We are less than a month away from the penultimate round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season and the return of Portland International Raceway. Last year, IndyCar returned to Gateway after 14 years away from the racetrack and while IndyCar's Portland absence has not been as long it has been a significant time since IndyCar competed at the track.
In eleven years, reunification happened, Dario Franchitti left and returned and added another three championships and two Indianapolis 500 victories, Juan Pablo Montoya returned after a 14-year hiatus and won another Indianapolis 500 while Jacques Villeneuve returned after 19 years away. The likes of Rubens Barrichello, Lucas Luhr, Ho-Pin Tung, Jean Alesi, Esteban Gutiérrez, Kurt Busch and Fernando Alonso have all made an IndyCar start. Carlos Huertas won a race. Lotus was a manufacture.
When approaching IndyCar's return to Gateway, we looked back at every prior IndyCar race at Gateway. Portland has a much longer history with IndyCar, 24 races to be specific. Two dozen races is quite a bit to watch and digest and while Gateway's early races were in a more contemporary time of the late 1990s, the 1980s and the early Portland races don't necessarily fit with the current state of IndyCar.
I watched 13 Portland races and I did go back to the first few races to get a sense of the origins of the events and how it changed from the first race in 1984 to the last time Champ Car raced there in 2007.
When IndyCar first went to the track in 1984, the front straightaway was 55 feet wide with most of the circuit tighter than that. The chicane was only 35 feet wide with the only other part of the circuit wider being the 40-foot wide back straightaway. On the broadcast, traffic was a problem and not on the track but on the roads leading to the circuit.
To show how times have changed, the field was side-by-side for the entirety of the pace laps before the green flag. Despite this, cars were clean at the start. It was not surprising seeing passing into the chicane but passes also occurred into turn four, the right-hander after the chicane when cars could keep up momentum. It was tougher to make passes into turn ten, the left-hander at the end of the back straightaway but it was possible.
In the race itself, Mario Andretti and Danny Sullivan each suffered mechanical retirements while Bobby Rahal ran out of fuel. On this day, Al Unser, Jr. picked up his first career IndyCar victory and celebrated with two hands off the steering wheel crossing the line. All eight lead changes occurred in the first 39 laps.
Unrelated Notes: The broadcast says the first championship points race in IndyCar history was at Portland in 1909. That isn't quite true as there were 11 races in 1905 but Portland did host three races on June 12, 1909 on a 14.6-mile road course. Howard Covey, Charlie Arnold and Bert Dingley were the three winners with Covey and Arnold each winning three-lap, 43.8-mile races while Dingley won a seven-lap, 102.2-mile race.
This was the first championship race on radial tires.
Gordon Johncock, Danny Ongais, Johnny Rutherford and Tom Sneva competed at the IROC race the day before at Michigan. Johncock was on crutches after an accident the prior month at Indianapolis and finished third in the IROC race.
Once again, the cars were double-file for the entire pace lap and once again everyone was clean into the chicane. Sullivan and Rahal were both early retirements for the second consecutive year this put Al Unser, Jr. in the lead and he looked well on his way to his second consecutive victory at the track with Mario Andretti at the front and staying in contact.
Roberto Guerrero was running well but collided with Pancho Carter and he called Carter out in the interview when he got back to the paddock. He said Carter should stick to ovals.
Unser, Jr. caught lapped traffic but had difficulty picking through the cars and this allowed Andretti to close. Andretti timed his pass into the chicane and made the move for the lead with 11 laps to go and pulled away from there.
Andretti's victory came on June 16th and it was the 50th anniversary of his arrival to the United States.
Unrelated Notes: Rick Mears was not in the race as he was still nursing feet injuries after his crash at Saniar the year before. Mears did drive the pace car though.
Every car was powered by a Cosworth engine. And IndyCar didn't die.
Pit window was around lap 35.
Geoff Brabham was apart of a feature on drivers and he said he was not into car and not interested.
