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.”

Rinus VeeKay to drive for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020

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Ed Carpenter Racing has signed 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay to drive the full 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, the team announced Wednesday.

VeeKay will drive the No. 21 Chevrolet previously occupied by Spencer Pigot.

“I’m so happy!” the 19-year-old driver from the Netherlands said in a press release. “It’s a dream come true and something we have worked extremely hard for over the last couple of years. To step up from USF2000 to the NTT IndyCar Series in three years is really special.”

In his maiden Indy Lights season this year, VeeKay collected six race victories and seven pole potions. VeeKay previously won the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 championship, and finished second in the 2017 USF2000 standings.

VeeKay’s success in the ladder series caught the attention of Carpenter, who gave VeeKay the opportunity to first test for the team at Portland International Raceway in August.

“I have been following Rinus’s path through the Road to Indy, especially the past two years,” Carpenter said. “It was clear to me that he deserves to be in an Indy car. After his first day in a car at Portland this past season, that feeling became even more apparent. His pace, feedback and demeanor inside the car was very impressive for such a young driver.”

As a driver, Carpenter will be VeeKay’s teammate during the five oval races in 2020, once again returning to the team’s No. 20 entry. An announcement on which driver will pilot the No. 20 on the road and street circuits will be made at a later time.

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