In the Driver's Seat

Houstonians rev engines and fulfill fantasies at private racetrack

Dozens of exotic cards were on hand for the party. Photo courtesy of Motor Speedway Resort

An enthusiastic crowd packed Life HTX event center on February 20 to celebrate a new era for Motor Speedway Resort (MSR), the 383-acre private racetrack for motor enthusiasts.

Ever wanted to drive a car with no speed limit, or find a safe, secure garage for your exotic vehicle? How about just have a second-home escape where you can connect with other motor enthusiasts? MSR, located 35 minutes from downtown Houston, is a rare personal playground that combines fantasy, freedom, and play.

At the event, the buzz was palpable. Developers Fabio Covarrubias and Gabriel Haddad announced an exciting new vision to add luxury garage villas, car showrooms, a new health spa, and high-end garages.

Guests browsed dozens of exotic cars, including the only Tramontana supercar in America. Also featured were several Ducati bikes, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and more. Master of ceremonies John Granato, a radio show host on ESPN 97.5FM, fired up guests with a description and pictures of MSR's exciting future.

"For over 14 years, MSR has been a James Bond fantasyland, uniting motorsport enthusiasts," he said. "It was created as a place where you can drive as fast as you want, laws — and common sense — be damned. It's an exciting destination to bring your dream car for a spin."

And the new plans stirred the fervor. The development includes 800 luxury garages, 10 showrooms, and 245 single-family lots. Granato announced that the first showroom "will be signed today by Carlos Lascale from V1 Moto Ducati."

And motor enthusiasts need not leave their families behind, as the plans will include a state-of-the-art spa with a beautiful pool, workout center, and health treatments.

MSR is a dream for motorists of all types. The track welcomes amateurs who race for fun, professionals who use the track for training, collectors who like a place to show off their cars, and families that can use the facilities to practice and play together.

Just as we know many communities built around golf courses, MSR will become the ultimate community for motor enthusiasts.

Fans packed the Life HTX event center to celebrate. Photo courtesy of Motor Speedway Resort

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Lance McCullers won't be ready for Opening Day. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Lance McCullers Jr. will not be ready to go for the Houston Astros on Opening Day. The veteran starting pitcher said on Wednesday he underwent an MRI and it revealed a small muscle strain that will sideline him for several weeks.

After undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2018, which forced him to miss the entire 2019 season, and then missing most of Houston’s 2021 postseason run and a majority of the 2022 season with a strained flexor muscle, McCullers’ latest issue is considered to be minor, and should not hamper him from being in the rotation long-term, he said on Wednesday.

Regardless of the severity of the injury, McCullers’ muscle strain will cause the Astros to have to shake things up with their starting rotation, at least to begin the season. Here is what it could look like.

Even before McCullers’ injury, Framber Valdez was likely going to be the Opening Day starter for the Astros. The questions begin behind him.

McCullers could have been Houston’s day two starter. The Astros still have plenty of options to choose from, but the edge could go to Cristian Javier, who recently signed his five-year extension earlier this month.

Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy, two players that have started games in the past for Houston, likely have locked down their positions as well. With McCullers’ injury, it likely also secures a spot for Hunter Brown in the starting rotation.

Prior to McCullers’ injuries, there were questions about whether Brown would be in the rotation, if Houston potentially went with a six-man starting rotation, or if the Astros moved Brown or another pitcher to the bullpen. That is no longer a question.

In what could be a silver lining, the injury likely means it will be a trial by fire for Brown, who started two regular season games for the Astros in 2022.

It also opens up an opportunity for other pitchers, including Forrest Whitley, who has yet to pitch a single inning in the majors, J.P. France, Shawn Dubin, and Brandon Bielak. All four players have a chance to be on Houston’s major league roster while McCullers is out.

All four players also started games in 2022 for the Astros’ Triple A affiliate, the Sugar Land Space Cowboys.

That is something worth noting because on Houston’s current roster, only Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero and Brandon Bielak are pitchers outside of Valdez, Javier, Urquidy, Garcia and Brown that have experience starting multiple games in a season at the MLB level.

For Stanek, they came in 2018 and 2019 for the Tampa Bay Rays, who were known for their bullpen games. Montero last started a game in 2017 for the New York Mets.

Losing a starting pitcher the caliber of McCullers to start the season is a significant loss, and in the pitcher’s own words, a frustrating one.

For now, the Astros have enough depth to absorb it for the start of the season. The biggest storyline to keep an eye on in the coming weeks is if it truly is just a minor injury for McCullers.

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