Pat Patrick Racing ran out of fuel and Bruno Giacomelli fell five laps short and still finished tenth!
Al Unser needed to $8,000 to succeed $4 million career earnings. He finished fourth, earning $30,294.
The race had a feature where five drivers, Howdy Holmes, Josele Garza, Tom Sneva, Pete Halsmer and Roberto Guerrero did a pit stop.
The one thing noted from this year's race was cars were running side-by-side from turn four through turn six. It was tight but could be held. There were more moves in this race at turn ten than the prior two races.
Michael Andretti was dominant in this race but was conserving fuel and kept the turbo boost down. On top of that, lapped traffic again slowed the leader and in this case it kept Sullivan in the race. With 37 laps to go Andretti, Sullivan and Emerson Fittipaldi were the only cars on the lead lap and Sullivan jumped Andretti on the second pit stop.
Andretti was able to stay with Sullivan and were side-by-side with him through turn seven. Two corners later, contact between the two took Sullivan out and punctured Andretti's right front tire but he continued in the lead with no caution for the incident.
Mario Andretti spent most of the race outside the top five but Sullivan's retirement on top of Fittipaldi's engine expiring vaulted him into a position to win and his son's flat tire got him back on the lead lap.
In the closing laps, Michael turned the boost down some more with his father now in second. Mario was chasing his son with plenty of fuel to make it and coming to the line Michael ran out of fuel while Mario went full song and beat his son to the line by 0.07 seconds, the closest finish in IndyCar history at that time, with Al Unser, Jr. directly behind Mario to finish third.
Unrelated Notes: Rear wings were massive, similar to what we saw in the aero kit-epoch from 2015 to 2017.
Dale Coyne was a promoter's option and an earlier retirement.
This was the first IndyCar race with a Honda engine on the grid. Geoff Brabham drove a V8 Honda in his Galles Racing entry. It was the first of eight races for the Honda engine program and Brabham finished seventh albeit eight laps down and Honda would not return to IndyCar until 1994.
Team Penske had tire blankets.
Adrian Newey was working with Mario Andretti.
Roberto Guerrero had another good run ruined with a collision in traffic. This time Kevin Cogan lost power exiting the chicane and Guerrero had nowhere to go but over Cogan's car.
Randy Lanier finished the race in ninth and ran at least the final 30 laps without a rear wing.
There was a commercial with five laps to go.
We jump forward eight years to the famous year of the Penske PC-23 chassis and wouldn't you know it but the Penske cars dominated this race. Unser, Jr., Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy led all 102 laps, with Unser, Jr. leading 96 and winning from pole position on the tenth anniversary of his first career victory while it was a sweep of the podium for The Captain. Lapped traffic made it a much tighter fight between Unser, Jr. and Fittipaldi. The only other cars on the lead lap were Robby Gordon and Nigel Mansell.
The chicane, referenced as the festival curves, was the prime area for passing but not only on entrance to the corner. The corner was now concrete, which featured a transition from asphalt to concrete back to asphalt. If a car could hold the outside of the left hand part of the chicane they could complete the pass on exit as the were now on the inside of the track.
Turn ten was not as prolific in passing with the section much faster than the races in the mid 80s.
Unrelated Notes: Speculation had started about Mansell possibly returning to Formula One for Williams at the French Grand Prix and that turned out to be true.
Cars were averaging 1.47 miles per gallon during qualifying but teams need to average 1.8 MPG to have enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. We don't hear about teams running out of fuel as in the team has no more fuel to add to the car even if a car runs out on track any more.
Pit windows were 32-24 laps.
Barry Green was amazed at how rookie Jacques Villeneuve learned new racetracks. Does that sound familiar to a Canadian currently in IndyCar?
This race started under wet conditions and it featured a competition between Firestone and Goodyear for superior wet tire. There was an early caution for too much water but the race did go green. Scott Pruett was leading early but suffered a spin coming to the green for a restart and the race still went green but it ended Pruett's shot at a respectable result.
