Monday, March 3, 2008

Grand Prix of Houston Cancelled for 2008

HOUSTON, TEXAS (March 3, 2008) The Grand Prix of Houston announced today that the 2008 event, originally scheduled for April 25-27 at Reliant Park, has been cancelled. Grand Prix officials made the determination that after the unexpected unification of the Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing League and the resulting exclusion of Houston from the schedule, it was not possible to stage the event in 2008. However, Grand Prix officials are already in discussions about the possibility of holding the Grand Prix of Houston in 2009 with the American Le Mans Series and Indy Racing League.

“The unification of Champ Car and IRL caught us by surprise, and we were informed that due to the last-minute nature of this unification the Houston date could not be accommodated for 2008,” said Michael T. Lanigan, owner and chairman of the Grand Prix. “We are saddened and disappointed to have to make this decision, but we remain optimistic that we will have the opportunity to bring the American Le Mans Series and the Indy Racing League to Houston in 2009.”

The Grand Prix of Houston was not involved in any way in the unilateral discussions between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League, and despite a contract with Champ Car for 2008 the Houston race was excluded from the schedule.

Grand Prix officials explored the possibility of staging this year’s event without Champ Car, but it was determined that holding the Grand Prix with only one headlining series would not be possible. Creating the temporary street course at Reliant Park requires tremendous expenditures including multiple grandstands, over three miles of race wall and fencing, fan amenities, media facilities, numerous jumbo screens, and broadcast production; all of these costs would remain essentially the same with only one series.

“Putting on an event of this magnitude is very challenging, even when we had two great headlining series in 2006 and 2007,” Lanigan stated. “We did explore the possibility of holding our event this year with only an American Le Mans Series race and we were sincerely interested in doing that, but the reality is that our expenses would have actually increased with only one series. As a result of Champ Car’s actions, we have unfortunately determined that staging an event in 2008 was not feasible.”

In addition to initial conversations with Indy Racing League CEO Tony George, event organizers are currently in discussions with Reliant Park and the American Le Mans Series about 2009. Tim Mayer, Chief Operating Officer of the American Le Mans Series commented:

“The American Le Mans Series has enjoyed a great relationship with the City and Fans of Houston and with the great team that promotes the Grand Prix of Houston. So it is with great regret that we face the cancellation of the event, caused by circumstances outside of any of our control, the merger between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League. As we have proven in several markets this past year, the combination of the American Le Mans Series and various open wheel series makes a terrifically strong combination. The loss of the Champ Car Series, and the fact that the IRL has pre-existing commitments created a gap very late in the promotion cycle that no amount of effort would bridge, although Grand Prix of Houston worked tirelessly to do so.

“We continue to enjoy a warm relationship with the Grand Prix of Houston, especially General Manager Chuck Kosich and Founder Mike Lanigan, to whom we are very grateful. We believe that the City of Houston is a great market, and we are committed to working together to try to put together a strong event for the future.

“We do not have plans to replace the Houston race in 2008. History has shown that last minute replacement events are poor representations of the series that run them. We have a great series, with teams, sponsors, manufacturers, promoters and fans of whom we are extremely proud. We have a schedule that is both demanding and rewarding. We will continue to act in everyone’s best interest and look forward to continuing to grow this great sport.”

Lanigan remains committed to the event and is optimistic about its return in 2009.

“We are grateful for the tremendous support we have received over the past two years from fans, corporate sponsors, our partners Reliant Park and SMG, and the entire Houston community, so we are extremely disappointed to have to make this decision,” Lanigan said. “For the long term, we hope that despite this setback we have the opportunity to bring the Indy Racing League and American Le Mans Series to Houston and stage our biggest event ever in 2009.”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Grand Prix Returns in 10 Weeks

By Robert H. Kelly
(Copyright 2008 TexSport Publications)

With the 2008 Grad Prix of Houston a mire 10 weeks away, the time has come to provide more up-to date coverage concerning the big race weekend. This humble writer has covered auto racing in general and the Grand Prix of Houston sporadically over the years and has a love for the sport that transcends the years.

The allure of auto racing has been in my blood since a very young age when I marveled at the coverage of the 24 Hours of La Mans on ABCs Wild World of Sports to watching James Garner and Elvis Presley in the movies “Grand Prix” and “Viva Las Vegas” respectively.

