. Or, we could end up coming out in a tie, leaving it to the finale in Fontana to decide it.

Driver to Watch

Sebastien Bourdais. The season started out kind of rough for the French driver and his Dragon Racing team, but they’ve been gelling and posting some nice results. Bourdais is also an excellent street course racer. He finished on the podium at both Toronto races and was in the hunt for the win in Baltimore before ending the day in third. He also has history at the Reliant Park course, winning the Champ Car events in 2006 and ’07. This weekend could be the one he seals the deal, giving us an 11th different winner in IndyCar this season.

Who Ya Got?

Toni picks Sebastien Bourdais to win one of the races and Scott Dixon to take the other. See above in the Driver to Watch section for more on why Bourdais. As for Dixon, he’s running all out to try and catch Castroneves for the championship. Our Matt Stallknecht, meanwhile is going with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Scott Dixon while Huston Ladner is taking Will Power and Dario Franchitti.

Other News?

It’s only fitting perhaps that “Super Tex,” also known as racing legend A.J. Foyt, will serve as the grand marshal for this weekend’s race in his native city of Houston. This will be his first race back, in the paddock since the June 8th race at Texas Motor Speedway. Foyt had hip replacement surgery on July 1st, taking the summer off to rest and recover. Foyt will give the command to start engines and will also present the A.J. Foyt trophy to both race winners.

Bryan Herta Autosport will give another shot to Zimbabwe race car driver Axcil Jefferies in the Firestone Indy Lights Series. He’ll run in the Grand Prix of Houston presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers on Saturday. Jefferies made his American racing debut with the team in Mid-Ohio and team principals were so pleased with his effort, they decided to invite him back to race in Houston.

“Axcil made a very good impression on all of us at Mid-Ohio, so naturally, we are very happy to welcome him back to the team for the race at Houston,” said BHA team owner Bryan Herta.

What’s Next?

This week is the penultimate event of the 2013 season. Which is a really fancy way to say that after this, the only thing left is to shoot it out for all the marbles in the season finale MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. The grueling 500 miler will be an under-the-lights affair, running on Saturday, October 19 beginning at 8:00 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.

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