The last time Reliant Park hosted competitive racing was in 2007. It returns in a big way with the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.
This is race spokeswoman Roshelle Salinas.
“For the race fan, this is a different atmosphere in the sense that it’s IndyCar, not CART. So it can definitely be seen as a total new event, but it’s still open wheel racing, and along with sports car racing, having World Challenge and MX-5 Cup and all the other series out here, and being at Reliant Park versus downtown when it was in the late 90s, so I think you could look at it as a whole new event.”
The Grand Prix was held on a street circuit around the George R. Brown Convention Center when it first came to Houston. Now, crews have been busy completing the 1.7 mile course around Reliant Park with concrete and asphalt. Sebastien Bourdais of France won the last race at Reliant in 2007.
He says he returns to Houston with good memories.
“The track should be a little better than it was six years ago, it’s been mostly re-paved on the straight, so it should be smoother and a little less rough on the cars. But it’s a great facility obviously. It doesn’t disturb the city, which is a great thing because it ‘s always the big challenge to have the race track, put on a good show, attract people and also, try not to disturb too much what’s going around, so it’s a perfect site for that.”
Hoping to give Bourdais a run for his money is Simona de Silvestro from Switzerland. She also raced in 2007.
“I don’t really remember how the race went, but I remember the track being really fun, and I think it’s really cool that IndyCars is coming back, especially with the two double headers. It’s going to be pretty challenging, and I think it should be fun.”
She says she caught the racing bug when she was a little girl, and adds she tries to be competitive in a sport dominated by male drivers.
“As a racer that’s always your mind set, but I think we made some improvements the last few races. We just finished 5th in Baltimore and we had a few top-10s before that the last four races, so I think it’s been going in the right direction and for sure. You always want more. But I’m kind of the person who kind of lets it come to me, and see how it comes. We’ll see how practice goes and kind of work from there.”