I even involved myself in the sports as an active participant in my teens and college years. My brother and I raced in two leagues, drag racing and circle dirt track racing in the 1970s.

We were, in layman’s terms, “poor man racers.” We did what we could with out racecars and competed the best we could. We were never, in any sense of the word, good racecar drivers/owners. We did it because it was fun and we had a love of the sport.

In any case, when opportunities have arisen to cover motor sports, I jump at the chance. There is nothing like walking through the paddock or the pits looking for a story. A possible story is around any corner. It may be breaking news of equipment failure of one of the top teams or a fan who has saved for months to attend the particular race.

There is a reason that auto racing is the number one spectator sport in the USA. It is the excitement of it. One never knows what is going to happen.

I will never forget being behind the wheel of my dirt track car over 30 years ago. It is a feeling one cannot describe. Below is a video clip of the number 2 Audi R10 racing around the JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park. Just sit back and enjoy the spectacle that is auto racing. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fiesta Friday at the Grand Prix of Houston

Fiesta Mart and Lowe’s to sponsor a celebration that will include acclaimed musical act Los Super Reyes

HOUSTON, TEXAS (January. 30, 2008) The Grand Prix of Houston will open with a bang this year when the three-day festival kicks off on April 25 with “Fiesta Friday Presented by Lowe’s”, a celebration of racing and music spotlighting Houston’s vibrant Hispanic community. The event will feature a concert by Los Super Reyes, one of the hottest names in Latin music, and will be sponsored by Fiesta Mart and Lowe’s.

“We are very excited to be introducing Fiesta Friday Presented by Lowe’s to the Grand Prix of Houston,” said Michael T. Lanigan, owner/chairman of the Grand Prix. “With the open-wheel racing tradition in Central and South America and the many popular Latin drivers, the Hispanic community is an important market for us. We also believe that Los Super Reyes is a band that will be entertaining not only for the Hispanic community, but for all of our fans.”

After a day of racing and opening acts featuring top local talent, headlining act Los Super Reyes will bring their energetic sounds to the main stage at JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park. Led by veteran composer/producer and keyboardist Cruz Martinez, Los Super Reyes consists largely of former members of the legendary Kumbia Kings, who became international stars after forming in 1999. Martinez and other bandmates first cut their teeth as band members for Selena, the vocalist widely credited with popularizing Tejano music throughout North America. Once that musical pursuit was put to an end by Selena's untimely death, Martinez and A.B. Quintanilla put their heads together to blend popular urban styles with their native Mexican music, creating Los Kumbia Kings. Martinez’ newest creation Los Super Reyes is continuing to perfect the Kumbia Kings’ irresistible blend of traditional Mexican cumbia sounds with urban hip-hop and dance. The 12-member group has enjoyed major chart success with their 2007 recording industry debut “El Regreso de Los Reyes”, and maintains a busy performance schedule in support of the album.

The Los Super Reyes concert and Fiesta Friday are made possible by the support of the two major sponsors, Fiesta Mart and Lowe’s, which are providing not only corporate sponsorship but also key promotional support.

“We are proud to announce Fiesta and Lowe’s as the primary sponsors for Fiesta Friday Presented by Lowe’s at the Grand Prix of Houston,” said Michael Heckman, Director of Corporate Sales for the Grand Prix. “Fiesta and Lowe’s are trusted brands that are true leaders in marketing to the Hispanic community, so they are perfect partners for us in this effort.”

Fiesta will serve as the event’s title sponsor and will activate the sponsorship in their thirty-two Houston-area locations. Fans will have the opportunity to purchase two-for-one Fiesta Friday tickets at any Houston-area Fiesta Ticketmaster location.

“Fiesta is excited that it is Grand Prix time once again and what a great event for this city,” said Keith Jacobsen, Fiesta’s Director of Advertising and Marketing. “Fiesta is very proud to be a partner of the Friday evening festivities and we are looking forward to a great event. This has the opportunity to bring race fans and music fans together for one great evening.”

Presenting Sponsor Lowe’s will also provide valuable promotional support by leveraging their relationship with Lowe’s Fernandez Racing and driver/owner Adrian Fernandez, one of the most popular Mexican racecar drivers.

“Music and racing are two things our Hispanic customers are passionate about,” said Bob Gfeller, Lowe’s senior vice president of marketing and advertising. “Fiesta Friday brings both together in a family-friendly venue, where we can both communicate with consumers and celebrate the Hispanic heritage in Houston.”

