Quick Thoughts- Portland Grand Prix

A very processional race sets up an intriguing championship fight next week. Scott mclaughlin’s dominant win pulls him within 41 points of Will Power. Scott Dixon and josef Newgarden both trail Power by 20 points, and Marcus Ericsson is just 39 points behind.

This is the closest five drivers have been heading into the final race since 2003. Ericsson and McLaughlin need a lot of help to win the title, but Dixon and Newgarden have a legitimate chance.

Alloowing the race to start at the exit of turn 12 helped avoid a big wreck in turn 1, but as I feared, it made for a rather mundane race.

Someday Christian Lundgaard wiil put a complete race together. Today was not that day. He made a brilliant move in turn 1 to to grab second from Power, but his late error in turn 1 after the caution cost him a top 10.

David Malukas now trails Lundgaard by just five points in the Rookie of the Year standings.

Never count out Scott Dixon. Another bad qualifying turned into a podium finish. He’s been in a couple of championships that went to the finale.

Newgarden may have cost himself a copuple of spots by going with blacks on his final stint.

Rinus VeeKay continues his up and down season. His contact with Jimmie Johnson cost hoim a possible top 10 finish.

I never thought I would see a Portland race with just one caution.

Podium Down Under

For the first time since 2011, all the drivers on the podium were from Australia or New Zealand.

All three drivers wilbe in contention for the win next week. as well. Dixon said tire degradation is extremely high at Weather Tech Raceway. Power repated what he said yesterday about it being a difficult track.

I will have a wrap up of the weekend tomorrow for you to read as I drive to Seattle. Thanks for following along this weekend.

Points Battle- Spoilers, Helpers, Bonus Points

Will Power has a very tenuous lead heading into the final two races

The Indycar title fight is down to four drivers who are separated by just 17 points. Three of the four have nine Indycar championships between them. 2022 is one of the closest four driver battles with two races left that I remember. It is also a team battle, Team Penske vs. Chip Ganassi Racing.

The standings:

I have shown the top six because Alex Palou drives for Ganassi and Scott McLaughlin drives for Penske. They are both a bit too far out to have a realistic chance at the title unless all four ahead of them have some extremely bad luck the next two weekends. but they have a role to play. Palou and Mclaughlin need to help their teammates by taking points away from the competitors on the other team.

If either Palou or McLaughlin should win of the last two races- Palou won at Portland last year- it doesn’t necessarily hurt their team members.

Bonus Points

The three point difference between Power and Newgarden can be contributed to the bonus points Power earned at Gateway last weekend. The championship could come down to who scores the most bonus points at Portland and Laguna Seca. The season long bonus point standings”

Dixon 21 (5 races)

Power 18 (10 races)

Newgarden 18 (9 races)

Ericsson 12 (5 races)

Dixon’s total is skewed by the 12 points he earned for winning the pole at the Indianapolis 500. He would have just 10 bonus points if Indianapolis awarded the normal ingle point for pole.

Power and Dixon are the only two of this group who have earned maximum bonus points for a race.

Testing as Strategy

Most Indycar teams have one test day left, and the top two teams have each chosen a different track to map the final push.

Today, Team Penske tests at Portland. Ganassi tests Monday at L:aguna Seca. Ganassi tested at Portland last year and took the pole and the race win.

Nashville Wrap Up

Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

The Race

Fans either enjoyed or hated the Music City Grand Prix. Overall, I thought it was a terrible race with some intriguing twists and turns. My parameters for a good race include no more than 25% under caution. 46% is way too high.

Four drivers have had contact in both Nashville races. Colton Herta was able to continue this year and finished fifth. Dalton Kellet, Takuma Sato, and Jimmie Johnson have not seen the checkered flag in the Music City.

Indycar photo by James Black

I am out of ideas for how to improve the racing. The track revisions didn’t help produce a better race. Maybe it is on the drivers. I had a conversation with some Twitter friends last night. We discussed the aggressive driving this race seems to produce. I wonder if Nashville’s place on the schedule has anything to do with what we see?

I don’t recall seeing such aggressive moves throughout the race in St. Pete, Detroit, or Long Beach. By the time Nashville occurs, with just four races left, drivers at the top are trying to get every point they can. Other drivers are fighting for jobs for the following season, and some may be fighting for the last spot in the Leaders’ Circle. Would this race be better earlier in the year?