Maurício Gugelmin took the lead and was at the front for most of this one. This was a typical wet race with passing in areas drivers would never dare attempt a pass in the dry. The rain stopped and a drying track led to drivers switching to slicks. Paul Tracy was an early taker but had a spin early into that stint and would have another off a few laps later. Gugelmin switched to slicks but also had an off. Mark Blundell started 11th but kept his nose clean and was at the front when he switched to slicks.
Gil de Ferran inherited the lead but with the race now a timed event he was going to stick to the wets and try and make it to the end even though slicks were eight seconds faster. On lap 69, de Ferran was 33 seconds ahead of Blundell. Four laps later, the gap was 16 seconds. With 3:45 to go, the gap was 11 seconds and with two minutes to go the gap was just over five seconds.
The concern was Blundell would have to leave the dry line to make a pass on de Ferran. He was on the Brazilian's rear wing at the start of the final lap but he did not dare make a pass until the final corner where it was a drag race that also had Raul Boesel join the mix. Blundell beat de Ferran to the line by 0.027 seconds with Boesel 0.055 seconds back.
Unrelated Notes: Alex Zanardi competed the day before in the IROC race at Fontana.
This was one of four races apart of the MCI Million along with Homestead, Vancouver and Fontana. Where did all this money come from that $1 million was always on the table?
Like 1985, this had an odd pit stop feature but this time the ESPN TV crew went head-to-head with the Brazilian TV crew with the Brazilians winning with a time of 12.91 seconds to 13.81 seconds.
Patrick Carpentier was driving for Bettenhausen Racing after beating out a Danish driver in preseason. That Dane was Tom Kristensen. He would win his first of nine 24 Hours of Le Mans overall the week prior to this race. I guess things worked out.
One thing I noticed was there were fans with umbrellas in the grandstands and I have to ask, what is the etiquette for that? There isn't a common rule that I know we universally go by. It seems like an obstruction to people behind you.
This race had Juan Pablo Montoya and Hélio Castroneves on the front row but Castroneves took the lead from the start. If drivers wanted to do this race on two stops they would have to make it to lap 32. De Ferran stopped on lap 28 with Castroneves in two laps later and Montoya the lap after that. Montoya blew the chicane on pit exit, allowing Castroneves to remain the lead. A few lap later Castroneves was out of the race after a header problem.
On the restart, Montoya spun coming to the green but was allowed to be second because the green flag had never come out and he would get the position back from de Ferran when the race restarted. The Brazilian started saving fuel with both stopping before a caution for P.J. Jones. De Ferran and Tracy would get out ahead of Montoya, who had a slow change on the left front.
De Ferran started running a second faster than Montoya as he tried to build a gap for a splash and go. Everyone was else was conversing. The expected pit delta necessary was 35 seconds and he had a 24.9-second margin over Montoya with ten to go. With nine to go he stopped and came out with Montoya still exiting the final corner as he spent only 22 seconds on pit lane for the splash and go.
Despite the splash, de Ferran was not running as quick as he had been and Montoya and Dario Franchitti were each picking away time from de Ferran but de Ferran held on to win.
Unrelated Notes: The top twenty in qualifying was covered by a second.
The turns were re-numbered to include the chicane. Prior to this, the right-hander after the chicane was referred to as turn one with the track only classified as having nine corners.
Gary Gerould referred to this as Montoya's eighth championship car race, which is kind of the best way to describe American open-wheel racing considering all the different series.
There were more locks ups into the first chicane than prior races.
The race was lengthened to 112 laps. Castroneves led from he start ahead of his teammate de Ferran. Christian Fittipaldi stopped on lap 18 for tires, forcing him to a three-stop strategy. A 32-lap stint length was expected for a three-stop strategy with teams needing to reach lap 37 for a two-stop strategy.
