With three races to go in the IZOD IndyCar Series season, a doubleheader at Houston's Reliant Park -- the series' newest venue -- might seem like a curveball for the title contender.
But new venues late in the season aren't a rare occurrence. The series' first stop at Baltimore in 2011 and the return of Auto Club Speedway to the schedule in 2012 are among the recent races that have played a role as the series decided its champion.
To some drivers, racing at a new venue isn't that much of a disadvantage after the first practice session.
"We've done (new races) a couple of times recently," four-time series champion Dario Franchitti said. "It requires a different mindset to go in there, particularly when you are racing guys that have experience there."
Only six drivers expected to compete at Reliant Park have previous Indy car experience at the 1.7-mile temporary street circuit, and of the 10 drivers mathematically eligible, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Justin Wilson have started there in Indy cars.
"There's not much to take out of 2007; it's completely different," said Pagenaud, who the year before earned the Champ Car Atlantic Series championship. "What we think is going to work needs to be the thing that is going to work. The rest will come down to the driver."