Dubbed the Grand Prix of Houston, the race – scheduled for the first week of October, 2013 – will be held on the concrete parking lots of Houston's Reliant Park adjacent to the Astrodome (where the Astros played baseball and the Oilers played football) and Reliant Stadium (where the Houston Texans football team currently plays) – the same location where Champ Car raced in 2006 and 2007.
Drivers at the time criticized the track's rough surface for its devastating effect on tire wear, something that race organizers – who've outlined plans to use the same 1.7-mile, 10-turn layout as the previous races – will have to try and fix for next year. The event will be promoted by veteran open-wheel race organizer Mike Lanigan and title sponsored by Shell and Pennzoil, who are undoubtedly as eager as the series organizers to tap into the fourth largest market in the United States.
HOUSTON ( March 28, 2012) Officials announced today that the Grand Prix of Houston will return to Reliant Park in 2013 with the IZOD IndyCar Series. It was further announced that the event will hereafter be known as the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston thanks to a multi-year title sponsorship agreement between Shell Oil Company and event promoter Mi-Jack Promotions. The inaugural Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston will take place at Reliant Park on October 4 – 6, 2013.
"We are thrilled to be returning to Houston," said Michael T. Lanigan, Chairman and CEO of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. "The Grand Prix was very successful in 2006 and 2007, with big crowds at Reliant Park witnessing an exciting three-day festival of speed. In 2013 it will be better than ever, with the IZOD IndyCar Series making its debut in the Bayou City, and a great new title sponsor in Shell and Pennzoil. We are looking forward to a long and productive relationship with Shell and Pennzoil as well as the IZOD IndyCar Series."
Among those participating in the press conference were Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, City of Houston Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez, Shell Oil Company President Marvin Odum, IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard, Chairman of the Grand Prix Local Organizing Committee George DeMontrond, IZOD IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves, and IZOD IndyCar Series team owner Roger Penske.
Bernard explained that many factors contributed to the decision to award Houston a spot on the schedule.
"We are excited to bring the competition and excitement of the IZOD IndyCar Series to Houston beginning in 2013," said Randy Bernard, CEO of INDYCAR. "When we look at growing our schedule, one of our top objectives is to showcase our racing in major U.S. cities, which in turn helps our sponsors, team owners and television package and is key to the success of our sport. As the fourth largest city in the country, Houston is a great fit for the IZOD IndyCar Series and Reliant Park will be a tremendous venue."
The multi-year title sponsorship agreement between Shell and Pennzoil and event promoter Mi-Jack Promotions made the Grand Prix's return possible.
"Shell has built a long, storied history in motorsports across the world," said Lisa Davis, President of Shell Commercial Fuels and Lubricants Americas. "Becoming the title sponsor for the IZOD IndyCar Series race lets us bring the Grand Prix home to enjoy with our customers, employees, and neighbors. Shell and Pennzoil look forward to supporting our city, this sport and a spectacular event with great racing on the streets of Houston, Texas."
In 2006 and 2007, the Grand Prix of Houston had an estimated economic impact of more than $35 million per year to the region and resulted in substantial international exposure for the City of Houston and Harris County. With this in mind, City of Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett founded the Grand Prix Local Organizing Committee (LOC) in 2010, and local businessman George DeMontrond was appointed as Chairman.
The LOC was established with the intent of identifying a title sponsor to make the Grand Prix's return possible, so today's announcement represented the culmination of that effort.
"This is a very exciting day for the City of Houston!" remarked DeMontrond. "On behalf of all of us involved in the Grand Prix Local Organizing Committee, I would like to thank Randy Bernard and the IZOD IndyCar Series for their confidence in Houston. We are also very grateful for the leadership of Mayor Parker and Judge Emmett, and for Shell and Pennzoil stepping up and providing the sponsorship support we needed."
Penske and Castroneves were in Houston as representatives of the IZOD IndyCar Series teams and drivers who will be competing in the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.
"It is important for the IZOD IndyCar Series to bring events to major markets to not only grow the series, but to expand the audience and create new fans of the sport," said owner of Penske Racing, Roger Penske. "With the history of open-wheel racing in downtown Houston and at Reliant Park, this is a great opportunity to bring a vibrant street race to the fourth-largest city in the United States. We look forward to working closely with our sponsors at Shell and Pennzoil to make this a truly special event."
"I'm excited about the IZOD IndyCar Series bringing a street race back to a city the size of Houston," said Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Chevrolet. "It's always fun to put on a great show in front of large crowds, and with Houston being a gateway to Central and South America, it's important for the series' Latin America audience to have the opportunity to experience these urban festivals that always have a fun and exciting atmosphere. My fellow drivers and I are looking forward to putting on a great show for the people of Houston and really appreciate our sponsors from Shell and Pennzoil in making that happen."
Organizers of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston are planning a "three-day festival of speed", with a variety of family-friendly activities complementing world-class racing. Planned activities include live music, a family fun zone, interactive exhibits, and go-karting. In addition to the IZOD IndyCar
Series, the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston will feature a number of "support series" races that will be announced at a later date.
"The Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston will be much more than just a race," said Chuck Kosich, General Manager of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix. "Seeing the stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series driving more than 180 miles per hour around the Reliant Astrodome will be a thrill for race fans and non-race fans alike. We are also focused on creating a family-friendly weekend of entertainment that will be 'the place to be' all weekend long."
Tickets for the 2013 event are not yet on sale, but fans are encouraged to visit www.grandprixofhouston.com to join the "Checkered Flag Club". Registered members of the club will receive the latest information on the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston and will receive pre-sale opportunities before tickets go on sale to the general public.