Thursday, June 26, 2014

Preview: 2014 Shell and Penzoil Houston Grand Prix

Last year's Shell and Penzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheaders were very eventful. Scott Dixon came out of the weekend with the championship in hand, while long-time front runner Helio Castroneves failed to complete 100% of the laps for the first time in the season, suffering mechanical failures both races. The track proved to be very bumpy, requiring lots of maintenence to make the track smoother. And a terrible accident in race 2 saw Dario Franchitti seriously hurt but thankfull okay. It would turn out to be his last race of his career. Hopefully we don't have any headlines like that going into Houston next year! Let's hope for a safe one. Last year's Houston races were race 17 and 18 on the calendar. This year, they move to rounds 9 and 10 respectively.

Here are some headlines heading into Houston:

Indycar is Back
After three weeks off, Indycar is back and ready to go! Hope all of you fans are ready, because we have 10 races coming in the next ten weeks. It is time for drivers, like Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe, and Juan Pablo Montoya to start mounting their championship comebacks over drivers like Championship Leader Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Simon Pagenaud.


Filippi Returns
Italian driver Luca Filippi makes his return to Indycar this weekend driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. The Italian GP2 ace never found his way into Formula 1, so he turned to Indycar. He got his shot with Bryan Herta Autosport in 2013. Many thought Filippi would be in Indycar full-time in 2014 after having an impressive campaign. However, nothing materialized for him. Now, he has earned another chance, driving for Bobby Rahal this weekend and at Toronto as well. Wishing nothing but the best for Filippi!

Luca Filippi - Honda Indy 200 At Mid-Ohio - Day 1
How will Filippi fair in his return? (Photo: Robert Laberge / Getty Images North America)

Beat the Heat
Houston is a notoriously hot and humid place. Last year in October, it was bad. This year it is in June. Can drivers, who are already being put under rigorous physical strain, remain safe under the immense conditions this weekend? Sebastien Bourdais believes drivers will be pushed to the brink, and the many drivers will have to go to the hospital (via wheels.ca). Let's hope drivers can stay adequately hydrated.


Shades of Last Year?
The Grand Prix of Houston will always be remembered as the track that ended Dario Franchitti's career. The very bumpy, narrow street circuit that produces high speed was that potential for a big accident, which we saw last year. Will the changes made to the track (via Racer) make things safer? Will there be more mechanical woes for the cars given the amount of punishment they have to take like last year? Helio Castroneves hopes so after having both of his races ruined due to mechanical issues.


Here is the schedule for the 2014 Shell and Penzoil Houston Grand Prix (all times Eastern):

Friday
Practice 1: 11:00 AM - 11:45 AM
Practice 2: 3:00 PM - 3:45 PM

Saturday
Qualifying Race 1: 11:00 AM - 12:10 PM
Race 1: 3:45 PM - 6:00 PM

Sunday
Qualifying Race 2: 11:00 AM - 11:30 AM
Race 2: 3:45 PM - 6:00 PM


Here are the Indycar Driver Standings heading into Houston:
1) Will Power - 370
2) Helio Castroneves - 331
3) Ryan Hunter-Reay - 310
4) Simon Pagenaud - 279
5) Marco Andretti - 235
6) Carlos Munoz - 227
7) Juan Pablo Montoya - 223
8) Scott Dixon - 214
9) Tony Kanaan - 189
10) Justin Wilson - 182


Here's the top-ten finishers of the 2013 Shell and Penzoil Houston Grand Prix Race 1:
1) Scott Dixon
2) Simona de Silvestro
3) Justin Wilson
4) Simon Pagenaud
5) Josef Newgarden
6) James Jakes
7) Graham Rahal
8) Sebastien Bourdais
9) EJ Viso
10) Luca Filippi


Here's the top-ten finishers of the 2013 Shell and Penzoil Houston Grand Prix Race 2:
1) Will Power
2) Scott Dixon
3) James Hinchcliffe
4) Justin Wilson
5) Sebastien Bourdais
6) Simon Pagenaud
7) Oriol Servia
8) Charlie Kimball
9) Mike Conway
10) Simona de Silvestro


Here are the ten active Indycar drivers with the highest combined average finishing position in their careers at Houston, with the number of races they've started at Houston in parenthesizes:
1) Scott Dixon - 1.5 (2)
2) Sebastien Bourdais - 3.8 (4)
3) Simon Pagenaud - 5.0 (3)
4) Justin Wilson - 5.5 (4)
5) Will Power - 7.8 (4)
6) Josef Newgarden - 9.0 (2)
6) Graham Rahal - 9.0 (3)
8) Charlie Kimball - 9.5 (2)
9) Mike Conway - 12.5 (2)
10) Sebastian Saavedra - 13.0 (2)


Here are the past three pole sitters and their lap times at Houston:
2013 Race 2: *Qualifying was rained out and grid was set by entrant points
2013 Race 1: Takuma Sato - 1:00.453
2007: Will Power - 57.405
2006: Mario Dominguez - 58.026


Here are the five largest winless droughts among active drivers in the field (total number of starts since last win):
1) Grahan Rahal - 103
2) Marco Andretti - 50
3) Sebastien Bourdais - 47
4)/Sebastian Saavedra - 46
5) Josef Newgarden - 41


And finally, here is the entry list for the 2014 Shell and Penzoil Houston Grand Prix:
#2 Juan Pablo Montoya / Team Penske / Chevrolet
#3 Helio Castroneves / Team Penske / Chevrolet
#7 Mikhail Aleshin [R] / Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports / Honda
#8 Ryan Briscoe / Chip Ganassi Racing / Chevrolet
#9 Scott Dixon / Chip Ganassi Racing / Chevrolet
#10 Tony Kanaan / Chip Ganassi Racing / Chevrolet
#11 Sebastien Bourdais / KVSH Racing / Chevrolet
#12 Will Power / Team Penske / Chevrolet
#14 Takuma Sato / AJ Foyt Enterprises / Honda
#15 Graham Rahal / Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing / Honda
#16 Luca Filippi / Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing / Honda
#17 Sebastian Saavedra / KVSH Racing / Chevrolet
#18 Carlos Huertas [R] / Dale Coyne Racing / Honda
#19 Justin Wilson / Dale Coyne Racing / Honda
#20 Mike Conway / Ed Carpenter Racing / Chevrolet
#25 Marco Andretti / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#27 James Hinchcliffe / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#28 Ryan Hunter-Reay / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#34 Carlos Munoz [R] / Andretti Autosport / Honda
#67 Josef Newgarden / Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing / Honda
#77 Simon Pagenaud / Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports / Honda
#83 Charlie Kimball / Chip Ganassi Racing / Honda
#98 Jack Hawksworth [R] / Bryan Herta Autosport / Honda


Let's go racing!

-Matthew Hickey

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