Palou Quickest in Morning Practice

Alex Palou led the only practice for the Grand Prix of Portland despite causing a red flag with a spin about halfway through a wild session. Palou is second in points and looking to rebound from consecutive finishes in the 20s.

Trailing Palou were the two Meyer Shank cars of Helio Castroneves and Jack Harvey.

The top 10:

Qualifying begins at 3:15 Eastern time on Peacock and re airs at 11: 30 Eastern on NBCSN.

Notes

A nice tribute to Robin Miller I’m the media center this morning.ore food was added later to make it more authentic.

Callum Ilott confirmed he is “in discussions” with Juncos Bollinger Racing about the ride in 2022.

Marcus Ericsson has signed a multi year deal to stay at Chip Ganassi Racing.

I hope that Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay can be ready for qualifying. Sato needs an engine change and RHR could not get the car to go through the gears.

I’ll be back after qualifying.

Saturday at Portland

Good morning from the great northwest- side of Indianapolis, that is. Marti was transferred to rehab yesterday afternoon, so i will be covering the final three from races from home. I will miss dinner at Homegrown Smokers in Portland tonight.

Indycar has a hectic schedule today with a 75 minute early practice, qualifying an hour and 45 minutes later, then a 30 minute race prep session. Qualifying will be key for the title contenders. The closer to the front you are, the better chance you have of avoiding a turn 1 catastrophe.

Today’s schedule: All times Pacific. All of today’s sessions are live on Peacock. Qualifying will re air on NBCSN at 11:30 pm Eastern.

https://thepitwindow.blog/2021/09/10/portland-grand-prix-preview-return-to-the-west/

Notes

Indycar photo by James Black

Callum Ilott will drive in the final three races of the season for Juncos-Hollinger Racing. Last year’s T2 runner up has to be considere3d a strong candidate for this seat full time in 2022. He was originally slated just for this weekend, but Ilott was able to clear his schedule to run all three Indycar races. The continuity will be helpful to the team as they prepare to go fulltime next season.

Today and tomorrow there will be ceremonies to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The details can be found here:

INDYCAR To Commemorate 9/11 Through Charitable Activations, Special Race Weekend Ceremonies

Indy Lights points leader David Malukas won the pole for Race 1, which runs immediately after Indycar qualifying. The race airs on Peacock. Kyle Kirkwood, who trails Malukas by 3 points, starts fifth.

Marshall Pruett of Racer magazine confirmed today what I had been thinking. The IMS road course will serve as a backup if one or both of the California races cannot go on as planned. Get ready for Harvest Classic 2.0. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

Portland Grand Prix Preview- Return to the West

Start of the 2018 Grand Prix of Portland. Photo by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

The end of the Indycar season seems to come faster every year. This season has flown by, and it has been one of the best years I can remember. The close title fight, great racing, and a variety of winners have combined for a great 2021. While Indycar doesn’t have a playoff (thank goodness), the final three races will come as close to a playoff as any three final rounds have been. These races were cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, so 20201 is also Indycar’s return to the west coast.

Portland is a two day event for Indycar, with the first practice Saturday at noon Eastern time on Peacock. Today is Indy Lights practice and qualifying for race one.

Indycar raced at Portland from 1984 through 2007 and was a casualty of unification. The race returned in 2018. While everyone will be watching the title contenders and eagerly awaiting NBC’s Points as They Run graphic every six laps, there are other storylines as well. Let’s start with the five contenders.

There seems to be a rivalry building between Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward. O’Ward has twice passed Newgarden late for his two wins this year. Newgarden held off O’Ward and Gateway to win. This pair have two of the three fastest cars in the field right now. I look for them to be the two fighting for the Astor Cup at Long Beach. along with Alex Palou.

Alex Palou has been nothing short of brilliant this year. I really like his race craft. He has lead the standings for most of the season by not overreaching what the car has on a given day. His last two finishes of 20th and 27th were out of his control. Before dropping out, he was in a position to maintain his lead.

