Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston double-header is now complete. Here, the More Front Wing crew offers our first impressions of the event.
If you watched the drama of the track conditions unfold all weekend and then watched today up until about lap 70, you probably mostly felt ripped off. But if you followed until the end and started hearing the stories coming out of the race, then this one ended up being well worth the price of admission.
The massive shift in the title fight is the biggest story, of course. Power put up a fight early on to try to keep points away from Dixon on behalf of his championship-leading teammate, but a poorly timed yellow put an end to that. From there, Dixon was just unstoppable. Considering the dominance Dixon showed in the double-header in Toronto, Castroneves will be getting very worried as he looks ahead to tomorrow with his lead whittled down to only eight points.
At the grassroots level, though, the greater excitement seems to be in the moment as Simona de Silvestro’s fans celebrate her first IndyCar podium. That has to feel like retribution on some level for the KV Racing Technology team after it was announced yesterday that Tony Kanaan will be going to Ganassi next year — and also serves to prove that Simona may well be able to stand strong without him.
Plus, the track delivered in the end. There was plenty of movement throughout the field, and the shift to single-file restarts can be thanked for an overall lack of contact carnage. (On the other hand, there was that standing start…)
And guess what — we get to do it all again tomorrow!
As a side note, congratulations to Honda, which is now leading the manufacturer point standings for the first time since Chevrolet returned to IndyCar competition at the beginning of 2012.
My hopes were tempered this morning as I pulled into the track to see repairs still being completed in turn one. The fire of my fears was stoked by a schedule that was anything but scheduled throughout the day due to both the teething process of a new event and track repairs. I was petrified when Charlie Kimball stalled on the first standing start attempt and then Ed Carpenter made a pink piñata out of James Hinchcliffe’s car on the second one.
But then an amazing thing happened: A damn good street course race broke out! I hope that TV captured all of the action we were privy to in the media center. Tooth-and-nail battles raged throughout the field, and attrition took its toll due largely in part to the rough track surface at Reliant Park.
The championship was turned on its ear as well due to Scott Dixon taking the win while Helio Castroneves finished well down the order after having to change a gear cluster early in the race.
All told, I think the first race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston was a rousing success from a racing standpoint. Hopefully there won’t be any more track or schedule issues tomorrow and the fans will be able to focus solely on the fantastic racing here in the Space City.
How quickly the tables can turn. Was that karma, or was it an act of the IndyCar gods balancing everything out? What seemed like a comfortable lead for Castroneves now feels like 1,000 pounds of intense pressure. This definitely makes tomorrow’s race even bigger as we prepare for the season-ending race at Fontana.
It was great to see Simona finally get the finish that she deserved and to see Newgarden back in the top five — and in an absolutely beautiful car. Major props are also in order for Luca Filippi, who is giving Bryan Herta something to smile about.
Yesterday, Chip Ganassi announced that he has signed Tony Kanaan to drive for him. He also announced that they would be moving to Chevrolet engines next season. Today his driver won the race and sits in prime position to win another championship. What will he do tomorrow? He could send Honda out with a wonderful parting gift. If one of his drivers (or any Honda-powered car) wins tomorrow’s race, they will win the 2013 Manufacturer’s Championship. That would be quite a weekend, even for Chip!