HOUSTON – First-year Verizon IndyCar Series drivers occupied two of the podium spots in Race 1 of the Shell and Honda Grand Prix of Houston presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers.
Two other rookies claimed podium finishes in the 90-lap second race on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn street circuit.
Through 10 races, 19 different drivers have earned top-five finishes and there have been seven different winners, including rookie Carlos Huertas in Race 1 at Houston, and seven different Verizon P1 Award winners.
Carlos Munoz joined countryman in Victory Circle on June 28, while Mikhail Aleshin and Jack Hawksworth were runner-up and in third, respectively, on June 29.
Hawksworth had recorded his then-season high in Race 1, moving from the 21st starting position to sixth mainly because of attrition. He advanced 20 positions relative to his starting spot in Race 2.
“We’ve been starting up front so many times this year and (a podium finish has) not happened on Race Day,” said Hawksworth, who had four top-10 qualifying efforts with a best of second in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. “Today, we had a terrible qualifying and we end up on the podium. We were able to pass cars at the right time and I’m so delighted and so proud of Bryan Herta Autosport.
“We haven’t been able to put it together and today we were able to do it.”
Munoz leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 370 points. Hawksworth is second (219), Aleshin third (211) and Huertas fourth (204).
“I think there are a lot of great engineers down the paddock and a lot of great teams that want to win,” Race 2 winner Simon Pagenaud said of the competition throughout the field. “Ed Carpenter's team for example is a really good one. Obviously the top teams, they're always up there. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has been elevated to the next level, which is awesome to see.
“A lot of teams and drivers are able to have glimpses of glory I would say, and it's difficult to be up there consistently.”
That also was displayed in Race 2 as Huertas was the first to retire because of a mechanical issue and Munoz’s car made contact with the Turn 10 concrete wall and was relegated to 22nd place.
High school students spurred by drivers in robotics competition
Josef Newgarden and Justin Wilson competed on a different playing field as they maneuvered 120-pound robots to shoot 2-foot diameter exercise balls into “goalie zones” in the INDYCAR Fan Zone.
Wilson represented the FIRST Robotics Competition Team from Greenville (Texas) High School, Greenville, while Newgarden represented the Clear Creek Independent School District’s FIRST Robotics Competition Team.
Both have been supporters of FIRST robotics since 2013 as a means to display high school students the “cool factor” in science, technology, engineering and math.
Huertas’ victory was the third for Dale Coyne Racing in each of the past three seasons. Justin Wilson (2012 at Texas Motor Speedway) and Mike Conway (2013 in Belle Isle 1) are the others. Wilson claimed the team’s first victory in 2009 at Watkins Glen. … Honda engines held seven of the top 10 positions in Race 1 and Race 2 were split at five between Honda and Chevrolet. … Pagenaud recorded the quickest lap on Lap 62. ... Helio Castroneves' streak of 40 races running at the finish ended.
Look, up in the air
Honda’s first business jet has logged its maiden flight ahead of its expected certification and delivery next year.
Priced at $4.5 million, it has received more than 100 orders. The proof-of-concept HondaJet performed a demonstration flight before the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2010.