Carlos Huertas is an IndyCar race winner. The Rookie driver won the first race this weekend, in the Grand Prix of Houston. Huertas started the race in 19th position, and won in just his eight career start. This was the first win for Dale Coyne since Justin Wilson won at Texas in 2012. Juan Montoya and Carlos Munoz finished second and third, marking the first time in IndyCar history that Columbian drivers swept the podium. Sebastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top five.
If the heat and humidity weren’t challenging enough, rain fell in Houston just before Saturday’s race. IndyCar decided to push forward with the standing start, which essentially went off very well. The only hiccup during the start was a stalled car driven by Graham Rahal. That would end up being the least of his worries on Saturday.
Qualifying was very interesting, with guys like Will Power, Marco Andretti, Mike Conway, and Tony Kanaan all starting in the back of the field. Luca Filippi got in the car for the first time this year, and qualified his RLL car in the fourth position. In the end, it was Simon Pagenaud that won the pole for Saturday’s race, his first career IndyCar pole.
Due to the delayed start, the race was declared a timed race, at 1 hour and 50 minutes. Takuma Sato shot out of the gate like you would expect him to in the wet conditions. The Japanese driver tried to shoot the gap between James Hinchcliffe and Filippi on the start, banging wheels with each of them. He then went to work on Pagenaud, making a bold move to take the lead. Things were looking good for AJ Foyt’s team at that point.
It was a frustrating day for Sato after that. He was held up by Marco Andretti, which allowed Hinchcliffe to reel him in. James then took the lead from him as they made their pit stops. Shortly after that, Sato’s day came to an end after making contact with Mikhail Aleshin, who was a lap down. Sato was running in second position at the time.
Bad luck once again found Chip Ganassi’s team. Scott Dixon hit a patch of water and slammed into the wall, then collected teammate Charlie Kimball. It’s been a season to forget for Ganassi, who still have not won a race this season.
The big moment came on what was supposed to be the final restart, which would have been a frantic one lap shootout between Huertas, Montoya, and Kanaan. Instead, it was Rahal that ran into the back of Kanaan before the green came out, which ended the race. Graham was given a 30 second penalty, as was Ryan Briscoe for a separate incident.
Will Power, the current points leader, struggled on Saturday. After qualifying in 18th position, Power wasn’t able to get to the front in the race. He had a couple of incidents, slapping the wall and spinning into the tire barrier. He finished 16th today, and his lead in the championship has been trimmed to 36 points over Helio Castroneves.
We are now officially halfway through the 2014 IndyCar season, and we’ll kick off the second half tomorrow. The second GP of Houston race tomorrow will feature the traditional rolling start, and qualifying will once again begin at 11 AM ET, which will be tape delayed on television. NBC Sports Network will pick up live coverage at 3 PM ET.