IndyCar Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Live Thread

IndyCar finally comes back with a doubleheader in Houston [Grand Prix of Houston Live Thread]

10/5/13 in IndyCar   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Blog Photo - IndyCar Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Live Thread It's been quite a while since we discussed IndyCar here. Other commitments kept me from being around during the Sonoma race, and I was at the Baltimore race. Then IndyCar took a five week break from some stupid reason. Here's a rundown of what has happened in the interim.
  • Will Power won in Sonoma after Scott Dixon was penalized for hitting Power's crew member in the pits. Dixon claimed the crew member was intentionally trying to slow down Dixon's exit, but things stood.
  • Simon Pagenaud won in Baltimore in a crash filled event, particularly when on one restart, Power either didn't see Dixon or hit him intentionally. Either way, both cars were out and the bad blood continued.
  • Helio Castroneves's points lead increased to 39 over Dixon, with Pagenaud in 3rd 70 back. Ryan Hunter-Reay had an electrical problem in Baltimore that essentially eliminated him.
  • First the bad off-track news: Izod has announced they are out of IndyCar at the end of the year, meaning the series must look for a new title sponsor. Also, the Baltimore race has been cancelled the next two years due to date conflicts, which likely signals the death knell for that event.
  • The biggest Silly Season move shocked everyone. Juan Pablo Montoya, let go by Ganassi's NASCAR team, has been signed by Penske for a 3rd IndyCar ride for 2014. This puts the Penske-Ganassi rivalry in overdrive, and gives IndyCar fans a villain for next year.
  • Not to be outdone, Ganassi filled its fourth slot for next year: reigning Indy 500 champ Tony Kanaan. A team of Dario-Dixon-Kimball-TK is going to be pretty formidable.
  • In an even bigger shocker, Ganassi announced that they would switch to Chevy power next season. They are the first team to switch their engine partner.
  • The other big piece of the Silly Season puzzle, James Hinchcliffe, will likely be choosing between staying at Andretti Autosport and going to KV Racing. GoDaddy is not continuing its sponsorship, so the two teams and racing to get the package ready.
  • Finally, the most controversial move of all, the series will run a race on the Indianapolis road course to start the month of May. Some think its worth a shot, others think it's a huge risk and will hurt the 500. I'm honestly not sure. The series needs to try things, so hopefully it works out. At some point though, they need to think outside the Indianapolis area.
With that, let's actually race. Unfortunately, that's proven difficult here at Houston. The track is Blog Photo - IndyCar Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Live Threadessentially the parking lot of Reliant Park, which contains Reliant Stadium, the Astrodome, and some other buildings named Reliant. You can see the map of the track with the picture on the right. The problem is there is a significant bump on the track near turn 1 that's been causing havoc. It's been back and forth on whether or not to have a chicane, and in the end, the lower support races have had it, but the IndyCar races will not.

Yes, I said races. This is the third doubleheader weekend of the season, and with just one race to go after this, it's a big one for the championship. Helio has a nice lead, but if Dixon or Pagenaud can win both races (as Dixon did in Toronto), it could tighten up very quickly. Helio is already behind the 8-ball after a poor qualifying effort for race 1. He will start back in 21st. His rivals, meanwhile, will start on the second row: Dixon 3rd and Pagenaud 4th. The front row will be Takuma Sato, Foyt's first pole since 1999, and Will Power. It appears to be difficult to pass on this course, so Helio could have his work cut out for him in Race 1.
Coverage of race one begins on NBC Sports Network at 3:00 today, and coverage of race two at 1:00 tomorrow. Click here for Timing and Scoring, and click here for More Front Wing's Event Summary. Q it up here throughout the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.
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10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

In the meantime, here are the Unofficial Results:

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
11. Tristan Vautier
12. Sebastian Saavedra
13. Josef Newgarden
14. Takuma Sato DNF (Contact)
15. Dario Franchitti DNF (Contact)
16. EJ Viso DNF (Contact)
17. James Jakes -1 lap
18. Graham Rahal -2 laps
19. Luca Filippi -2 laps
20. Marco Andretti -2 laps
21. Ryan Hunter-Reay -3 laps
22. Ed Carpenter DNF (Mechanical)
23. Helio Castroneves -37 laps
24. Tony Kanaan DNF (Contact)

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Around 15 fans have been checked by medical. Nothing serious to this point.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

According to Chip Ganassi, Dario has ankle and back pain, but is awake and talking.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Dario is out of the car and on the gurney. He was moving in the car, but no word on the extent of his injuries.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

(Edited by Eric_)

It looks like debris and catch fence got into the crowd. This could be very bad.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Oh *bleep* Dario hard into the catch fence. Debris ever.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Huge, huge crash on the last lap between Sato, Viso, and Dario. Power wins with Dixon 2nd. First we need to make sure everyone's OK.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Nevermind, Dixon seems to be content to finish 2nd rather than risk anything.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Dixon has caught up with 3 to go. This just got interesting.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

7 to go. Power has a bit of a gap on Dixon.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Shockingly, we're under yellow again, as Marco has spun. 17 to go.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

We go green...and go yellow again because of a piece of wing debris in the middle of the track.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Top 10: Power, Dixon, Hinch, Wilson, Bourdais, Pagenaud, Sato, Servia, Kimball, Conway

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Yellow as Carpenter is stopped on course. Power and Dixon are still 1st and 2nd. 28 laps to go.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

The top two pit at the same time. Power gets out in front.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Power and Dixon in a huge battle for the lead. Saavedra still in 3rd and essentially holding up Hinchcliffe.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Power gets by Dixon for the lead, and Bourdais makes a great move to take 2 spots at once.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Helio getting ready to go back out on course.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Top 10 right now: Dixon, Power, Saavedra, Jakes, Hinchcliffe, Wilson, Bourdais, Viso, Pagenaud, Servia

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Yellow again as TK hits the wall hard. This has not been a weekend for IndyCar to cover itself in glory.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

RHR's gear box fails just as they go back to green.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Yellow for Filippi (who had been running great). Dixon and Power pit, and Dixon just beat him out.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Pagenaud is struggling again. RHR gets by him for 3rd, and Wilson and Hinch are right behind him.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Gearbox housing is what broke for Helio. The car is in the garage, and if it comes back out, it's going to be awhile.

