Get In and Out (2021 Grand Prix of Portland Review)

We just can’t get through Lap 1 Turn 1 at this race can we? Is it the Chicane? Is it too ‘chicaney’? I watched the race with my family and my mom commented, during the parade laps, “that’s a dog leg” when the drivers went through the chicane. Perhaps that’s the problem? They’re coming down a really great straightaway right into a really crooked and deep chicane. At the start when they’re all trying to jockey for position and are easily three-wide at places, they cannot handle the chicane. Now the simplest answer would be to have the drivers calm down…but as fans is that what we want? Do you want a parade because that’s how you get a parade? 

Perhaps I’ll solve the issue with Lap 1 of the Grand Prix of Portland another time. We’re in the middle of a back-to-back-to-back race to the championship right now. I also don’t have the time, nor do you want to read the explicit language, to discuss how Race Control can’t reorder a field despite their being at least three different electronic sensors and pretty clear rules. 

The weekend truly did belong to Alex Palou. It was a story of redemption. He caused a red flag in the first practice while going through the troublesome chicane. He got pole, and ultimately won the race. This was quite the well deserved victory after just shitty luck with engines and getting taken out at Worldwide Technology Raceway. 

However, you can’t talk about this past race without mentioning Graham Rahal. It was his first appearance in the Firestone Fast Six this whole season, and he let the most laps. Rahal and his pit crew should feel proud of the weekend they had, and not complain (please). The pit strategy was fantastic, and Rahal was giving great in and out laps for pits, and his team was making each stop perfect. The yellow flat on Lap 86 just didn’t fall in his favor. While a dozen other teams pitted right when they saw either the Juncos or A.J. Foyt car off course, Rahal didn’t. That put him in extreme fuel savings mode to end the race. That is racing, you can have a picture perfect drive and pit stops, and a yellow is going to happen at the most inopportune time. 

I’m not entirely sure what’s happening with Pato O’Ward and Honda – it’s not connected just a bad segue way. O’Ward was showing championship winner attitude, but got bumped out by his own teammate at qualifications. He then had a very strong first half of the race, even leading laps, but his car suddenly just wasn’t giving him the speed on straightaways. During the race his pit box indicated everything was okay on telemetry.  Pato has had some issues keeping his tires healthy during races. I suppose we shall see. As far as Honda? This race featured two engine Honda engines having to be changed out with Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay both missing a good portion of first practice due to engine issues. They did both serve grid penalties (which by the way how does RHR serve a six-place grid penalty if he didn’t even participate in qualifications?). This following the slew of engine changes that Alex Palou has had over the past season: Honda get your shit together. 

The series leaves Portland with the championship lead being held by Alex Palou. He holds a twenty-five point lead over Pato O’Ward. Positions 3-5 did not change (Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, and Marcus Ericsson), but the difference between them all did. This was a good race. Towards the end when it was coming down to who could get in and out of the pits in front of the leaders was some nail biting raising. If you excuse a bad start and ten laps under yellow to reorganize the field it was really exciting. Something has to be done to fix the Lap 1 Incident that plagues this race. But I’ll worry about that when the season is over.