Rising Star Racing Heading to Hot Houston
 June 26, 2014| 
  • Team News
-Houston heat to be a factor
-Hospital visit for Alberico and Pigot with Racing for Kids on Thursday

Houston, Texas — After a quick break between race weekends, all three Rising Star Racing drivers are looking forward to returning to action this weekend for the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston. The 1.7-mile temporary street circuit, set in the shadows of the NRG Arena facility, will play host to a double-header Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend. 

The weekend will also see Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires step up as the lead support series during the event, providing the young drivers with a great opportunity to show well in front of what is expected to once again be a large crowd. 

Rising Star Racing drivers Josef Newgarden, Neil Alberico and Spencer Pigot all have racing experience on the track and will hope to beat the heat as well as the competition as the summer season is well and truly underway. 

Newgarden returns to Texas, which also was the host state for the most recent IndyCar event with the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, looking to build on the 11th-place finish he earned with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing after having qualified on the front row for the race. 

Last year’s Houston Grand Prix saw Newgarden again show strength on the street circuit format, netting a fifth-place finish in the October event. The young American racer will once again carry the remarkable livery from Strike, which is a Texas-based leading single-source North American energy services provider that has grown its association with the Sarah Fisher Hartman squad in 2014. 

“I’d like to leave Houston with a couple of really strong results,” said Newgarden. “Looking at Detroit’s doubleheader, we didn’t have a good weekend. We had good pace but we weren’t able to leave the weekend with good results. We could definitely use a break. We’ve been close this year, we just have to try and catch that break. We’re hoping to make Houston the place to do it.”

That this weekend’s race is set in June could play a significant role in the outcome as the Rising Star Racing drivers will be confronted with the Texas heat and humidity that will provide a one-two punch.  But all three have been dedicated to their remarkable physical training programs, which in conjunction with non-stop hydration before and after any on-track action, should see them rise to the challenge of the first-time visit to Houston in these conditions. 

The Houston event was the final chapter in Alberico’s huge push for the 2013 US F2000 Championship as he held up his end of the deal with a double-podium performance that included a race win. While the points tally came up short last year, Alberico and his Cape Motorsports with WTR squad have quickly adapted to the Pro Mazda ranks and should be expected to play a role in both races this weekend.

After opening the 2014 season with aplomb and four consecutive wins, his championship charge literally lost air in Indianapolis as Pigot fought to third place on the Lucas Oil oval despite having a punctured tire. While the result cost him ground in the championship, Pigot still holds a three-point advantage and knows that there is a lot of racing yet to take on for him and his Juncos Racing squad. 

“I just have to approach the weekend with the goal of winning both races,” said Pigot, who has taken his training outside into the summer heat as well as integrating hot yoga into his routine to best prepare for the kind of conditions that the weekend should create. “You just have to make sure you don’t have contact or something like the puncture that happened to us. It’s going to be interesting with the heat — the track is bumpy and it’s a good, challenging lap, I like it a lot. We’ve had very fast cars, every time out, and that gives me a lot of confidence about this weekend.”

Before any motors are fired though, Pigot and Alberico will take some time on Thursday to make a visit to the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston as part of the Racing For Kids weekend engagement. The hospital visits provide the young patients with the chance to meet the drivers and take the attention off their own battles for the afternoon. 

The on-track action will kick off with a 9:15 a.m. practice session for the Pro Mazda runners on Friday, with IndyCar taking to the track at 10:00 a.m. Tune in to NBCSN for both rounds of IndyCar events live (3:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday).
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