Good Morning from Portland

I finally arrived in Portland after nearly 11 hours of travel time. I felt as if I was taking a trip to Europe. My body clock is still adjusting.  The track opens soon and I will be there covering all Indycar sessions this weekend. Today’s schedule in Eastern time:

Practice 1- 1:50-2:35

Practice 2- 5:40-6:25

Pit Stop Practice  6:40

Yesterday’s big news was about Conor Daly replacing Marcus Ericsson in the number 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson car this weekend. Ericsson has been a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo all season. This situation was always a possibility.

ASPM will be the third team Daly has driven for in 2019. Including the finale at Laguna Seca, Daly will have participated in eight races this season. He has a chance to finish 20th in points with just eight races. I really hope this year’s efforts lead to his landing a full time ride next year.

Charlie Kimball returns in the number 23 Carlin car.  Portland is an addition to Kimball’s announced five race schedule.

I’ll be back after the first practice session. All of today’s track action is on NBC Gold.

 

Portland Preview- Can Newgarden Clinch?

And then there were two. It’s hard to believe Sunday will be the next to last race of the NTT Indycar Series. Portland International Raceway hosts the race for the second consecutive year after a successful return in 2018.  CART race on the island track from 1984 until 2003. Champ Car then sanctioned the event for four more years. Indycar returned last year ending an eleven year absence.

There have been some close finishes at Portland. Mark Blundell beat Gil De Ferran by 0.027 seconds in 1997. Mario Andretti beat son Michael to the line when the younger Andretti ran out of fuel in the last corner. Most of the time, however, the victories have been decisive. Al Unser, Jr. beat Geoff Brabham by 39.61 seconds in 1984.

Takuma Sato, winner of last week’s thriller at World Wide Technology Raceway, won last year’s Grand Prix of Portland by taking advantage of a caution period to move into the lead. His 20th starting position was the farthest back a driver has won from at this track.

While one eye will be on the race itself, the other one will be looking at the championship. Josef Newgarden leads Simon Pagenaud by 38 points and Alexander Rossi by 46. I think it will take two very bad races by Newgarden for him to lose the title. Portland is Rossi’s last chance to go into the finale at Laguna Seca with any hope of capturing the title. Pagenaud has been lurking all year and took over second place last weekend. I wouldn’t count him out. Both Pagenaud and Rossi need help from Newgarden, however, and I don’t see Josef cooperating.

Portland’s festival curves have been the sight of many first lap incidents. Lastyear a five car pileup nearly cost Scott Dixon the title. He somehow got the car refired and after some repairs in the pits, he wen. t on to a fifth place finish. The flat course has some other areas to be wary of. Turn 11 can be tricky.

In 24 Indycar races at Portland, only four drivers have won the race from the pole. In 2018, Will Power won the pole, but a gearbox issue put him seven laps down and he fished 21st. Power is not having the best of seasons this year. Although he has a win and three poles, which would be a great season for many drivers, this year’s results are far below his typical season.

Rossi needs to win this race and i think he will.  Newgarden and Pagenaud could be having their own battle.  They are too good to ruin each other’s races. One of the issues I have with the double points in the finale is that it can widen the gap between contenders more than it can bring them closer. The points difference between points is wider, giving the points leader an advantage. As close as the points chase usually is going into the finale, double points in my opinion have never been a necessary thing to make a closer title fight.

Portland Spotter’s Guide

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2394022689

I will be on site in Portland with updates after each session and will also keep you posted on the Road to Indy championships.

Notes

Per Adam Stern, the 202 schedule could be released at the end of the week.  It appears Pocono will not return.  My thoughts on that when the announcement is official.

Who would have thought that there would be a season where Sato would have more wins than Will Power has?

Indycar now has two last laps to incorporate into next year’s commercials- the final lap at Mid Ohio and last Saturday night’s run off turn 4 to the checkered flag. I’m hoping for another promo worthy finish on Sunday.

Charlie Kimball has added Portland to his original five race schedule. He was originally sitting out this week and just running the finale in three weeks.

Reminder: The race is on NBC. The big network. You might need to make sure your DVR is set to record the correct channel.

Richmond Returns

As reported yesterday, Adam stern tweeted that Richmond Raceway will be on the 2020 NTT Indycar Series schedule. The 3/4 mile D shaped oval will be the shortest oval on the schedule. Iowa is 7/8 of a mile. I’m not sure how I feel about two short tracks of nearly identical length. It takes away some of the series’ diversity.

Late Breaking News

There are reports that Marcus Ericsson will be in Spa with Alfa Romeo this weekend instead of racing for Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Conor Daly will drive the 7 car at Portland.

There seem to be conflicting reports about whether Ericsson is driving or there in his reserve role. In any case this is a huge opportunity for Daly. ASPM will be the third team Daly will have driven for this season.

The statement from ASPM:

Bondurant School Closes; Tracks Begin Ticket Renewals; Return to Surfer’s Paradise? Wickens News

Autosport reports this afternoon the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has shut its doors.  Bondurant began a school for race drivers in the early 60’s after an injury during a race ended his driving career. Bill Shaw, Wilbur’s son, was an instructor at the school.

Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise Tim Allen, and Nicholas Cage attended the driving school.  A huge number of racing drivers also took instruction there. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Rick Mears were some of the many racing starts who honed their craft at the Bondurant School.

