HOUSTON (AP) — Organizers of the Grand Prix of Houston said Monday they are planning a much smoother race this season after bumps on the road course caused a series of problems last year.
Building a course within a city poses a number of challenges, but the track is not expected to add obstacles. Last year, a bump on turn one turned the event and points standings upside down. Points leader Helio Castroneves bottomed out in the second race on that turn, destroying his gearbox and ending a weekend that saw his 49-point lead vanish.
Less than a year later, race organizers are working to turn NRG Park into an IndyCar track. And they don't anticipate fresh problems in turn one.
"Monday of this week we demolished that part of the race track and poured new concrete so it's gone," says Martyn Thake, who is overseeing the construction of the course. "It wasn't like that the year before when we came and tested it. It was unfortunate and we at least were able to address it so we could continue running last year. It threw our schedule off but we've done it before and we got it licked."
Last year, construction around Reliant Park could not begin until after the Houston Texans' Sept. 29 game. Once the bump in the asphalt was discovered, IndyCar was forced to delay track activity and erect a chicane of tires that drivers had to go around during two practice sessions. That worked until Josef Newgarden hit the chicane, knocking it into the path of Castroneves.