NTT IndyCar Series: Grand Prix of Portland Preview

Josef Newgarden during practice at the Grand Prix of Portland. [Media Credit-Penske Entertainment: James Black]

Josef Newgarden during practice at the Grand Prix of Portland. [Media Credit-Penske Entertainment: James Black]

by Paul Gohde

Earlier in this NTT IndyCar season we wrote that it appeared that the ‘young guard” of up-and-coming drivers, (think Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Scott McLaughlin) would be in place to take the championship from the familiar list of veteran drivers; but golly, were we wrong…maybe. With Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon dominating the points race, and some of those younger drivers trailing, but still barely in the mix, this weekend’s Portland Grand Prix will go far in determining the 2022 NTT Series champion.

Race Facts:  Opened in 1961 at the site of the city of Vanport outside of Portland. that had been devastated by a huge flood in 1948, the 12-turn, 1.964-mile natural road course has had a reputation for some rough driving, especially at the quick right-hand chicane near the end of the front straightaway. That site of many lap one incidents will be a turn to watch closely at Sunday’s Grand Prix that will run for 110 action packed laps (216.04 miles).

Recent Race History: The 2020 Portland race was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns but the 2021 event saw pole winner Alex Palou survive an early race first turn incident to retake the series’ points lead after leading just 29 laps. The battle for the win saw the Spaniard survive four cautions with eight drivers sharing the lead at one time or another. Palou finally gained control for the win on lap 86 on his run to the NTT championship.

2022 Season To Date: Point Standings: 1) Will Power, 482 points/1 win…2) Josef Newgarden, 479/5…3) Scott Dixon, 468/2…4) Marcus Ericsson, 465/1…5) Alex Palou, 439/0 …Other race winners: Scott McLaughlin, 2…Alexander Rossi,1…  Pato O’Ward, 2…  Colton Herta, 1. Manufacturers Points: Chevrolet, 1323/10 wins…Honda, 1171/5.

Entries: The usual road course entry of 25 will take to the track in Portland Sunday. The 2021 race drew 27 cars.

Notes: TV: Qualifying, Saturday, 3:05 p.m. ET, Peacock Premium Streaming…Race, Sunday, 3:00 p.m. ET, NBC network…The Paretta Autosport team has entered next week’s NTT IndyCar finale at Laguna Seca, extending their season schedule from three races to four, with hopes of a full season run in 2023…The 2020 Portland race was canceled over Covid-19 health concerns…Sunday’s race will be the 28th Indy car race at Portland. CART, Champ Car and IndyCar have sanctioned races here since the inaugural in 1984 won by Al Unser Sr…21 entered drivers have competed here in the past…IndyCar drivers David Malukas and Kyle Kirkwood won Indy Lights races at Portland last season…Team Penske has won seven times at Portland…Any driver who trails by 54 points or more after Sunday’s race will be eliminated from championship contention…The three points that separate Power and Newgarden for the championship is the closest margin with two races remaining since 2008.

Our Take: The 2022 championship race has surprised many with veteran drivers dominating the standings. Though seven drivers are still in the championship battle, Power, Newgarden and Dixon are the likely candidates for the crown. This may be nearing a final career run for two of them, but Joe New has been quoted recently as foreseeing a time when he could win ten or maybe 12 races before he retires. That’s a pretty bold thing to say given the current points situation, but it will give plenty of fodder for Will and Scott to race him that much harder come Sunday at Portland and at the Monterey finale next week. That first turn battle should be interesting Sunday.

“They Said It”: Alex Palou, 2021 IndyCar Champion, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda: “It’s the last two races of the season on the west coast. Last year we had a good couple of races here. Portland was amazing with my first pole in IndyCar and then a win to get the championship. We tested earlier in this week at Laguna (Seca) and it was really good as the racing cars ran fast. Hopefully we learned a lot of stuff (technical racing term I think) we can use at Portland. Just trying to get the (2022) championship and it’s going to be hard. We’ll try to maximize our opportunities.”

Next Series Race: Sunday, September 11, Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.


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