Burning Rubber

IndyCar racing for dummies: The everyman's guide to Houston's Grand Prix, the hottest auto race around

IndyCar racing for dummies: An everyman's guide to Houston Grand Prix

Simon Pagenaud
Simon Pagenaud, who has been participating in motor sports since he was 11 years old, gives advice on what to look for during the races.  Photo courtesy of GRand Solutions
Houston Grand Prix race trace
The Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston features a 1.7 mile street circuit racing track.  Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston/Facebook
Simon Pagenaud
Houston Grand Prix race trace

If you're looking for something to do this weekend, the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston is a high speed street circuit race sure to get your heart pumping. The event brings the IndyCar series, the Pro Mazda Championship race and the Mazda MX 5 Cup race to NRG Park for three days of action.

But if you've never been to a circuit race and cars just aren't you're thing, don't worry. We've gathered a few tips from the professionals to ensure that you have a good time.

"I think its a great event to go to with friends or family," IndyCar series race car driver Simon Pagenaud tells CultureMap. "I would look at the program and find a driver or sponsor in the lineup, pick a driver to cheer for and go to the race. I think when your cheering for someone it's a lot more exciting."

  "I would look at the program and find a driver or sponsor in the lineup, pick a driver to cheer for and go to the race. I think when your cheering for someone it's a lot more exciting." 

There will be a total of eight races to watch during the event. There will be one IndyCar Series race on both Saturday and Sunday featuring many of same drivers who competed in the Indianapolis 500.

"You really want to be at that first corner of that race, right after the bridge to see how the drivers handle that turn," Pagenaud says. "Those cars are very reactive. It's kind of difficult to be on the edge and very easy to lose control of the car.

"You might see something like smoke coming from the tires and that shows that the driver is having difficulty."

Due to the weight of the cars, the lack of power steering and the rate of acceleration, Pagenaud notes that G-forces can measure up to 3Gs, or three times the drivers' body weight.

"We'll lose about seven pounds this weekend because there's no power steering in those cars . . .  and you can imagine how difficult it is to keep that concentration for 90 laps with the Houston heat," Pagenaud says.

And even though it might rain this weekend, professional driver Lloyd Reed says that just one more reason to go. "The IndyCars will be going up to 180 (miles per hour)," Reed says. "If it rains they'll put on rain tires, but they'll still get out there. It should make for an interesting race." 

There are also a number of activities for those who aren't so fascinated by burning rubber. Grand Prix managing director Austin Crossley suggest that attendees check out the Family Fun Zone inside the NRG Arena.

"This year we have a Jumbotron so parents can cool off and still watch the race while the kids play on the climbing wall or assemble their own salt water model car at the Shell Energy Lab," Crossley says.

Race goers should also check out the team paddocks and staging areas, open to the public, to get an up-close-and-personal view of the cars and their driver. 

"The paddocks is where the team comes and sets up for the races, it's kind of like their garage," Crossley says. "This is the only sport where we let fans into the locker room. These cars are incredibly technologically advanced and once you experience that and get to see the cars on the track you'll get hooked."