Scott Dixon has been near the top but has been not talked about much this season. He has three finishes below 15th, which is atypical for him. Dixon has a lot of ground to make up. Except for his win in the first race at Texas, Dixon has been mostly a top five car, but not one to be contending for a win every weekend.

Marcus Ericsson has surged to within 60 points of O’Ward with an average finish of 5.4 over the last four races- the best of the five contenders. Ericsson has been one of the many pleasant surprises this season with two wins and a second.

The Spoilers

There are other drivers who can affect the points, mainly Colton Herta. In 2019 Herta won the pole at Portland and Weather Tech Raceway. Tire strategy cost him the win at Portland, but he came back to dominate the race in Monterey. Herta has one of the three fastest cars, and has a chance to win both of the next two races. Herta’s front row starts have not yielded great results this season, however. He won from the pole in St. Pete, but his other front row starts show mied results:

Gateway- Started second finished 18th

Indianapolis 500- Started second finished 16th

Detroit Race 2- Started second finished 4th

Road America- Started second finished second

Nashville- Started first finished 19th

Mid Ohio- Started second finished 13th

There is also a group of drivers looking for their first win of 2021. Alexander Rossi, Romain Grosjean, Jack Harvey, and Graham Rahal are all capable of taking maximum points away from the leaders.

First Turn Follies

To succeed at Portland a driver must get cleanly through turn 1 at the start of the race. In 2018 and 2019, turn 1 has seen multiple cars taken out of the race. In 2018 Marco Andretti flipped at the start. Scott Dixon somehow kept his car going and came back to finish fifth on the way to his fifth title. The key is top qualify up front and avoid the chaos behind.

The first turn pileup in 2018 nearly ended Scott Dixon’s title hopes. Phot by Chris Owens, Indycar

Notes

No driver has won more than two races this season. Usually someone has at least three wins by now and is in a good position to win the championship.

Scott Dixon is still looking for his 52nd win to tie Mario Andretti for second on the all time career victory list.

It is hard to believe Will Power has just one pole this season. He won the Portland race in 2019.

Oliver Askew will drive the 45 car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the final three races. I hope this gives Askew a second chance to be in the series full time next year.

With 27 cars expected to enter each of the three races, traffic for leaders could present a challenge, especially at Long Beach.

Grand Prix of Portland Fast Facts

From Indycar:

Race weekend: Saturday, Sept. 11 – Sunday, Sept. 12

Track: Portland International Raceway, a 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course in Portland, Oregon

Race distance: 110 laps / 216.04 miles

Media Links: Entry List (PDF) | Driver Video Quotes 

Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.

Firestone tire allotment: Six sets primary, four sets alternate. Teams must use one set of primary and one new set of alternate tires in the race. (Note: A seventh set of primary tires is available to any car fielding a rookie driver.)

Twitter: @Portland_GP, @IndyCar, #PortlandGP, #INDYCAR

Event website: www.portlandgp.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2019 race winner: Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet)

2019 pole winner: Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda), 57.8111 seconds, 122.302 mph

Qualifying record: Will Power, 57.2143 seconds, 123.577 mph, Sept. 1, 2018 (Set in Round 1 of knockout qualifying)

NBC television broadcast: Race, 3 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 12, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

Peacock Premium Live Streaming: Saturday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.

INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Nick Yeoman will be the lead announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Jake Query and Michael Young are the turn announcers. Ryan Myrehn and Alex Wolff will report from the pits. The Grand Prix of Portland will air live on network affiliates, Sirius XM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on SiriusXM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

At-track schedule (all times local):

Saturday, Sept. 11

9 – 10:15 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice, Peacock Premium (live)

12:15 – 1:30 p.m. – Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), Peacock Premium (live)

3:15 – 3:45 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES final practice, Peacock Premium (live)

Sunday, Sept. 12

12:05 p.m. – Driver introductions

12:35 p.m. – Command to start engines

12:42 p.m. – Grand Prix of Portland (110 laps/216.04 miles), NBC (live)