Michael Andretti was the next to stop of the three-stoppers with Kenny Bräck, Castroneves and de Ferran following. Roberto Moreno stayed out and made it to lap 37 but on his stop the fuel was not flowing to the car and it forced him to sit stationary for 20 seconds. He still came out in fifth instead of third.
De Ferran was in the lead after pit stops. With 32 laps to go, Fittipaldi made his final stop with de Ferran coming in with 23 laps to go and getting out ahead of the two-stopper Moreno. Castroneves, Cristiano da Matta and Andretti were all close together before their stops with Andretti the first to come in. De Ferran was running down da Matta and Castroneves and caught them with 14 laps to go. Da Matta stopped two laps later with Castroneves in with seven to go.
The order was de Ferran, Moreno, Fittipaldi, Castroneves, Andretti and da Matta. Lapped traffic was difficult, most notably from turns four to seven and it allowed Moreno to close on de Ferran. On the penultimate lap, de Ferran was able to clear Carpentier prior to turn ten while Moreno could not get pass and de Ferran won for the second consecutive year at Portland.
Castroneves ran out of fuel coming to the checkers and dropped to seventh.
Unrelated Notes: This race was fairly processional with the strategy mixing up the order but cars were closing on one another deeper into stints. On the start, cars were going four-wide into he chicane and somehow they made it through.
Passes into turn one were smooth and complete prior to the corner. There wasn't as much side-by-side racing into the right-hander and into the left-hander.
Roberto Moreno could not get out of his car after the race because his steering wheel was jammed. The team had to un-screw the wheel to free him.
Bryan Herta replaced an injured Tony Kanaan, who was out with a broken arm. The good news was Kanaan healing quicker than expected and he was angry he was not in the car.
The one nice sight was the snow-covered mountains in the background of the circuit. I don't know if we will see that this year because this race will be in September and this race was in June but I don't know if we would see it in June either in this day and age.
This race was scheduled for 98 laps but like 1997 this was a wet race, wet enough that de Ferran spun on the pace lap.
This race was painful because every other lap there was a spin. Let me basically cover the notes I wrote as the race wore on:
Lap One: Memo Gidley clips the grass and gets into Kanaan and Alex Zanardi is collected.
Helio Castroneves spins under yellow.
Tora Takagi and Shinji Nakano spin.
Adrian Fernández has a spin. Cristiano da Matta spins under yellow.
Bryan Herta had a spin.
Twelve cars go off in the first 17 laps.
If you think the above is lazy, watch that race because that is everything that happens.
Paul Tracy says he is taking it easy and not pushing in the conditions.
Takagi goes off course again while Michel Jourdain, Jr. spins. Fernández has his second spin.
Tracy gets into Bruno Junqueira on the pit lane.
Dario Franchitti spins into turn one while Kenny Bräck had an off.
Christian Fittipaldi is stretching fuel because as you can bet this will definitely be a timed-race. He doesn't stop until lap 42. Jourdain goes off again.
Tracy has a spin and collects Gugelmin forcing the ninth caution with only 43 laps completed.
It calms down from there with Max Papis comfortably in the lead ahead of Moreno and Max Wilson, who was in a year-old Lola for Arciero-Blair Racing and the team set up his car more for wet conditions.
The track starts drying out but with the time limit teams are hoping to stretch fuel to make it to the end. Papis, Moreno, Wilson, Carpentier and Scott Dixon were the top five with Papis, Moreno and Dixon being the only three drivers to have won a race and all had one victory at that point of their careers.
Fittipaldi was on the charge with enough fuel to make it to the end and he quickly got by Dixon and Carpentier. Fittipaldi pulled off a nice over-under move on Wilson into the chicane with less than eight minutes to go.
Papis and Moreno would have enough fuel and finish 1-2 with Fittipaldi finishing third and Wilson finished fourth, the only time he finished in the points in his brief IndyCar career, 15 starts to be specific.
