May 11, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves drives through the pits during practice for the 2014 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Weather threatens Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix

If you hold a “Grand Prix” and no one comes, is it less “Grand” Prix and more of a club race?

With 90-degree temperatures and a 40 percent chance of rain forecast will anyone show up for the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston this weekend? The Verizon Indycar Series isn’t NASCAR or Formula One; just putting on a race doesn’t mean the crowds will come, and for some reason Indycar has decided to stage a double header in a parking lot basking in Texas heat during the middle of summer. I haven’t found anything about tickets sales, but it appears a lot are still available.

I’ve been critical of running Houston in the heat of the summer since the schedule was announced, and while I hope that the race succeeds I doubt that it will. I’m a huge fan, and the idea of spending two days in temporary, uncovered aluminum grandstands in a humid 90 degree weather doesn’t really appeal to me. So, I have a hard time recommending to other fans that they go to the race.

I’m not the only one who doesn’t get the appeal. Houston Press Blogger John Royal details some of the efforts taken to keep fans cool.

Water misting stations are being installed about the race course. Reliant officials are also generously allows spectators to bring in one 20 ounce bottle for water, which can supposedly be refilled for free at water fountains that will be stationed around the track. Fans will also be allowed to gather inside Reliant Arena so they can experience air conditioning and watch the race on TV screens. And of course, the people in the suites will be able to watch the race with the added comfort of air conditioning.

So why is the race in June? Part of the reason is it’s a victim of condensing the schedule in order to not compete with the NFL and create an “International Season,” that has yet to be seen. So why on a summer day in June? Indy Star writer Curt Cavin has a possible answer.

The sponsor has a golf tournament in the market in the spring that it doesn’t want to compete with. We’re told that this date was agreed upon with the idea it would be a night event. Later, lights were not secured.

The tournament Cavin speaks of is the Shell Houston Open on the first week of April. If that’s the case we can expect the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix, to return to the summer again in 2015, if it returns at all. Although, if the reports about opening the season in Dubai in February it seems like they could move the Grand Prix into mid-winter.

There’s also been reports that the series couldn’t secure television time to show the race at night. I find that a little odd because I checked the NBCSports listing and they don’t have anything showing for the weekend after 6 p.m.

So, I guess it’s universally acknowledged that holding an Indycar double header in the heat of the Houston summer is a bad idea, but they’re trying to make the best of it.

Tags: Poplar Shell Pennzoil GP Of Houston Verizon Indycar Series

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