Quick Thoughts- Portland Grand Prix- Invert, Reset

Alex Palou celebrates his third win of the year and retaking the points lead. Indycar photo by Chris Owens

Pit strategy and cautions can make or break your race. They hurt Graham Rahal, who arguably should have won the race, and Pato O’Ward, who lost the lead in the points standings They helped Alex Palou, Alexander Rossi, and Scott Dixon, who ended the day on the podium. Palou’s team waiting an extra lap to call him in on lap 44 was the winning move today.

The podium. Photo from my friend Brad Proctor

Why can’t Indycar drivers get through the first turn at Portland cleanly? Today’s melee wasn’t as destructive as the first two years after Indycar’s return, but it turned the race on its head, especially with the way Race Control reordered the field. It took a later caution to reverse what happened at the beginning.

Is Alex Palou the next Scott Dixon? Nothing seems to faze this kid-neither two consecutive finishes in the 20s, nor being shuffled to the back of the field after winning the pole. He just does what he needs to do in order to win the title. Today was a big step in that direction.

Palou not only leads O’Ward by 25 points, he now owns the first tiebreaker with his third win of the year. I really didn’t think we would see a driver win three times this season.

The points chase realistically is down to three-Palou, O’Ward, and Josef Newgarden. Dixon is 49 points behind, essentially a full race in arrears. Marcus Ericsson was barely hanging on, and losing 15 more points to the leader pretty much ends his title bid.

I hope in their new television deal that indycar has forbidden NBC from using the “Points as They Run” graphic. It is pointless and meaningless. Drivers don’t earn point as they run. They earn points when they finish. This graphic was displayed at least five times in the first 28 laps, a time in the race where it is totally not necessary.

Points as They Finished

It seems that the Team Penske drivers have had a lot of contact with each other during races this season.

Nice to see Alexander Rossi finally get on the podium in 2021. I think he will win one of the next two races. Rossi dominated two years in a row at Long Beach.

Palou’s repeat win means the series can only tie the record for most different winners in a season with a maximum of 11.

I will be back tomorrow with more on today’s race. Thanks for following along this weekend.

Race Day at Portland

Alex Palou looks to take another step toward the mountaintop today. Indycar photo by Chris Owens

Good morning and welcome to race day at the Grand prix of Portland. Alex Palou has a golden opportunity to retake the points lead and possibly whittle down the number of realistically eligible challengers by a couple.

Today’s Schedule: All times Pacific. Race coverage begins on NBC at pm Eastern.

A few thoughts:

His teammate Scott Dixon lead the final warmup session yesterday evening, and could be a factor in the race. It’s hard to believe, but Dixon is third on the team as far as wins this season.

I would not count out Graham Rahal for the win. He definitely should end up on the podium.

If these last three races are indeed an audition for Oliver Askew in the RLL car 45, he is off to a fine start with a ninth place grid spot.

Callum Ilott acquitted himself well by qualifying 19th. He has two more races with Juncos Hollinger Racing. Lets look at his overall performance after Long Beach, but yesterday was a decent start.

While many are rightly concerned about turn 1 at the start, which has been a challenge in 2018 and 2019, later in the race the final corners are a place to watch. Yesterday saw numerous spins and barrier contacts there.

David Malukas won the first Indy Lights race and is on pole for today’s race. Malukas leads Kyle Kirkwood by 10 points.

They might have said this all season, but yesterday the NBC announcers kept using the term “championship points.” I find the term annoying. Are there other types of points drivers earn?

9/11

Yesterday the paddock held a moment of silence at 10:28 Eastern time. The entire paddock lined the pits and front straight.

All cars and AMR Safety Team vehicles bore a special sticker

Indycar photo by Matt Fraver

The stickers on the safety vehicles are especially poignant as some members of the team were at the Twin Towers that day.

Enjoy the race. I will be back later today with some quick thoughts and have a larger wrap up tomorrow.

Palou Puts Other Contenders on Notice with First Career Pole

Alex Palou celebrates his first career pole. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinskii

Anyone worried about Alex Palou fading out of the championship hunt can breathe easier now. Palou backed up his top speed in practice with his first career pole, nipping Alexander Rossi by 0.087 of a second.

The day did not start well for Palou with a spin and a light tap of a barrier about halfway through the practice session. He rebounded to finish with the fastest time in the practice and in Round 2 of qualifying.