The Chandler, Arizona, site was also the venue for the Road to Indy shootout, which now needs to find another location soon. The shootout is scheduled for December 8 and 9.

Portland, St. Pete Ticket Renewal Periods Begin

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and The Grand Prix of Portland have opened ticket renewal periods. Fans who purchased tickets last year can renew or change seat locations before the general public sale begins.

Contact:

tickets@gpstpete.com

pir@portlanoregon.gov

Miles Flying to Australia

Mark Miles is flying to Australia to investigate the possibility of Indycar returning to Surfer’s Paradise. The premiere of Queensland, Annasacia Palaszaczuk,  expressed interest in hosting an  Indycar race during Will Power’s trip to his homeland.  Power referred her to Miles.

Surfer’s Paradise was always a fun race to watch, especially when it was the season opener.

Norman Returns to Andretti Indy Lights Ride

Ryan Norman has re-signed with Andretti Autosport for a third season in Indy Lights. Norman showed marked improvement last year. He won the pole for the Freedom 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and won the race at Gateway Motorsports Park after a spirited duel with Colton Herta.

Wickens Loses the Back Brace

In a new Instagram video from Robert Wickens, he discards the back brace he has worn virtually since he was injured. Here is the link to the video:

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts- Portland Grand Prix

Scott Dixon must have been an alchemist in another life. He turned what looked to be a disastrous points day into gaining points on his closest rivals.

What can I say about the Dale Coyne with Vasser Sullivan racing team and Sebastien Bourdais? Took P1 in Saturday practice, crashed the next lap, pieced a car together to qualify fourth, then finish third in the race. That team will sleep well tonight. This is the best story of the weekend.

It was a tough ending to what had been a great weekend  for Zach Veach. His top ten streak ended. I still look for great things from him next season.

Another great day for Spencer Pigot. He’s another young driver coming into his own. His fourth place finish today and his second place at Iowa show his late season maturity.

The crowd today was the largest I’ve seen for an Indycar race outside of IMS. I hope attendance figures for the weekend are released. Each day was a crowd other tracks would have been thrilled to have on race day.

For a race where not much passing was anticipated, there was a lot of drama and plot twists. Takuma Sato’s two stop strategy paid off. The yellows fell at the right time for him, while others were caught out by them.

Overall, it was a good race.

I believe Robert Wickens has clinched  Rookie of the Year. It shows what a strong season he was having. Continued hope for recovery for him.

Whos Rossi’s Rival?

At the beginning of the season the talk was of a rivalry between Alexander Rossi and Josef Newgarden. After St. Pete, it was Rossi and Wickens. In mid season it Rossi and everybody. It turns out that the rivalry was Rossi and Scott Dixon. They are the only two realistically with a shot at the title.

The twenty nine point difference between Dixon and Rossi is a good argument to get rid of double points. I don’t think the series needs six drivers eligible to win the championship at the last race unless the points naturally fall that wa

Notes

There is a strong buzz that COTA will be the seventeenth race. The schedule should be announced Tuesday.

After two consecutive  races with huge crowds,  Sonoma will look emptier than usual.

Fernando Alonso will test an Andretti Autosport car at Barber this coming Wednesday.

Look for my full race recap on Wildfire Sports later tonight or tomorrow morning.

 

Bourdais Leads Saturday Practice; Crashes on Next Lap

In two laps that encapsulated Sebastien Bourdais’ season, he went to the top of the charts in Saturday morning’s practice, then crashed into the tire barrier in turn 11 on the next lap. There were about three minutes left in the session, which was red flagged and not resumed. Earlier in the practice period James Hinchcliffe slid into the barriers. The session was clean otherwise.

Graham Rahal had led most of the session until Bourdais took the top speed with a lap of 57.470 seconds. Rahal ended 0.044 seconds behind Bourdais. Among the contenders for the title, Will Power was third, Alexander Rossi fourth, Josef Newgarden ninth, and leader Scott Dixon finished eleventh.

Bourdais’ season has had highs and lows. he won the season opener at St. Pete and the pole at the next race at Phoenix. A pit violation put him to the back of the field. He had a chance to win at Barber, but poor pit strategy pushed him to a fifth place finish. The team has struggled since. The most recent highlight was his brilliant drive from last to sixth at Mid Ohio.

Below are photos of the #18 when it was brought back to the paddock

 

 

I’ll be back here with qualifying quick thoughts later and a full story on Wildfire Sports after that.

Hello from Portland

img_20180830_161324.jpgAfter a very long travel day, I finally made it to Portland International Raceway. The track is rather flat with an interesting set of curves on either end. Turn 1 is a challenge to navigate as it comes at the end of a long, fast front stretch and the track narrows. Several drivers needed the runoff area there yesterday.

A great viewing area I discovered is grandstand K located inside the track in turn 1. From the top row you can see the Festival curves, a series of esses and watch the cars  hear to the back stretch.

Scott Dixon had the fastest time in Thursday’s test, 58. 3593  seconds. Alexander Rossi was ninth quick. Yesterday’s times mean nothing. Today’s first practice begins at 1:45 ET.

Here are a few photos from turn 1 yesterday. I hope to move around to some other spots today.

Remember, my coverage this weekend will be mainly on Wildfire Sports. I will still post my quick thoughts here tomorrow and Sunday.

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