Unrelated Notes: Watching this race made me think that the first chicane needs a camera on the outside of the exit and higher in the air that way the action in the right-hander and the left-hander can be seen simultaneously.
The flagman had a camera on him. Why did we think everything needed a camera on it?
Kenny Bräck was on David Letterman's show and played in the band and they did a bit where Biff Henderson was at a race. He was leading the championship entering and exiting this race.
Jon Beekhuis did a feature where he showed digital and analog channels. Do teams still use digital radios for encrypted messages?
This was the first race of Tony Kanaan's current streak of 296 consecutive starts.
This race occurred under a changing time for CART. Team Penske was gone and the series had announced Cosworth would be the sole engine supplier for the next two seasons. On top of that, there were maximum stint lengths! Teams could not do more than 30 laps a stint.
The start was waved off three teams because of poor alignment. The fourth time wasn't much better but the race went green and Bräck went from the outside to the inside before the chicane to take the lead from da Matta. Takagi, Dixon and Fernández got together in the chicane and forced a caution at the start.
Bräck and da Matta pulled away from the field once back green and when Bräck caught the tail end of the field it allowed Bruno Junqueira back into the race. Under the second pit stop, Bräck's left rear tire comes off and ends his day after leading 54 of the first 59 laps.
This set up a da Matta vs. Junqueira battle with Townsend Bell in third. On the third stop, Bell stalls and drops to fourth behind Franchitti. Junqueira closed in on da Matta but da Matta held on to take the victory with Franchitti and Bell third and fourth respectively.
Unrelated Notes: This was a processional race. The maximum stint length made teams go all out but it didn't make the racing better and I was surprised no one decided to stop a lap early and try to jump someone. At the same time, I am surprised no one stopped with 30 to go when they knew they could make it to the end and force the hands of everyone else.
Emerson Fittipaldi was at the race and said CART was going back to Brazil in 2004, which was news to CART. How did that race turn out?
Max Papis was not able to race as Sigma Autosport was late paying Cosworth. He was sixth in the championship at the time and finished third twice. Chris Pook said the series would not help Papis get on the grid and it was a "delicate issue" and would send the wrong message in the future to help certain drivers and he wanted CART to be a balance playing field.
Chip Ganassi was not at this race. He was at Michigan at the Cup race. Paul Newman was not at the race. He was doing a play in Connecticut.
This race marked the first of nine races in a 12-week stretch for CART and Michel Jourdain, Jr. entered with the championship lead ahead of Paul Tracy but Tracy started on pole position with Jourdain in second. Tracy had better body language entering the race but Jourdain took the lead from the start, though the start was waved off three times.
This race was 100 laps or two hours and ten minutes and maximum stint length was decreased to 28 laps. Sébastien Bourdais was forced to stop on lap 13 with a tire puncture and he was outside the window to do the race in three stops but a caution for Geoff Boss spinning allowed him to get back on sequence.
The race was processional and there was next to no passing outside of Bourdais picking off slower cars at the back. Tracy took the lead exiting the pit lane on the second stop ahead Jourdain but the next lap Jourdain made a move on the inside of the second. In the left-hander, him and Tracy tangled and Jourdain spun, stalled and went a lap down while Tracy continued.
Bourdais was able to pit before the caution and it would vaulted him to sixth.
After returning to green flag conditions, Tracy was handed a five-second hold penalty on his next pit stop for it was deemed he impended Jourdain when he exited the pit lane. Tracy led Adrian Fernández by 3.6 seconds on lap 66, 4.8 seconds on lap 70 and when he made his stop on lap 72 he had enough of a gap to stop and come out ahead of the Mexican.
A pair of cautions bunched the field and on lap 86 Fernández passed Tracy into the chicane and he ran away with it. Tracy finished second and he took the championship lead. Bourdais was running third but rear wing damaged forced his retirement and elevated Alex Tagliani to the podium.
