Lineup set for today’s Shell/Pennzoil GP of Houston Race 1 (SPOILER)

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Writer’s Note: The following is a recap of this morning’s qualifying for Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

NBCSN will air the qualifying rounds today at 2 p.m. ET, followed by LIVE coverage of Race 1 at 3 p.m. ET.

If you don’t want to know who won the pole until then, we suggest you find another post to read here on MotorSportsTalk…

Grand Prix of Indianapolis winner Simon Pagenaud’s lap of 59.3716 seconds was enough to earn the pole position for today’s first race of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Carrying over his strong speed from yesterday’s practice sessions (second in Practice 1, first in Practice 2), Pagenaud was able to out-hustle Helio Castroneves in the final moments of qualifying for his first career Verizon IndyCar Series pole.

“The car is awesome. Since yesterday, we’ve been top two in every session and now, pole position,” Pagenaud told IndyCar Radio. “My first pole position in IndyCar – we’ve been close but now it feels like the car is the fastest in the field today.

“[Today’s race is] going to be physical. It’s not as hot as yesterday right now, so it’s OK. But it’s certainly going to be a long race. You’ll have to keep your mind really clear and focused. But we have a great car, so that should make it easier on me.”

As for Castroneves, he’ll have clean track ahead of him to start as he seeks to erase the disastrous Houston weekend from last October that effectively cost him the 2013 series title.

“The Shell/Pennzoil car looks really strong right now,” said Castroneves, who split wins with Team Penske teammate Will Power in IndyCar’s most recent doubleheader at Detroit.

“It’s a shame we just missed [pole] by a bit, but it’s the way it is. It’s a great starting position for sure, and we’re looking forward.”

Scott Dixon will start on the inside of Row 2, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Luca Filippi alongside him after a stellar qualifying run in the No. 16 Honda. James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato will line up in Row 3.

In regards to the championship, Power – the current points leader – could be in for a tough afternoon. One of the top road/street course racers in the paddock, Power was unable to get out of the first round and will start 18th on the grid for today’s race.

Power currently leads the standings by 39 points over Castroneves and 60 points over Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay, trying to break a string of bad results following his Indianapolis 500 win last month, will start eighth today with Justin Wilson in Row 4.

Starting Grid
Row 1
1. 77-Simon Pagenaud
2. 3-Helio Castroneves
Row 2
3. 9-Scott Dixon
4. 16-Luca Filippi
Row 3
5. 27-James Hinchcliffe
6. 14-Takuma Sato
Row 4
7. 19-Justin Wilson
8. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay
Row 5
9. 11-Sebastien Bourdais
10. 7-Mikhail Aleshin
Row 6
11. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya
12. 67-Josef Newgarden
Row 7
13. 83-Charlie Kimball
14. 15-Graham Rahal
Row 8
15. 8-Ryan Briscoe
16. 25-Marco Andretti
Row 9
17. 20-Mike Conway
18. 12-Will Power
Row 10
19. 18-Carlos Huertas
20. 17-Sebastian Saavedra
Row 11
21. 98-Jack Hawksworth
22. 10-Tony Kanaan
Row 12
23. 34-Carlos Munoz

NOTE: All drivers starting today’s race on alternate “red” Firestone tires except Saavedra.

Reaction to INDYCAR/NBC Sports Group announcement: Mario Andretti, Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal and social media

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Like countless others on the East Coast, Mario Andretti was fighting through a snowstorm Wednesday morning.

But emotionally and personally, it was a very bright and sunny day for the legendary Indy car driver.

In an exclusive interview with, Andretti spoke in glowing terms about this morning’s announcement of a multi-year media rights partnership between INDYCAR and NBC Sports Group beginning next year.

“I think this is awesome,” Andretti said. “It’s music to my ears and all of us. NBC has been very familiar with IndyCar racing, so they’re a great partner. I’m elated that it’s all nailed down, secured and I’m looking forward to the future.

“It’s also great for the young lads in Indy Lights coming on, and it’s great for all the sponsors to have that kind of exposure. It’s a good day for INDYCAR today.”

Andretti lauded the fact that all elements of INDYCAR coverage – TV, digital and streaming – will now be under one corporate roof, so to speak.

“Personally, I think it’s huge,” Andretti said. “Everybody is going to be very familiar with everything, the storylines are going to flow perfectly from event to event. There’s nothing like continuity.

“It’s okay sometimes if you have two networks, but to me, the best possible solution is this. That’s why I think this is really a great day for INDYCAR racing to have NBC involved and the continuity is huge for us.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

MORE: Optimism abounds with new INDYCAR media partnership


Several other high-profile individuals within the IndyCar community also gave their take on Wednesday’s announcement, including statements from team owners Roger Penske and Bobby Rahal.

Roger Penske: “As an industry, we are very fortunate to have the NBC Sports Group grow their presence and coverage of INDYCAR racing and really invest in the future of the sport. We believe there is a great deal of positive momentum in the Verizon IndyCar Series right now, from the development of the new race car, to the very talented group of young drivers and new teams coming into the sport this season.

“With the announcement of the enhanced broadcast partnership with NBC, it certainly adds to the excitement for the future. We know that the ways our fans are watching races and viewing INDYCAR content is rapidly changing, so staying ahead of the curve and the developing technology with our partners is important to the growth of our sport. We look forward to working with the NBC team to continue to build INDYCAR and take the sport in new directions.

“We also need to thank ABC and ESPN for all their terrific coverage over the years. The ABC network helped bring some of the most memorable moments in racing to life – including many of our team’s Indianapolis 500 victories – and we appreciate all of their hard work and passion for INDYCAR racing.”

Bobby Rahal: “It’s great news. I think the fact that the IndyCar Series will be under one roof, so to speak, network-wise can do nothing but great things for our sport. To increase to having eight races on network TV is also great news of course.

“The quality of the NBC broadcasts have gotten better and better over the last several years. They do a great job of providing interesting and entertaining content for the viewers and I think that will only continue to grow with the relationship going forward. That type of storytelling is also what helps bring new fans to the sport.”



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