To promote Fiesta Friday, the Grand Prix has partnered with Univision, the leading Spanish-language media company in the Houston market. Univision will advertise the event across many of their radio and television properties and will provide promotional support across all platforms. Univision radio station KLTN “Esterio Latino” will be the anchor station for the promotional efforts, with popular morning show personality Raul Brindis serving as spokesperson for Fiesta Friday and the Grand Prix’s Spanish-language advertising efforts.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Toyo Picks Top World Challenge Fan Focus Model of 2007

TOPEKA, KANSAS (January 4, 2008) Nearly 30 young women were chosen from hundreds to be Fan Focus models during the 2007 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge season in a promotion supported by Modified Mag and Toyo Tires. After narrowing the field down to the top ten, Toyo Tires has chosen Yvette Meza, of Fontana, Calif., as the winner of the 2007 SPEED World Challenge Fan Focus model search contest.

Meza was one of three models selected to participate in the SPEED GT event at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Her look, professionalism and personality won over fans, teams and staff. In addition to a flash-animated online portfolio and website from, Meza received the opportunity to interview with Toyo Tires and be evaluated for a modeling contract.

"The 2007 World Challenge model search was a huge success,” Toyo Tires Manager of Events and Motorsports Stan Chen said. “We had another stellar group of beautiful women compete for the title and we look forward to picking the next winner in 2008."

Joining Meza in the top ten were Andrea Poulos and Tana Gabrielle from Round Four at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Jessyca Phichit and Seanna Mitchell from Round Two at Long Beach, Briana Dixon (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), Christa Bartol (Toronto), Jessica Deppe (Watkins Glen), Molly Powers (Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca), and Sarah Ward (Road Atlanta). All models in the top ten will receive an online portfolio from

The Resolute Drivers of SPEED World Challenge

TOPEKA, KANSAS (January 4, 2008) A new year has arrived and so has a new season of SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge. For some, new teams and cars bring fresh opportunities, for others, the return to a regular ride means a chance to capitalize on lessons learned in 2007. It seemed only appropriate to poll some World Challenge personalities on their 2008 New Year’s resolutions.

After a 2007 full of remarkable highs and lows, Eric Curran had several resolutions for the 2008 racing season.

“My New Year’s resolution is to win a championship in World Challenge GT in 2008,” Curran said. “Not to have a season full of burning my eyebrows at Sebring, burning a plug wire at Watkins, burning a motor up at Miller, smashing the car at Charlotte, stop and go at Toronto, and destroying the car at Atlanta.

Competing in both the GT and Touring Car classes last year, James Sofronas had twice as many opportunities as Curran for lady luck to turn the other cheek, but he remains a big supporter of the series.

“My wish for 2008 is that World Challenge continues to grow and become the best racing series in North America for years to come,” Sofronas said. “I also wish for better luck in 2008 as I was knocked out of quite a few races in 2007.”

Sofronas’ plan for improved success in 2008 is the oldest resolution in the book.

“I am going to be more fit for this upcoming season!”

Andy Pilgrim may also be on the road to a healthier 2008 with resolutions to travel less and eat more sushi, but what about on track?

“Jump no more starts, which I'm too embarrassed to expand on.” Pilgrim said. “I might also say have more fun, but I already have more fun than anyone has a right to.”

Speaking of fun, it sounds like Nick Esayian might be resolving to have less fun in 2008.

“My New Years resolution is to get some new friends in the paddock.” Esayian said. “PD, Nathan, Pierre, Eric Curran, Kuno, Galati, and Deuce ‘Brandon’ Davis have been terrible influences on my on and off track behavior over the last few years. Hedonistic eating, swilling fine wine, uncontrolled gambling, people showing up at my home at all hours of the night, running over deer in Watkins Glen, and gallivanting around the country on PD’s private jet takes a toll on a wholesome family guy like myself. I just couldn’t take it anymore, so I have now distanced myself from that motley crew and joined forces with a more wholesome posse: Clay and Thomas over at BimmerWorld. For the most part they are clean cut guys, but every so often I am amazed and disturbed by their behavior as well. We will see how it goes in 2008, but I predict personal weight loss, better on track performance, and less interaction with the local law enforcement agencies. I have been a victim of circumstance long enough and it’s time for a change.”

