Night race possible for GP of Houston in 2014

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The 2014 edition of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston could take place at night, as race promoter and IndyCar team co-owner Mike Lanigan said that his group was “investigating” the prospect.

This weekend’s doubleheader marks the first year of a five-year pact between the Houston race and the series, but it is expected to find a new date on the 2014 schedule.

Considering the 96-hour scramble to convert the parking lot of Reliant Stadium into a 1.7-mile race track following the end of the Houston Texans’ game last Sunday, one could argue that Lanigan would prefer a date before football season kicks in.

Lanigan indicated that he has indeed found a date for Houston in 2014 (a date he said he wants to stay as a doubleheader), but wouldn’t reveal it.

“I have a memory lapse right now,” Lanigan said with a grin before adding, “I don’t think I’m permitted to say anything on that.”

The event has gotten off to a rocky start after a track repair issue scrapped or delayed multiple practice sessions this morning for the various series that are racing here in Houston. A temporary chicane has been installed at the problem spot in Turn 1 for the remainder of today’s activity before grinding takes place later tonight.

Still, as Lanigan noted, his group did take on a massive project with very little time to spare.

“It’s certainly a challenge, to say it mildly,” he said. “Normally, a street course takes four to six weeks. We did it in four days. We thought we had it right and we were finished around 5:30 this morning. Unfortunately, we missed something extremely important coming out at Turn 1.

“We’ve got some work to do tonight, but we’re really pleased we got everything here and everybody seems to be happy, so it’s been a success…Quite frankly, I feel a lot better today than I did last Saturday when we first got here.”

Montoya: ‘Hopefully I get a chance to do Indy again’ (VIDEO)

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Juan Pablo Montoya is on site at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, his latest trip in a summer and fall filled with a lot of international travel and a number of different race cars he’s been in.

Montoya is committed to a full season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Acura Team Penske in 2018, as he’ll share one of the team’s Acura ARX-05s with Dane Cameron.

However, the question of whether he’ll be able to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil remains.

Team Penske has said it plans to only run four cars next month of May, with Helio Castroneves as the fourth driver alongside the three full-time cars driven by Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power.

While Montoya has said elsewhere that he’s shopping offers and has talked with other teams, it’d be highly surprising to see the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion who developed the Chevrolet engine for IndyCar’s 2018 Dallara universal body kit in a Honda-powered IndyCar, although he is running Honda’s brand (Acura) in sports cars.

Montoya elaborated on his Indy 500 prospects in an interview with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton at the Circuit of The Americas.

“Not full-time no,” Montoya told NBCSN of his IndyCar 2018 prospects. “Hopefully I get a chance to go to Indy, hopefully with Penske, (and) if not someone else. We’ll see.”

Photo: IndyCar

Montoya has extolled the early testing both on the 2018 IndyCar and on the Acura ARX-05.

The first Acura chassis has run at Road Atlanta and Sebring International Raceway thus far, and will be put through its paces at other venues over the next few months.

“It’s been good. We did a lot of work with INDYCAR on that car. Fans are gonna like it,” Montoya said of the 2018 kit.

“Going to IMSA with the Acura program, we’ve done a lot of testing. It’s a beauty to drive. It drives better than what it looks! I haven’t had that much fun driving a race car in a long time.”

Acura ARX-05 Daytona Prototype international (DPi) race car to be campaigned by Team Penske in 2018