Grand Prix of Houston New Presenting Sponsor

The Greater Houston Honda Dealers Association, a group of 14 local dealers, will serve as the presenting sponsor of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston through 2016.

The Oct. 4-6 event on a 1.7-mile, 10-turn street circuit at Reliant Park will be the third doubleheader race weekend of the season for the IZOD IndyCar Series and serve as the lead-in to the championship finale Oct. 19.

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"We are delighted to welcome the Greater Houston Honda Dealers as the presenting sponsor of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston,” GP general manager Chuck Kosich said. “Renaming the event the ‘Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers’ has so much significance for us — not only because of Honda’s rich history with IndyCar, but because of the enthusiasm the local dealers have for the Grand Prix."

Belli joins Panther-Dreyer & Reinbold group as technical director

Longtime Indy car engineer Tino Belli has joined Panther Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing as technical director of the teams’ collaborative effort with drivers Oriol Servia and JR Hildebrand.

Most recently, Belli had been with Andretti Autosport, where he was part of an engineering team that captured four IZOD IndyCar Series championships and two Indianapolis 500 wins, for 14 years.

“I’m very much excited about the opportunity to work with Panther Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing,” Belli said. “I have to thank (owners) John Barnes, Dennis Reinbold and Robbie Buhl for giving me this opportunity, as both teams have very strong programs in place, and I believe collectively we can accomplish some great things together."

Belli will oversee the teams’ engineering departments and the collaboration between race engineers David Cripps (Hildebrand) and Jeff Britton (Servia). Last season, Hildebrand finished a career-best 11th in the standings and is entering his third season driving Panther’s No. 4 National Guard entry. Servia saw a jump in performance in 2012 following Panther DRR’s switch to Chevrolet power in May, including a fourth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 and a total of four top-five finishes in the second half of the season.

"Last year we started our collaboration with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in the middle of the season and we had two separate engineering teams working on their own pathways and this is what we needed to maximize our relationship," Panther Racing's Barnes said.

Both teams are scheduled to test for the first time this year on Feb. 27 at Sonoma Raceway.

Of note

Spencer Pigot, 19, of Orlando, Fla., who was runner-up in the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 Championship last season, will compete in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires with Team Pelfrey. See full story ... Ed Carpenter Racing owner/driver Ed Carpenter was interviewed at the game between the host Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks this week. Taking in his first NBA game was youngest son Cruz. Watch the video