Championship facts:

  • Pato O’Ward leads the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship with three races to go for the first time in his career. O’Ward also led the points after his win in the second race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit in June.
  • Since the first INDYCAR SERIES race at Portland International Raceway, the winning driver has won the INDYCAR SERIES championship in the same season 10 times: Bobby Rahal (1987), Danny Sullivan (1988), Emerson Fittipaldi (1989), Michael Andretti (1991), Al Unser Jr. (1994), Alex Zanardi (1998), Gil de Ferran (2000), Cristiano da Matta (2002), Sebastien Bourdais (2004 and 2007).

Key championship point statistic: Since 2008, the driver who has led the championship with three races to go has won the championship eight times – Scott Dixon in 2008, 2018 and 2020, Dario Franchitti in 2011, Will Power in 2014, Simon Pagenaud in 2016 and Josef Newgarden in 2017 and 2019.

Point differential: The 10 points that separate Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou is the fourth-closest point margin since 2008. Prior to this season, the average lead with three races to go since 2008 was 31.7 points.

Championship-eligible drivers results at Portland International Raceway:

  • There are 11 drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship: Pato O’Ward, Alex Palou, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson, Colton Herta, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, Will Power, Takuma Sato and Rinus VeeKay. Any driver who trails the points leader by 108 points or more following the race will be eliminated from contention.

CHAMPIONSHIP WITH THREE TO GO (2008-2021)

YEARLEADERSECOND LEADCHAMPION
2008Scott DixonHelio Castroneves78Scott Dixon
2009Ryan BriscoeDario Franchitti4Dario Franchitti
2010Will PowerDario Franchitti23Dario Franchitti
2011Dario FranchittiWill Power26Dario Franchitti
2012Will PowerRyan Hunter-Reay5Ryan Hunter-Reay
2013Helio CastronevesScott Dixon49Scott Dixon
2014Will PowerHelio Castroneves4Will Power
2015Juan Pablo MontoyaGraham Rahal42Scott Dixon (-48)
2016Simon PagenaudWill Power27Simon Pagenaud
2017Josef NewgardenScott Dixon18Josef Newgarden
2018Scott DixonAlexander Rossi29Scott Dixon
2019Josef NewgardenAlexander Rossi35Josef Newgarden
2020Scott DixonJosef Newgarden72Scott Dixon
2021Pato O’WardAlex Palou10?

Race notes:

  • There have been nine different winners in 13 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season. Alex Palou (Barber Motorsports Park, Road America), Colton Herta (Streets of St. Petersburg), Scott Dixon (Texas Motor Speedway-1), Pato O’Ward (Texas Motor Speedway-2, Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2), Rinus VeeKay (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-1), Helio Castroneves (Indianapolis 500), Marcus Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1 and Streets of Nashville), Josef Newgarden (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and World Wide Technology Raceway) and Will Power (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-2) have all won in 2021. The modern record (1946-present) for most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.
  • There have been seven different winners in the last 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races (Pato O’WardRinus VeeKay, Helio Castroneves, Alex PalouMarcus Ericsson, Josef Newgarden and Will Power) The only repeat winners in that stretch are O’Ward (Texas-2, and Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2), Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1 and Streets of Nashville) and Newgarden (Mid-Ohio and WWT Raceway).
  • The Grand Prix of Portland will be the 27th INDYCAR SERIES race at Portland International Raceway, but the third since the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returned in 2018. Al Unser Jr. won the first INDYCAR SERIES race at Portland in 1984, while Will Power won the most recent race in 2019. Power, Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais, who won in 2004 and 2007, are the only former winners entered in this year’s race.
  • Six INDYCAR SERIES drivers have won at Portland International Raceway from the pole – Danny Sullivan (1988), Al Unser Jr. (1994), Alex Zanardi (1996), Max Papis (2001), Cristiano da Matta (2002) and Sebastien Bourdais (2004).
  • Team Penske has won six times at Portland International Raceway. Penske’s winning INDYCAR SERIES drivers are Danny Sullivan (1988), Emerson Fittipaldi (1993), Al Unser Jr. (1994 and 1995), Gil de Ferran (2000) and Will Power (2019). Chip Ganassi Racing has two wins at Portland with Alex Zanardi in 1996 and 1998. Newman/Haas Racing won a record eight times at Portland.
  • Seventeen drivers entered in the event have competed in past INDYCAR SERIES races at Portland International Raceway. Sebastien Bourdais has seven starts, most among the entered drivers. Ten entered drivers have led laps at the track (Bourdais 149, Will Power 66, Colton Herta 36, Alexander Rossi 32, Takuma Sato 25, Ryan Hunter-Reay 19, Scott Dixon 11, Max Chilton 10, Josef Newgarden 8 and Felix Rosenqvist 3).
  • Pato O’Ward won both Indy Lights races at Portland in 2018, on his way to the series championship…Graham Rahal scored the first win of his professional racing career at Portland, winning the Star Mazda (now Indy Pro 2000 championship) race in 2005. James Hinchcliffe claimed his first Atlantics Championship win in Portland in 2006.
  • Four rookies – Romain Grosjean, Callum Ilott, Jimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin – are expected to compete. Ilott will be making his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut. The four rookies, along with veteran drivers Oliver AskewMarcus EricssonDalton KellettPato O’WardAlex Palou and Rinus VeeKay, will all be making their first INDYCAR SERIES at Portland International Raceway.