Unrelated Notes: During the broadcast, there was a piece on Vanport, Oregon, a town on which the Portland circuit was built on. A town flooded on Memorial Day 1948 and afterward the town was bulldozed and the land was given to the city of Portland. I never knew that. It is kind of dark.
The good news is this year's race went green immediately without any wave offs and Justin Wilson led from the start. Paul Tracy jumped up to second in the chicane ahead of A.J. Allmendinger. There was not much passing after that.
Cristiano da Matta started tenth but dropped to 13th after a poor start and he went off strategy, stopping at lap 14. Wilson pulled away from Tracy and was comfortably in the lead. Da Matta was up to sixth on his alternate strategy and he made his second stop on lap 44. A lap later, Wilson broke down in the chicane, his race was over and he brought out a caution.
This allowed da Matta to vault to the lead while Tracy and Bourdais made their second stops. With less fuel onboard, da Matta pulled away and opened an 11-second gap before his final stop on lap 75. Bourdais got ahead of Tracy in what was the only notable on-track pass in the chicane with help from lapped traffic. Da Matta would take the lead after the final round of pit stops was completed and da Matta would go on to take the victory ahead of Bourdais and Tracy. It was his first victory as he returned to the series after spending two years driving for Toyota's Formula One program. It was PKV Racing's first victory.
Unrelated Notes: There was a camera high up behind turn four and looking down the front straightaway, providing a full shot of the chicane.
There was a minor controversy after da Matta's second pit stop over a blend line issue. The rule said a car could not merge until the second line perpendicular to pit exit was crossed and he started his merge before then. However, since his merge was not reactionary to prevent a car on track from overtaking, no penalty was given.
There was Fantasy Champ Car. Who knew?
The 105-lap race saw Bruno Junqueira and A.J. Allmendinger on the front row. It was Allmendinger's first of a two-race trial with Forsythe Racing after the American had been fired by RuSPORT after four races and being fourth in the championship. The initial start was waved off and on the second attempt the green flag was shown and Allmendinger took the lead into the chicane. Justin Wilson moved up to second.
Will Power was the first car to stop on lap 12 in a race where every car was going to have to make three stops and it was projected the furthest a car could go was 30 laps. Allmendinger went to lap 33 and Sébastien Bourdais stopped a lap later and jumped Junqueira and Paul Tracy up to third.
Allmendinger and Wilson were on split strategy for the second stint with Allmendinger on the alternate compound tire and Wilson on the primary. Wilson made his second stop while Allmendinger caught the rear of the field. Allmendinger went another three laps before he made his second stop and he came out of Junqueira, who had yet to stop, and Wilson.
Wilson closed on Allmendinger but locked up into the chicane on one run and flat spotted his right front tire. This allowed Allmendinger to pull away and Wilson was forced to stop with 27 laps to go while Allmendinger went another six laps.
It was smooth sailing for Allmendinger from there and he picked up his first career victory ahead of Wilson and Bourdais.
Unrelated Notes: It is quite hilly off course, especially on the inside of the straightaway from the chicane to turn four. Nicky Pastorelli spun off and he went up and downhill on that ride.
Champ Car put a cone down at pit exit and cars could not start merging before the cone.
Charles Zwolsman, Jr. cut the chicane at the start.
Champ Car had a "Chase" graphic, which broke the track into five sections and timed the gap at each one. I found it quite informational.
In victory lane, Allmendinger thanked Carl Russo and in a sincere way. Wilson congratulated mid-interview. I miss Justin Wilson.
Champ Car President and CEO Steve Johnson mentioned that talks were on-going with the Indy Racing League over a merger. It has been a decade since reunification and it is getting hard to see how anyone thought the split was a good thing and nobody can claim they won. There were no winners.
This was a timed race, an hour and 45 minutes to be exact. Heading into the race, the first three races of the season were won by the driver to reach turn one first and this was the first race with a standing start. The start was clean and pole-sitter Justin Wilson took an early lead and was two seconds clear within three laps.