The biggest surprise of the day was that title contenders Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward did not advance. Newgarden will start 18th and O’Ward will start 7th. Scott Dixon starts 3rd. The irony for O’Ward is that teammate Felix Rosenqvist knocked him out of the Fast Six as round 2 ended.

Takuma Sato took a six place grid penalty for an engine change and will start 24th. Ryan Hunter-Reay did not participate in qualifying as his team could not repair the car in time. Hunter-Reay had an unspecified electronics issue.

Notes

Graham Rahal had a great day making the Fast Six. i would not be surprised to see him on the podium tomorrow.

Max Chilton qualified a career best 11th.

Meyer Shank cars driven by Helio Castroneves and Jack Harvey were second and third in the morning practice, but had no pace in qualifying. Castroneves starts 17th and Harvey 20th.

Simon Pagenaud continues to not qualify well. He starts 26th.

Tomorrow is Alexander Rossi’s best chance for a win in 2021. The series still has a chance to set a record for the most different winners in a season, but it will take a different new winner in each of the last three races to accomplish it.

I believe this is the first all Alex front row in Indycar history.

Thanks for following along today. I’ll be back tomorrow with a race preview and a post race recap.

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.

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.

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

9/1/2021

The next Indycar race at Portland falls on the weekend of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Indycar and Portland international raceway have special activities on Saturday and Sunday to commemorate the event. The hat pin mentioned in the news release is $10. The press release from Indycar:

INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021) – INDYCAR will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on America through a variety of special activities leading into Saturday, Sept. 11.A commemorative charitable pin, a blood donation call-out in partnership with the American Red Cross and a moment of silence Sept. 11 during the Grand Prix of Portland NTT INDYCAR SERIES race weekend are planned as memorials honoring the victims of the attacks and commemorating the heroes of the response and recovery effort. Nearly 3,000 lives were lost and thousands more were injured Sept. 11, 2001, in the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
“9/11 was a tragic day, and the heartbreak and sorrow of our grieving nation still feels raw two decades later,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. “The entire INDYCAR family of drivers, teams, officials, partners and fans is committed to honoring the memory of those we lost and recognizing the heroes who contributed to the response effort and who have protected our freedom since Sept. 11, 2001. We also encourage everyone to join us in marking this solemn anniversary by supporting the vital mission of the American Red Cross, which played such a crucial role in the aftermath of the attacks and continues to faithfully serve all of our communities today.”
The commemorative pin, available for pre-order now at shop.indycar.com, features a logo including the date 9.11.2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the outline of the Pentagon and the motto “Together We Stand.” Net proceeds of pin sales will benefit the American Red Cross, and the pin also will be worn by members of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES paddock during the Grand Prix of Portland race weekend.
The logo also will be on display on all NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indy Lights race entries across the weekend. Fans are encouraged to donate blood through the American Red Cross as part of the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, as the COVID-19 pandemic has created an urgent need for blood donations across America. INDYCAR and the Red Cross will issue several callouts to fans ahead of this year’s solemn anniversary. Visit redcross.org/give-blood.html to find out how to give blood in your area and to learn about more opportunities to support vital Hurricane Ida relief efforts.
Alongside Portland International Raceway, INDYCAR also will hold a venue-wide moment of silence at 7:28 a.m. (PT) – the time the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed Sept. 11, 2001 – on Saturday morning, Sept. 11 to honor the memory of those lost during the attacks. In addition, INDYCAR and PIR will include a tribute during pre-race ceremonies Sunday, Sept. 12.Visit this site for more information about INDYCAR memorial activities surrounding the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Portland Weekend Schedule

The schedule for the Portland Grand Prix came out a couple days ago. It will be another two day show for Indycar with one 75 minute practice before qualifying and a 30 minute practice after qualifying. Friday is dedicated to Indy Lights and ARCA Menard’s Series West.

I hope the series goes back to three day programs next year. Although Iu am not going to Portland this year, if I travel that far, I’d prefer to see Indycars on track all three days of the event.

Portland International Raceway recently issued a masking requirement for fans which applies both indoors and outdoors.

Times listed are Pacific Time and is scheduled for broadcast on NBC.

Next week I will discuss what we know about the 2022 schedule.