History

The Music City Grand Prix snatched a permanent place in the Indycar record book as the track where Scott Dixon won his 53rd career race. Now only A. J. Foyt, with 67, is ahead of him. I was happy to hear the two men in their twenties sitting next to me talk about this near the end of the race. I hope they appreciate this in future years.

Chris Owens photo

I’m not sure how many times I have seen Dixon win in person, but I think it is at least a dozen. I have seen him win in the manner of legends- starting last at Mid Ohio and ending up in the winner’ circle; coming from nearly 60 points behind to win the last race of the year for the championship; saving fuel to outlast the rest of the field.

Dixon is just six points behind Will Power with three races left. he is the last person Power wants to see this close to him at this point of the year. Should Dixon emerge as the season champion, he will earn anbother place in history- tied with Foyt with seven titles.

The Event

Music City Grand prix organizers made a lot of improvements since their first event last year. Digital tickets were much easier to access since fans didn’t have to go through the Titans’ app to try to find them.

Gate access was much easier this year. The staff was friendlier and the line moved quickly. There was some confusion as to which gate was for fans with VIP access and which gates ere for other fans.

The grandstands and other infrastructure was all in place buy the time the gates opened Friday morning. The crossover bridge from turn 1 to the infield had an in and an out bridge, which made the trip much easier both ways. Track crossing points were added for fans who have mobility issues. They should have adjusted the times yesterday during the rain delay. many fans hoping to cross to the outer grandstands needed to take the long trek around to get to their seats.

Another crossover bridge near grandstands 6 and 7 might solve a problem here.

Suites and Stands

I am glad that the event has enough interest that more suites appeared for this race. The suites cut off some good grandstand views, however. The new grandstand 7 blocked the view of turn 9 from grandstand 6, which I expected when i chose to sit there. I was not that thrilled with the sightline from my seat. The suites need to be moved back about five feet.

Getting Around

One addition I would like to see for 2023 is a tram shuttle. Fans with seats in the outer stands have a very long walk to get to their seats. For some, the distance may preclude them coming over to the main area around the stadium of the in field to visit friends.

The path from the stadium to 6and 7 also needs work. it is a narrow sidewalk which is used by both pedestrians and golfcart. The accumulated water at the end of the walk Sunday made it even more congested. It appeared there is enough room to accomodate a wider path. One of their clubs might have to give up some space, but it would improve safety.

The Back Entrance

On Friday my Uber driver let me off at the back entrance, near grandstands 6 and 7. This entrance looks like it was added as an afterthought. There is no welcoming signage, just TSA style security gates. Next door is an auto recycling yard, fully visible to all who enter. I understand the need for this entrance. It does take some pressure off the main entrance for the crowds who will sit over there, but the area needs some major spiffing up.

An overhead banner, some signs of welcome, and event volunteers to greet fans would help this desolate outpost feel like it was part of the event.+

Thanks to everyone who followed this lowly site this weekend. I had a better time this year than I did here in 2021, and I was pleased to see the improvements that were in place. I realize it takes several years for an event like this to get everything right. This event is going in the right direction. Let’s work on the racing.

A Few Thoughts on the Music City Grand Prix

Move over, kids, the adults are back in charge. Scott Dixon’s historic win today moves him into second place in the championship, six points behind Will Power. It is going to be fun watching these 40 year olds duke it out the last three races of the year.

Dixon also pased Mario Andretti to take sole possession of second place on the Indycar career victory list with 53. I was sad that I missed his record tying win in Toronto last month, but seeing him move into second place alone more than made up for missing the Toronto race.

The track underwent some changrs since last year’s caution filled race. The result was even more caution laps and another totally unnecessary red flag with four laps to go. Indycar was lucky that another caution didn’t occur in the funal two green laps. The odds certainly favored that outcome.

Missed Opportunities

There missed career best finishes. Kyle Kirkwood and David Malukas were both headed for their best results of their rookie campaigns until they collided in turn 9 on lap 63. Kirkwood has had difficulty completing races this season, but Malkukas has bee coming on strong.

Christian Lundgaard was in line for his second straight podium but faded to eighth as he had no push to pass left on the last restart.

Marcus Ericsson had worked his way from 18th spot to get ahead of Power and at one time closed to within three points of the points leader. It all went away as his car stopped with two laps to go. He is third in points, 12 behind Power.

RLL Continues Improvement

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has come to life the last two weeks.