World Challenge’s own lawman, GT Technical Director Aaron Coalwell makes the same resolutions ever year.

“We’ve been lucky in World Challenge, because we rarely have any serious injuries, even though motorsports is very dangerous for all involved,” Coalwell said. “Every year I resolve to make World Challenge as safe as any competitive racing series can be.

“We’re also lucky to have so many talented people in the series, but it can make it difficult for the technical staff to hold its own against the creativity of the teams, so I also resolve to not let our teams make me look like the village idiot. Some years I am more successful than others.”

Although he swears he never makes New Year’s resolutions, the events of 2007 led Charles Espenlaub to an important one for 2008, one he already seems tempted to break.

“Try and get more press for winning races instead of drinking a beer,” Espenlaub said. “Even if it was a really good beer, a really, really good beer.”

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Grand Prix of Houston Returns April 25-27, 2008

HOUSTON, TEXAS (December 31, 2007) - The Grand Prix of Houston will roar back to JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park on April 25 - 27th, 2008, and will once again feature a thrilling double-header weekend with the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) on Saturday and Champ Car World Series on Sunday. After a successful debut in 2006, the Grand Prix experienced tremendous growth in 2007 with over 168,259 fans in attendance, and organizers are anticipating even bigger things in 2008.

"We are very excited to announce these dates for the 2008 Grand Prix of Houston," said Michael T. Lanigan, owner and chairman of the Grand Prix. "The month of April offers some of the best weather of the year in Houston, and also gives us a great slot in the racing schedules of ALMS and Champ Car. Having our event on the same weekend each year will help us with our goal of establishing the Grand Prix as an annual Houston tradition as well as one of the premier racing events in the country."

The Grand Prix weekend will feature a full three-days of world-class racing and activities. After a day of practice and qualifying on Friday, the exciting multi-class racing of the American Le Mans Series will take the stage on Saturday, April 26 for the Lone Star Grand Prix Presented by MSR Houston, race #4 of the 2008 ALMS season. The ALMS race will be contested in the early evening, bringing back the popular attraction of nighttime racing at JAGFlo Speedway. The next day, the Grand Prix will reach a thrilling finale when the exotic, 750 horsepower rocketships of Champ Car compete in race #2 of the 2008 Champ Car World Series.

The Grand Prix of Houston will also feature a number of top support series to allow fans to see some of the sport's up-and-coming stars compete throughout the race weekend. Included in the weekend schedule will be the Fast Trac 100 as part of the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear, the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio MX-5 Cup, and the MSR Houston Charity race.

In addition to world-class racing, the 2008 Grand Prix of Houston will feature a myriad of activities to create a "three-day festival of speed" for fans of all ages. Popular returning attractions will include live music, the Family Fun & Sports Zone, extreme sports demonstrations, go-kart racing, and the Miss Grand Prix of Houston contest.

Event organizers are also planning a number of new features for 2008, including the Auto Extravaganza, an exhibition featuring a large Corvette show, exotic car exhibits, displays, and vendors. The Auto Extravaganza will be located in the air-conditioned comfort of the Reliant Arena and will be free for all fans.

Fans will have a chance to get in on the action on November 14, when tickets for the 2008 Grand Prix of Houston go on sale to the general public. Ticket prices for the top-level tickets have remained the same, with the popular 3-day SuperTicket giving fans premium seating and pit passes for all three days for $129. The Grand Prix has lowered ticket prices in other areas to give fans more opportunities to experience the event at affordable prices: Grounds Admission tickets for Sunday have been lowered to $20 from $30, and the lowest-priced reserved grandstand seats have been reduced to $35 from $75.

Tickets went on sale November 14 and fans can purchase seats at the Reliant Park box office, online at, at all Ticketmaster outlets or by phone at 713.629.3700. For a more information including a complete list of ticket offerings, fans should visit

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Clemens, Newman To Race At Grand Prix Of Houston

By Robert H. Kelly

(Houston, TX-April 12, 2007) Roger Clemens and Paul Newman will lead a group of celebrity drivers in a charity go-kart race at Reliant Center on Saturday April 21, during the Grand Prix of Houston.

Their go-karts aren't carnival-like carts one drives at the amusement park. These carts can reach sixth miles per hour on a straight-a-way.

All money raised will benefit United Cerebral Palsy.