Chicane could be Houston’s “calamity corner” this weekend

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Starts and restarts for this weekend’s Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader (Sat., 3 p.m. ET and Sun., 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN/NBC Sports Live Extra) could wind up being particularly hairy – and perhaps costly to some team owners as well.

That’s because drivers will have to navigate a left-right chicane after coming off the dogleg frontstretch of the 1.7-mile MD Anderson Cancer Center Speedway layout at Reliant Park. The chicane was part of the two Champ Car races held at this track in 2006 and 2007.

Sebastien Bourdais, who won both of those events and is coming off a podium run last month in Baltimore, believes that “it’s pretty evident” the chicane could have an impact on the proceedings this Saturday and Sunday.

“I wish we could have a very late start, blow through the chicane for the opening lap and let [the field] stretch out, but it’s part of the program,” Bourdais said following a media luncheon Friday afternoon at Houston’s Reliant Center. “It’s unfortunately the consequence of not having enough runoff at what should have been Turn 1 in the first place but it is what it is.

“We had the same problem in Champ Cars and it puts on a good show [for the fans]. For the drivers, it’s a critical point because you don’t want the race to end in Turn 1. It definitely holds a lot of potential for incidents.”

Simona de Silvestro, who raced in the 2007 Formula Atlantic race at Houston, said luck will play a bigger role in who survives the corner.

“It could be bad; we’ve had some chaotic races of late, and I think it could go more and more that way this weekend,” she said at the same event. “But we’ve got lucky so far. We’ve got through the accidents and moved forward.”

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.