LIVE BLOG: Houston, Saturday

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on October 5, 2013 8:24 am
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Greeting from trackside at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston! More Front Wing co-editor Steph Wallcraft and contributor John Lingle will be providing live updates all weekend long. On this page, you’ll find the full live blog for Saturday’s events. The most recent updates are at the top, so if this is your first visit then please start at the bottom and work your way up. Feedback is always welcome — please leave it in the comments or email feedback@morefrontwing.com.

For time sheets, session notes and other race weekend statistics, please visit our Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Event Summary.

Click here to access More Front Wing’s Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston live blog from Friday.

8:17 PM CT (Steph): For the final update of the day, let’s start with a late-breaking change to tomorrow’s proceedings: we learned late this evening that the decision has been made to use a standing start for race 2. Because the first one went so well, right? But it’s clear this is largely driven by the drivers’ concerns about going two-wide through the bumpy section of the track at speed — the same concern that led the series to go with single-wide restarts today, and that appeared to be well-advised.

We’ve posted a whole lot of information for you in the last couple of hours. Here’s a list so that you can find the information you want easily:

Dixon closes points gap with win at Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston (IndyCar’s official race report including quotes from many of the drivers)

Official Houston day 1 race reports for the Mazda Road to Indy (Firestone Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, and USF2000)

First impressions of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston from the More Front Wing team

More Front Wing’s Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Event Summary, which is now fully updated with all info from race 1

And, lastly but possibly most importantly, please don’t forget that our coverage all weekend long is in support of the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana. If you’ve enjoyed it, please consider clicking on the banner above to make a donation.

We’ll be back at it tomorrow to wrap up events here at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston!

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2:07 PM CT (Steph): Sage Karam led flag-to-flag in an issue-plagued Firestone Indy Lights race that saw him extend his lead in the point standings going into the final race at Auto Club Speedway. His Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Gabby Chaves finished 2nd. Conor Daly posted an impressive 3rd-place result in a one-off showing for Team Moore Racing this weekend.

Mechanical gremlins saw two title contenders drop out of contention: Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Muñoz, who stalled on track on lap 24, and Peter Dempsey, who rolled to a stop on lap 38 in a car fielded by Team Moore Racing. That ride came together at the last minute after his full-season program with Belardi Auto Racing was ended prematurely.

Jack Hawksworth, another driver in the thick of the points fight, also had issues mid-race when he made contact with Zach Veach on lap 28. He recovered to finish 6th. Veach continued from that incident as well but rolled to a stop on-track later in the event and wound up 10th.

We’re getting into IndyCar pre-race here very shortly!

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1:41 PM CT (John): The Pro Mazda Series race here followed a familiar path today, with Matthew Brabham pulling out to 3.5 second margin of victory over Team Pelfrey standout Spencer Pigot. Nicolas Costa brought the second Team Pelfrey entry home in 3rd place, 11.5 seconds arrears of Brabham.

Shelby Blackstock and Diego Ferreira rounded out the top five in a mostly trouble free session that saw only one yellow flag for the Michele Bumgarner entry.

Race 2 of the Pro Mazda series weekend is scheduled for 7:45 AM tomorrow morning. Brabham will look to add one more win to his record setting win total in 2013 before graduating to the Indy Lights Series.

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1:24 PM CT (Steph): Matthew Brabham added yet another win to his season record in Pro Mazda’s race 1 after he took checkered with a yellow flag caused by a late-race incident. There were other incidents in that race as well, but I needed to take a walk to get a bite to eat. I’ll get the rest of that info and get you caught up as soon as I can. (Sorry — the changes to the already-packed weekend schedule have made things crazy here!)

While the Lights cars are on track, let’s catch up on track atmosphere. I mentioned food, and there are lots of options here. When I name them off, they’ll sound like typical track food: pizza, burgers, Philly cheese steaks, etc., etc ., but they’re all being supplied by local artisan food trucks and seem to be a little more special than the usual fare. For my lunch, I made a slightly longer walk and found a chicken stir-fry booth at the far end of the grandstands on the outside of the pit straight. I got a decent meal, so it was worth it, but…

Dang, is it ever hot out there! You’ve undoubtedly heard this already, but seriously. Earlier when I was out gathering some photos and quotes for an upcoming story in the Toronto Star on Scott Hargrove, Canada’s newest racing champion (shameless plug!), between the humidity and the sweat I had make-up dripping down my face and stinging my eyes. That’s never happened to me before. It’s gross. If you’re lucky enough to find a shady spot (or if the clouds come in) then there’s a tiny bit of a breeze and it’s not so bad, but it’s still not ideal.

Therefore, if this race really does run in June as is the swirling rumor at the moment, they’ll almost have no choice but to run it at night as it’ll be even more unbearable than this. (I can’t imagine Eddie Gossage is very happy about the prospect of this race being in June, but that’s another story.)

One bit of good news about the weather: the rain that was originally being forecast for this afternoon is apparently going to hold off. The radar is now showing a less than 10% chance of precipitation for the remainder of the day.

Back shortly to get you caught up on the Firestone Indy Lights race!

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12:24 PM CT (Steph): As Takuma Sato and Larry Foyt spoke to the media after Sato claimed the Verizon P1 Award for race 1, it was revealed that single-file restarts are under consideration due to the bumps on the front straight. A formal decision has not yet been made.