Top 5: Dixon, Power, Pagenaud, RHR, Wilson

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Still kind of in shock. Helio led by 49 points coming into the weekend. Now he's looking at a huge deficit going into Fontana if Dixon wins again.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Helio slows! He's done!

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Power is flying. From starting 8th (they started by points), he's up to 3rd and is all over Dixon.

Race control has noticed the oil coming off the 3 car.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

There is apparently oil really leaking from Helio's car.

10/6/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Second race has started. Marco given a drive through for jumping the start. Yellow for Vautier and Rahal, who hit the tires with the help of Simona.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Unofficial Results (Note: Some drivers that had issues early went back out at the end to check their cars for the second race tomorrow.)

1. Scott Dixon
2. Simona de Silvestro (Wooooo!)
3. Justin Wilson (he just finds ways to have good finishes)
4. Simon Pagenaud
5. Josef Newgarden (second straight top 5 for Josef, that car looks gorgeous this weekend)
6. James Jakes
7. Graham Rahal (going to an alternate strategy finally worked)
8. Sebastien Bourdais
9. EJ Viso
10. Luca Filippi (fantastic run by him, the yellow in the wrong spot kept it from being much better)
11. Charlie Kimball
12. Will Power
13. Marco Andretti
14. Sebastian Saavedra -1 lap
15. Dario Franchitti -1 lap
16. Mike Conway DNF (Contact)
17. Takuma Sato DNF (Handling)
18. Helio Castroneves -10 laps (whatever could wrong pretty much did)
19. Oriol Servia DNF (Mechanical)
20. Ryan Hunter-Reay DNF (Electrical)
21. Tony Kanaan -56 laps
22. Tristan Vautier -58 laps
23. Ed Carpenter -60 laps
24. James Hinchcliffe DNF (Contact)

As I said, Dixon is now just 8 points back of Helio. Pagenaud had a good day too and is now 50 back. Onto tomorrow at 1 pm to see what happens next.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

It finishes under yellow, and Scott Dixon wins the first race of the Grand Prix of Houston! He is now just 8 points back of Helio! Simona gets a career high 2nd place! Full results to come.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Wilson has caught up to Simona...but there's the caution with 2 to go.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Conway in the tires with 4 to go. No full course caution yet.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Dixon up 3 seconds. Best battle is for 4th between Pagenaud and Newgarden.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Dixon has checked out already. There's a concern about his right rear tire though. It looks like that's the only way he would lose this race.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Restart with 10 to go.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Yellow again, as Helio is stopped. If Dixon holds on and wins, this becomes an absolute disaster for him.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Something has happened between Helio and Conway. Helio has shut off the engine. Power and Filippi have pitted, so Dixon now leads, followed by Simona (!), Wilson, Pagenaud, and Newgarden.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Yellow with 18 to go. Sato into the tires.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Pagenaud going backwards again on the restart. Simona, Wilson, and Conway all got by him. He's back to 7th.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Power and Filippi did not pit still, and they are now the top 2. Then it's Dixon, Pagenaud, Simona, Wilson, and Conway the top 7.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Full course yellow out as Dixon pits! Servia is stopped on course. Huge huge break for Dixon.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Couple guys are pitting early because the traffic is frustrating them. Unfortunately for Hunter-Reay, he's pitting early because of a gear box problem.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Pagenaud has recovered and is around Simona for 5th.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Helio is back out btw, 9 laps down in 20th. With the early attrition, he might pick up a few points still.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Filippi gets by Pagenaud at the restart. Bourdais and Simona soon follow. Pagenaud not having a great post-restart lap.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Top 10 going into the restart: Dixon, Power, Pagenaud, Filippi, Bourdais, de Silvestro, RHR, Viso, Kimball, Servia

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Full course yellow for Dario, who has spun.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Dixon pits, Power pits a lap later, and Dixon takes over the lead! (well, once everything cycles through) Power's pit stop was 1.8 seconds slower. That's what did it.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Power and Dixon are back together again. The two are well ahead of the rest of the field.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Marco is holding up Dixon. It's allowed Power to pull away. Pit stops are starting.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Simona by Pagenaud for 3rd.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Helio pitting with gearbox problems! This is huge for the championship.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

(Edited by Eric_)

TK is stopped off course. OK, now he's got it back going, but just lost a lap. Power and Dixon are battling for the lead.

Edit: It was the brakes that went for TK. They massively overheated. Looks like his day is done.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Helio pits early, by design to get off strategy. Worth a shot given how far back he is.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

During this yellow, Sato pits because a tire was going down. He ends up all the way from 1st to the back. Power leads now.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

First attempt at the start was aborted when Kimball stalled. Second attempt went green, but Hinchcliffe couldn't get going and Carpenter tagged him. Full course yellow.

10/5/13   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

Race is starting a little late due to the compressed schedule. Also, both races will have standing starts.