Book Review- Indy Split

Marti update: Marti is getting treatment for a bone infection which was just identified over the weekend. She is recovering as we still search for an answer to her orthostatic issue. The best news- no cancer was detected in the MRI last week.

Pride. Ego. Stubbornness. There ay be other apt descriptors, but these three sum up the behavior of many of the main figures in Indy Split by John Oreovicz. Oreovicz , a former writer for ESPN and other racing publications, has been hooked on Indycar racing since he was ten years old and living with his parents in West Lafayette.

Oreovicz writes in a crisp, concise, easy to follow style which allows event he most casual fan to take in the history of the politics in racing through the years. I remember much of what happened, but I learned some details I was not aware of, especially in the early years of CART. The author presents a nice refresher study for those of us who were around then, and it is also a good accounting for newer fans.

From Dan Gurney’s White Paper, which leads to the formation of CART in 1978, to Tony George’s formation of the Indy Racing League in 1996, Oreovicz presents the tale of the battle for control of the soul of the sport in great detail. While everyone claims to have the best interests of the sport in mind, the splits are a matter of money and control. Should Indycar racing revolve around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or should IMMS simply be a part of the overall series?

The question remains unresolved. I think it is a miracle the sport survived at all, as the two rival series presented a confusing picture of racing to fans and sponsors.

Oreovicz maintains a somewhat neutral tone as far as the protagonists are concerned, but Tony George does not come out looking good. The 25/8 rule he institutes for the 1996 Indianapolis 500 is a shot that set the split in motion and probably prolongs the feud for several more years.

After twelve years and many talks that come close to ending the split, , the sides agree to unify in 2008. The story of the split could have ended here, but Oreovicz goes on to chronicle each year after unification. I think his narrative bogs down here. it may just be due to my familiarity with the series, and perhaps a younger fan will find this part of interest.

The book ends with Roger Penske buying the Indycar Series and IMS. The purchase receives nearly universal praise. In my opinion, it is one of the few things over the years Indycar has done correctly.

Perspectives from seven key figures in racing follow the text. Essays from Mario Andretti, Chip Ganassi, and Dario Franchitti, among others give different viewpoints of the split and the state of open wheel racing. There is unanimous praise for Penske’s purchase of the track and the series.

As far as the split goes, Dario Franchitti sums it up best.

“When people get so entrenched in their positions, it’s difficult…Th split hit a lot of people hard. It hurt them, and some people still can’t get over it. That’s a shame, but we have to move on.”

Indy Split is available through Octane Press.