Sato also spoke about having this race circled for a successful weekend, not only because this is AJ Foyt Racing’s home track but also due to the fact that AJ missed the team’s win at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

In USF2000, Scott Hargrove of Vancouver clinched the championship by finishing 3rd in the first race of the weekend. “I didn’t think that I would win it this year,” he said. “I can’t believe that I’m here. I’m thrilled that Mazda has put together this whole program that we can be part of, and to win it really means a lot to me.

“It looks like Pro Mazda for next year, which I couldn’t be happier about. It’s a great series to go into, and I’m stoked.”

Race 1 was won by Hargrove’s teammate at Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, Neil Alberico. Alberico has now sealed the deal in holding the most wins in the 2013 season. PRL Motorsports driver Henrik Furuseth of Norway finished 2nd. Much of the race was run under yellow due to a major incident between Belardi Auto Racing’s Danilo Estrela and Scott Andrews, who’s in the #93 for JDC Motorsports this weekend. Both drivers walked away.

Firestone Indy Lights qualifying was cancelled this morning due to the delays. Sage Karam will sit on pole but will not be awarded the point — a frustrating outcome in a title fight so tight that every single point counts, but he’s likely not complaining since it will help him stay out of trouble. Carlos Muñoz will line up beside him on the front row. A short practice was run earlier this morning to give the cars some no-pressure track time in which Jack Hawksworth was fastest by more than half a second.

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11:57 AM CT (John): IndyCar Qualifying Update.

Group 1:

Tristan Vautier brought out an early red flag in Group 1 qualifying, and the 55 sustained massive rear end damage in a crash at turn 10. The wreck came after just three and half minutes of green flag running. Vautier said that he lost the car early in the turn, and that it caught him by surprise.

Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais, Simona De Silvestro, Luca Filippi, and Dario Franchitti were the top five qualifiers in the session.

Group 2:

Group 2 was very different than Group 1, as the session remained green for the duration. Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud took turns atop the leaderboard, with Takuma Sato taking the pole position at the hometown race for A.J. Foyt Racing.

Ed Carpenter and Mike Conway got together in the session, breaking off the left rear wheel guard of the Fuzzy’s Vodka machine, but the session remained green. Takuma, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, James Hinchcliffe and E.J. Viso rounded out the top 5 in Group 2.

As soon as the starting lineup is finalized we will post it to the More Front Wing event summary page.

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11:00 AM (John): Sorry for the lack of updates so far. The schedule is in a constant state of flux, and we are trying to keep up with developments as much as possible. As soon as we have more info RE: qualifying, chicane, standing start, etc., we will pass it on.

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10:12 AM (John): IndyCar practice is underway this morning, and the bump in turn one is definitely still a factor. Simon Pagenaud attempted to drive directly over it just now and got completely airborne for his troubles. Most of the cars are hugging the barriers on the left side of the track through that section, but it is still very rough through there. No word from IndyCar officials yet on whether or not the temporary chicane might reappear.

Quick Pro Mazda update: Bobby Eberle had a big wreck in Pro Mazda practice this morning, but he is ok.

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8:52 AM CT (Steph): While we’re waiting for things to get under way this morning, I’ve got a minute to get caught up on the travel blog portion of our proceedings.

I have one correction to make to a comment I made yesterday: It seems the Astros played at the Astrodome. The place is now condemned, and I’m told that it’s now inhabited by rats and feral cats. (That shows you exactly how closely I follow Major League Baseball.) A couple of media guys somehow broke into it and gave themselves a tour yesterday during the delay. And that’s why it’s important to keep track activity moving on race weekends — it’s too easy for these guys to get themselves into trouble otherwise!

Once we left the track last night, John and his (beautiful!) family treated me to some true Texas hospitality last night. They took me to a place called Los Cucos, which is a local chain of Tex-Mex restaurants. We have Tex-Mex in Toronto, but not like this — they had an enormous selection of menu items from tacos to enchiladas to flautas and everything in between, all on handmade tortillas and with a live mariachi band playing in the background to boot! When you’re at a racetrack all day it can sometimes feel like you could be anywhere in the world and it would feel about the same, but I said to John at the restaurant that it was the first time since I arrived that I properly felt like I’m in Texas.

I left the hotel pretty early this morning anticipating the same kind of traffic I encountered yesterday, but it wasn’t there. It was nice to get settled in early as I wanted to be sure to be here in time for the Davey Hamilton press conference that was scheduled for 8 AM. Unfortunately, we learned this morning that it was cancelled “due to unforeseen circumstances.” It may still happen at a later point in the weekend, so we’ll let you know if it does.

We’re seeing the Pro Mazda cars on track now, and they’re bottoming out heavily over the section where the chicane was installed last night, sparks and all. And the session just went red flag for a single-car crash involving Houston native Bobby Eberle, whose car is extensively damaged. Eberle is out of the car and looks a little winded, but he walked to the medical vehicle on his own. The session has been called, and Matthew Brabham has claimed pole for race 1, which is scheduled for 11:35 AM CT today if everything stays on schedule.

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8:14 AM CT (Steph): Good morning from Saturday at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, where work is still under way on the front straight. The USF2000 guys were scheduled to go out on track at 7:45 AM local time, but those of you who follow us on Twitter and Instagram will have seen the photo we posted this morning of the drivers and crews all standing along the fence watching and waiting. We’ve just learned that the drivers are making their way to their cars right now, and the USF2000 cars will get to run just three laps before the Pro Mazda guys are sent out for qualifying. We’ll keep you posted with updates as news unfolds.

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