INDYCAR continues our celebration of the 12 days of Christmas with 12 of the most memorable storylines from the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Unpredictable weather led to unpredictable outcomes at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. Water was the common denominator across the Verizon IndyCar Series doubleheader around Reliant Park as big rain showers or stifling humidity and heat made both rounds a challenge for teams and drivers alike.
From Dale Coyne’s masterful strategy that propelled Carlos Huertas to a win and an all-Colombian podium during Saturday’s downpour, to Simon Pagenaud’s 1-2 finish with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate Mikhail Aleshin on Sunday, there were plenty of noteworthy occurrences taking place around the 1.7-mile street course.
The most interesting aspect of the weekend could be the fact all four IndyCar rookies in the field landed on the podium. With his victory in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, Huertas also became the only rookie, and the only non-Penske/Ganassi/Andretti/Schmidt-Peterson driver, to win in 2014.
Huertas and Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz shared the Houston Round 1 podium, Aleshin and Bryan Herta Autosport’s Jack Hawksworth took their place to close the weekend on Sunday in Round 2, and of the four rookies, Hawksworth was the most consistent, placing sixth and third, respectively.
The collective strength of IndyCar’s rookie crop was evident in the Lonestar state, and as the 23-year-old native of England, consistency was a lofty goal during two turbulent races.
“To start with, it was a really interesting weekend in terms of the results—it was a bit shaken up for everybody,” said Hawksworth, who’ll drive the No. 41 Honda for A.J. Foyt next year. “We had all the rookies on the podium at some point, which was exciting, and that shows the unpredictability of IndyCar.
“We weren’t quick enough at the start of the first race, but we kept working at it and made the most of things to be there or thereabouts at the end and moved up to sixth. It was cool seeing both of the Carlos’s up there on the podium, but I wanted to be there, too.”
The combined effort of Hawksworth’s talented driving and team owner Bryan Herta’s talent as a race strategist helped the No. 98 Honda improve 20 positions in the race. The run from 23rd to third also handed Hawksworth his first IndyCar podium, and stood as his best result of the season.
“In the second race, Bryan made a good call with a strategy that got into the mix,” he explained. “We really were quick at the end, we were on the best tires, and had a titanic battle with a few of the other guys behind me.
“In the end, I got my first podium. It was a really strange weekend because it wasn’t one of the weekends where you’d say that we were competitive enough to do that. But as it turned out the way the cards fell, it still ended up being the weekend where I got my first podium. Looking back, it was a really fun race and fans got to see a bunch of talented rookies show what they were made of.”