F1 veteran Nico Hulkenberg slated for IndyCar test with Arrow McLaren SP at Barber

Nico Hulkenberg IndyCar test
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Nico Hulkenberg will become the latest Formula One-affiliated driver to explore the NTT IndyCar Series with a test next week.

Hülkenberg, who made 179 F1 starts from 2010-20, will drive a Dallara-Chevrolet with Arrow McLaren SP at Barber Motorsports Park.

In a release Wednesday, the team described Hülkenberg’s Oct. 25 test as an “evaluation” that will “enable Hülkenberg to experience an IndyCar for the first time, a one-off opportunity he has agreed with the team.”

IndyCar has become an attractive option for F1 veterans and prospects in a pipeline that be difficult to break through to the top rung.

After a dazzling part-time rookie season, Romain Grosjean signed a multiyear deal to join Andretti Autosport full time in 2022, and Callum Ilott, a reserve driver for Aston Martin, will race for Juncos Hollinger Racing in IndyCar next season.

Hülkenberg’s test apparently isn’t tied yet to a ride with Arrow McLaren SP, which said it “continues to evaluate a future third car program, however its focus for  2022 remains on the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet driven by Pato O’Ward and the No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet driven by Felix Rosenqvist.”

Hülkenberg, 34, finished a career-best fourth three times during an F1 career that included stops with Sauber, Force India, Renault and Williams. The German also scored an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche.

“I am pleased to try out an Indy car and see what it’s all about,” Hülkenberg said in a release. “I want to thank Arrow McLaren SP and Chevy for the opportunity at relatively short notice. It will be great to drive a car for the first time and get a feel for the series.”

Said Taylor Kiel, Arrow McLaren SP president: “We’re looking forward to welcoming Nico and giving him his first taste of IndyCar in an Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Barber will be a great track for him to get his first laps and gain some miles in a new form of open-wheel racing.”

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
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Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
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Results and points from Anaheim 2