Wilson continued to pull away but second to seventh were tight with Robert Doornbos ahead of Will Power, Sébastien Bourdais, Alex Tagliani, Tristan Gommendy and Dan Clarke. Graham Rahal was closing on those cars in eighth. While these cars were tight, none could complete a move. Many took a look to the inside of another driver, especially into turn one but none could overtake even with two tire compounds and push-to-pass.
The Panoz DP01 had a smaller fuel cell at 32 gallons, meaning the longest stint was expected to be around 28 laps. Wilson came in on lap 27 with Doornbos and Power stopping the next lap. Power jumped Doornbos on the stop. Bourdais came in on lap 29 and had jumped to second place behind Wilson. The Brit had a 16-second lead but Bourdais was flying and cut the gap to seven seconds by lap 48.
Bourdais stopped early for his second pit stop on lap 53 and he forced Wilson to come in the next lap. Three laps after Wilson's stop Bourdais got pass him entering the chicane and took the lead. Bourdais pulled away, went on to complete 103 laps and picked up Newman Haas Racing's 100th victory, 13.5 seconds ahead of Wilson and Doornbos.
Unrelated Notes: The one thing I noticed were at least three drivers blew the chicane after making pit stops.
Doornbos was commuting from Monaco for the Champ Car season. How many other drivers in recent seasons or this season are commuting from Europe or any other continent?
What Should We Expect This Year?
This year's race will be 105 laps and I think it could be done on two stops. We have seen cars getting better fuel efficiency this season than any other during the DW12-era because the universal aero kit has less drag than its predecessors. If a car can do 35 laps on a stint than that driver should be good to make it on two stops. This season has shown that there is no definitively successful option. Ryan Hunter-Reay was a force on three stops in the second Belle Isle race and he ran down Alexander Rossi. Rossi took his time on two stops at Mid-Ohio and won by over 12 seconds as Robert Wickens got caught in traffic.
Because of the tight nature of Portland I think two stops might be the way to go. Watching the last few Champ Car races makes me think the only place to pass will be into the chicane. They were processional races in the later years and the only hope is we see the universal aero kit work its magic like we saw at Mid-Ohio, Long Beach and St. Petersburg.
Turn ten could be a passing zone but I think it is too quick and too tight for anyone to make a move. I am not sure how Portland works because it is owned by the city but my one hope would be before the 2019 race (if there is a 2019 race) the back straightaway be extended and turn ten made into a tighter left hander and forcing drivers to break heavily before a right at turn eleven to lead to the right-handed turn twelve to the front straightaway.
I think we will see a few drivers blow the chicane whether it be on the start or exiting the pit lane. Could there be an incident? Yeah. It will likely happen. I am not sure if there will be a pile up on lap one or two drivers hook each other battling for 12th but something will happen.
As for the crowd, I don't know. The crowd wasn't that bad after the split and in the later years of Champ Car. The city really supported the event regardless of the quality of the competitors. The crowd was down in those final years from the glory days of CART but it looked fine. To put it this way, if the 2007 crowd showed up for this year's race I think everyone would be ecstatic. I think this race could be respectable. That doesn't mean it will look or feel like Gateway but I think IndyCar will feel welcomed.
We are still a month from Portland. Portland was never a destination on the calendar. It was kind of one of those races that was always around. You just knew come June IndyCar went to the Pacific Northwest. It is hard to say it was missed because for 11 years there were at least ten other venues people were naming as more desired venues for IndyCar than Portland. But it is good to be heading back. There is nothing in the Pacific Northwest outside of NHRA heading to Seattle. Maybe this is an untapped market after all and maybe IndyCar has found the Labor Day event it struggled to secure in Detroit, Baltimore and Watkins Glen. Maybe it wasn't what IndyCar wanted but what the series needed.