Lundgaard was in contention for his second consecutive podium until he rab out of push to pass at the end. He finished eighth. Meanwhile Jack Harvey finished 10th. The team has ahd two top 10 finishers for two consecutive weeks.

What Else Can Be Done?

The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix made changes to the track afetr the 2021 race to eliminate some of the problems we saw last year. The resuklt was even more cautions. Last year I thought it was the track design. Improvements. This year, I’m thinking it was not the track. I will have to look at last year’s race summary to see if any of the same drivers were involved in incidents last year.

Indycar can’t keep having nearly 50% of an event run under caution.

Final Thoughts

Much of the very large crowd stayed through the rain delay and many stayed for the entire race. Grandstands 4 and 5 were completely filled for the whole race.

The event was much improved in many ways, which I will discuss in my wrap up tomorrow afternoon. There are still a few things to tweak. I realize it takes several years for an event of this type to get things right. The Nashville group made very good progress in their second year.

Thanks for following along this weekend.

Honda Indy Toronto – Some Quick Thoughts on the Race and History

Photo: by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

It is so rare to get to witness history like we did today. Scott Dixon, a generational driver whom I have appreciated for a long time, tied Mario Andretti with his 52nd career win today. Dixon won in typical fashion, taking the lead with a strategic pit stop which allowed him to overtake Colton Herta coming out of the pits on cold tires.

Dixon has now won at least one race in 18 consecutive seasons, which is a record. He has won races in 20 different seasons, also a record. It has been 442 days since his last win in Texas in 2021. That is eons in Dixon terms.

While Dixon has a chance to surpass Andretti’s win total, the 67 win mark of A. J. Foyt is likely still quite safe. I am grateful that I have been able to watch the three most successful drivers in Indycar history drive. I won’t see another 50 win driver in my lifetime.

A Good Day for Marcus Ericsson

Photo- Chris Jones, Indycar

Marcus Ericsson began the day with a 20 point lead over Will Power. Josef Newgarden trailed him by 34 points. Ericsson finished fifth, Power was 15th, and Newgarden came home 10th. Ericsson’s lead is now 35 over Power while Newgarden has dropped to fourth, 44 points behind. Alex Palou moved up to third place, 37 points behind his teammate.

Great Drives

Graham Rahal started 14th and drove a brilliant race to finish fourth. Rahal’s practice times had put him in the conversation for the pole, but he got caught out by the red flag in his qualifying group. Rahal and the team have been mired mid pack or worse most of the year, but today Rahal had his best race of the year. He is my driver of the day.

Photo by Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Teammate Christian Lundgaard finished eighth and extended his lead in the rookie standings to 20 points over David Malukas. Overall Toronto was Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s best race of the season.

Alex Palou turned around what had been an awful weekend following a week of turmoil. He crashed in practice, then his car stalled on track during qualifying. He started 22nd and finished sixth. I admire his mental toughness to come out today and race hard after all that happened this week.

Final Thoughts

The race was cleaner than I expected, and the jam in the pits I feared never happened.

When a city knows it is hosting a street race, which it hasn’t hosted in three years, I would think said city would want to check the streets used for the track to make sure they are in good repair. I wondered about this all week, and the mix of surfaces at certain portions of the circuit. There is no excuse to have a track tear up during the race weekend. I’m surprised that there wasn’t an issue during qualifying.

Felix Rosenqvist is gaining on teammate Pato O’Ward. Rosenqvist has top 10 finishes in two of the last three races while O’Ward’s best finish in that time was his 11th place this afternoon.

The winner of each of the last three Indycar races has started second. The outside front row starter has won five times this season, while the pole winner has won just once.

Thanks for following along this weekend. I will be onsite the rest of the season starting next Friday in Iowa.

Dixon Seeking Better Results, Not Planning to Retire Soon

Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Scott Dixon heads into this weekends Honda Indy 200 at Mid Ohio still looking for his first win of 2022. Dixon has won at least one race every year since 2005. The Chip Ganassi driver has won six times at Mid Ohio. Dixon currently sits sixth in points, 69 behind leader Marcus Ericsson. He talked about the team’s season at a media availability yesterday.

“I think as a group and as a team, we just haven’t been
getting the job done. We’ll keep after it. I think Marcus has
had a fantastic run, leading the points right now; Alex has
had a little bit of bad luck. Just hoping for the whole team
we can get ahead down here and fight for another
championship for Chip.”

Some of the results Dixon attributed to overthinking situations.

