I wrote about a year ago how excited I was for the Portland Grand Prix because there’s something special about inaugural races and I was eager to compare and contract the race to the Bommarito 500 at Gateway (which I attend the inaugural race last year). Let’s get that out of the way before I dive into the weekend I had.
There is always an excitement surrounding inaugural weekends at racetracks. A LOT of issues are forgiven because it’s the first year. Last year at Bommarito there were some facility hiccups (mainly I saw a lot of people complaining about how long they waited in traffic and the signage left a lot to be desired), and unfortunately, some of those issues lingered, mainly on the operational side . Focusing on Portland, really the track was ready for everything. The only thing they may have not been ready for was food, but if you spent any time at the track either Friday or Saturday you knew that on Sunday waiting in lines for food was not an option. I look at that more in the vein of “more people showed up then they anticipated” and not “they didn’t plan well”. It’s a more positive way to frame the issue I feel.
Whatever worries people had about the Pacific Northwest not embracing the race, they’re gone. The crowd was amazing and engaged. I sat next to numerous people who weren’t sure who they were going to cheer for and asked great questions about what was happening. This may be the most exciting part of the weekend, the number of people who weren’t sure what they were going to be getting into, but they were here for the whole weekend. Crowds grew with each and every day. This was an amazing debut, or I suppose redebut, for the Pacific Northwest. It makes complete sense that the series does well in this area. Seattle is a hub for technology, and with INDYCAR’s continuing advancement of safety and motorsports, it fits. The Pacific Northwest is an untapped market for any motorsport and I’m very glad INDYCAR had a strong showing (maybe next year my brother will join me for the race…).
On and Off Track Fun
As a podcast, this weekend was amazing. It was another weekend working with IndyCar Nation where we took over their twitter again. We also were able to interview Cara Adams, Chief Engineer for Firestone Racing, and Dr. Geoffry Billows of INDYCAR Medical during the autograph session. My hope is to have the audio posted in a bonus episode, but if not I’ll get some sort of a transcript up for you. As many people know, Portland is the 10-year anniversary of Cara working with Firestone, ten years ago she used personal time and volunteered to work and now she’s the chief engineer. Anytime I get to speak with Cara I get excited because she’s so enthusiastic about her role and her passion for helping get women into STEM. Additionally, Dr. Billows was also a fantastic interview. Without breaking HIPPA we got a lot of amazing stories out of him including a story of someone port-a-potty diving to get a cell phone on CarbDay, and honestly, you cannot top that story so don’t even try.* Again, a huge thank you to the two of them for joining us during the autograph session and helping us keep people entertained while they wait.
Some other fun IndyCar Nation experiences we helped with included viewing Qualifications from the Verizon Pit View (which has charging stations!), the P1 photo, and the Victory Circle photo. Other experiences that happened included a tour of IndyCar Radio and a tour by Trackside Online.
We also grabbed dinner on the river and at a bar that used to be a school because that felt like peak Portland!
It was most certainly a race fitting of Portland, the debut of INDYCAR in the Pacific Northwest featured a race where there was an issue on Lap 1, the podium was unexpected, and at the end of the day – the point standing seemed to change very little.
We all knew Lap 1 Turn 1 would be an issue, and technically it was, though the issue happened sorta in the middle of the festival curves. From watching and rewatching, to me it seems like Veach had the line and Hinchcliffe was trying to pass. They got caught together and Hinchcliffe spun and somehow collected Ed Jones, Graham Rahall, and Marco Andretti (who went backward, over Hinch and Graham…and then landed upside down). Sebastian Bourdais got through with some damage, creating yet again a frakensteined car. Scott Dixon ended up in the middle of that mess of cars but somehow came to a complete stop WITHOUT ANY DAMAGE. He just backed his car up and went on his way. Also, no one was hurt which was very thankful.
That gave us the first restart, and at that restart, Alexander Rossi got around Will Power who then started his race of bad luck (again) with gearbox issues and instantly lost 12 positions. The bad luck continued on to Lap 44 in Turn 11 Power ran into the tire barrier, which got him a front wing change and issues cleared up.
A caution at Lap 57 flipped the leaders as the new leaders had pitted and the other leaders had not. We then had Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastian Bourdais up front, and they stayed up front until the end of the race. Sato also climbed the most in positions, coming from twentieth to first. There were a lot of passes and a lot of people ending in much higher positions (Spencer Pigot going from 17th to 4th; Simon Pagenaud going from 22nd to 6th; and Charlie Kimball going from 25th to 7th). Spencer Pigot decided he wasn’t going to mess around this race and even completed a very good pass on Scott Dixon, quite the surprise from ECR’s fulltime driver, but I was completely here for it.
It was an exciting race, and it was a great race for Portland!
We’re going into the double-point season finale, and as it stands there are twenty-nine points between Scott Dixon (1st at 598) and Alexander Rossi (2nd at 569); there are 58 points between Rossi and Will Power/Josef Newgarden (3rd at 511).
The race was great. The track was great. The weekend was great. Coming back to Indianapolis knowing we’re officially home for the rest of the season – not so great. But as I type this they just dropped the 2019 schedule and I better make sure my passport is up to date 😉
* Dr. Billows is in full agreement with us, and rationale fans btw, that we should only trust official reports and that we should wait for those reports and not demand them when we want them.