Robotics rivalry on tap between Kimball, Newgarden

Kimball with the "Robowranglers" in Texas (LAT photo)

Ahead of the first of two races in the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN), two of IndyCar’s young American stars will be engaging in a rivalry of a different kind: with robots.

Mid-Ohio race winner Charlie Kimball and Baltimore runner-up Josef Newgarden are competing for separate robotics teams based in Texas as part of IndyCar’s new STEM Initiative, which was announced earlier this year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Kimball, of Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing, will be partnering with FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) Team “Robowranglers,” from Greenville, TX. Meanwhile Newgarden, of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing will join the League City, TX-based FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC®) Team “Robonauts.” The robots, Viper and Apex, have been built by these award-winning individual high school teams and will have a showdown as the driver-controlled robots try to score as many flying discs into team goals as they can. The higher the goal in which the disc is scored, the more points received.

More important than who wins is who loses – we wonder what kind of punishment should be doled out to whichever Honda driver comes in second. It needs to be at least close to the level of crazy that Alex Tagliani hit at the Indiana State Fair, when he lost a wager with Scott Dixon and wore a beaver suit.