“There’s been some easy misses. I think
we’ve had speed. There’s some areas where we could
definitely do a better job in getting more speed out of the
car, but even Road America I think from our Q1 time would
have got us through to Q3, but we overanalyzed the
situation, made a very big shift in balance and that knocked
us out of Q2.
I think at some points we’re overtrying, and it’s easy in this
scenario where it’s not as relaxed or just rolling as
smoothly as it could be, that whether it’s me or the team or
the adjustments that we make, we just may be going over
the top. We’ve just got to find our groove.”

Dixon talked about how thin the margin for error is in setting up the car.
“Right now it doesn’t take much to kind of fall out of a cycle
or fall out of where you need to be. So we’ve just got to
keep doing what we typically do, not try to make a big deal
of each situation, and hopefully get on a roll here soon.
Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s one or two big things. I think it’s just us not doing what we normally do well.”

If people are having
those conversations I haven’t been a part of them. For me
I love doing what I’m doing, I love being a part of the team
that I’m with, and who knows what comes in the future, but
as of right now just focusing on this season. Yeah, that’s
all I’ve got to say really. There’s nothing to it.

Not Going Anywhere

Rumors have been circulating about Dixon going to Arrow Mclaren SP or simply retiring. Dixon was quick to shoot that talk down.

“I think for me, I don’t see giving up anytime soon. I feel like in motorsport it’s hard to make a decision from one year to the next, as
opposed to kind of looking five years down the road or
more. For me right now, it’s just enjoying INDYCAR, trying
to win races, trying to get back to where we need to, so
that’s where the focus is.
You know, the possibilities after I’m done, trust me, I’d love
to still be a part of the sport. What that means and in what
capacity, I have really no idea. But I love the sport. It’s
been my passion since I was five or six years old, so it’s
definitely something I want to be a part of for many more
years. As of right now, it’s not on the radar.”

Dixon’s Pole More Than Just a Speed Record

Photo by Kyle McInnes

Scott Dixon won the pole for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 with a record pole four lap average of 234.046 mph. It is Dixon’s fifth pole at IMS and second consecutive start at the head of the grid. Those are the facts of this story, but this pole elevates Dixon onto an even higher plane of the Indycar record book than he already occupied.

Dixon now is in second place in three categories, just one away from tying three different legends of the sport. His six championships are one short of A. J. Foyt’s seven titles. He has won 51 races, one less than Mario Andretti, who is in second place on the all- time career list. As of 5:30 pm today Dixon is one Indianapolis 500 pole behind Rick Mears.

We witness greatness every time Dixon takes to the track. I feel privileged to have watched Foyt, Andretti, Mears, and now Dixon.

Quick Thoughts on the Day

The two round format was okay, but i thought the round of twelve took some of the starch out of the Fast Six. I would prefer a return to the Fast Nine.

A better format if the Fast twelve is retained and television windows are available would be an earlier practice, round one around midday, and the final six at 4 pm. Spacing out the sessions would give the engines the needed cooling time.

Going last in the Fast Six continues to be an advantage. The driver knows exactly what he needs to be on the pole.

I was happy to see speed records return. It has been a while. Now Indycar needs to go after the one lap track record.

Has Honda caught up with Chevrolet? The Fast Six had four Hondas and two Chevys.

What a great weekend for Chip Ganassi Racing. The team had all five of their cars in the top twelve, and four of them advanced to the Fast Six. Ed Carpenter Racing had the other two spots in the final round.

Rinus VeeKay starts on the front row for the second straight year. He is going to win this race one day, maybe a week from today.

The record pole average is the second fastest average in Speedway history. The record has stood since 1996.

The provisional grid, which should become official soon.

Dixon Tops Opening Session

Scott Dixon led the first practice for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. His Chip Ganassi Honda put in a lap of 227,119 mph. Teammate Marcus Ericsson was second quickest at 226.965 mph. Four Hondas and six Chevys were in the top 10.

Sage Karam in a Dreyer and Reinbold car was the fastest Chevy in third place a 226.388 mph.

Scott McLaughlin was the first car on track when the green flag waved at 9 am.

The session ran without interruption.

Teams of Note

Chip Ganassi Racing had three cars in the top 10. Alex Palou was eighth at 225.278 mph.

Dreyer and Reinbold put both cars up front. Karam was third and Santino Ferrucci was sixth.

J. R. Hildebrand and Kyle Kirkwood were 10th and 11th for A. J. Foyt Racing.

Kyle Kirkwood

Results: