The IZOD IndyCar Series reaches its second last venue of the season this weekend as Houston, Texas hosts the third and final double-header event of the season.
Facts & Stats
|Date:||04-06 October 2013|
|Lap Length:||2.7km / 1.9 miles|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:30-12:00|
|Race 1 Qualifying||Fri 15:05-16:15|
|Race 2 Qualifying||Sat 10:45-11:15|
|Race 1 (90 laps, 170 miles)||Sat 14:40-16:45|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 08:45-09:15|
|Race 2 (90 laps, 170 miles)||Sun 12:40-14:45|
This weekend’s event marks a return to open-wheel racing at Houston’s Reliant Park complex for the first time since 2007, following the area’s two-year stint hosting a round of the now-defunct Champ Car World Series (pictured top). Both of those events were won by Sébastien Bourdais, with the inaugural event being the first night race held in the series’ history.
At just under two miles in length, the anticlockwise street circuit twists its way through Houston’s famous Reliant Park complex.
The arrival onto the start/finish straight comes courtesy of a sequence of ever-quicker left-hand bends before the drivers have to stand on the anchors for a clumsy left-right chicane at Turn 2, which will no doubt be the scene of some carnage over the weekend.
After a pair of left-handers, the drivers then have a seemingly never-ending right-hander around the Astrodome, which leads onto a short straight and the circuit’s best passing opportunity, Turn 6.
Scott Dixon will have by now most likely cooled down after two brushes with authority in Sonoma and Baltimore, both to his detriment. He will also know that the last time the series held a double-header – in Toronto in July – he swept aside all in his path to take two utterly dominant victories which catapulted him into championship contention.
Since then, it is perhaps fair to say his main rival this season, Helio Castroneves has done only just enough to maintain Dixon’s deficit. The Brazilian has most definitely remained in front thanks to Indycar Chief Steward Beaux Barfield’s implementation of the rules on more than one very controversial situation.
Make no mistake though – central to winning a championship is being the points leader in the first place and despite somewhat lacklustre performances of late, Castroneves is a three-time Indy 500 winner, a veteran of the sport and his champion mettle and credentials are among the elite. Nobody can justifiably argue he is not deserving of a championship.
The return of Houston, as a double header no less, is yet another of the fan-friendly ventures wheeled out by Randy Bernard before his professional open-wheel execution. Racing in Texas is always popular and all indications are for a strong crowd to come out for both events this weekend.
Although mathematically still in the title picture, Marco Andretti and Simon Pagenaud are outsiders at best but are still capable of putting in a performance to make Penske and Ganassi sit up and take notice. Will Power, Justin Wilson, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti can also deliver the goods, which makes predicting a winner all the more difficult.
Tune in and enjoy Houston!