By: Tanner Watkins
August 29, 2019 | 1:00 PM
Just two races remain in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, and this weekend, the stars of American open-wheel racing return to Portland International Raceway for 105 laps of action.
The series made its highly-anticipated return to Portland last summer, where Takuma Sato won in an eye-opening performance with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Fast forward to 2019, and Sato is now the defending race winner for both the track and the series after winning last week’s event at Gateway.
Bringing the focus back to the championship, a total of five drivers are still mathematically eligible to win the 2019 title: Josef Newgarden (leading the points), Simon Pagenaud (38 points back), Alexander Rossi (46 points), Scott Dixon (70 points) and Will Power (147 points).
Newgarden benefitted immensely from a rough race by Rossi (who finished 13th at Gateway) and extended his points lead from first to second place – though his next-closest challenger is now a teammate, in Pagenaud. With that being said, Newgarden embraces the teammate championship battle rather than seeing it as more pressure.
“We were able to maintain the points lead in Gateway, and that was a huge deal for us. Now that Simon (Pagenaud) has moved into the second spot in championship points, we’re going to work hard as a team to really continue to battle for the championship,” noted Newgarden.
“That’s great for Team Penske to have two drivers battling it out for the title. Now we focus on Portland. It’s a technical road course, so we’re really going to have to make sure we hit all of our marks to make sure we don’t lose any ground.
“It’s going to be a tough race for the whole field, especially for the championship contenders. I’m excited for the challenge along with the rest of my team, and we can’t wait to get on track there with the Hitachi Chevy.”
For Pagenuad, having a shot at his second title is a complete 180-degree turn from earlier in the season, when some fans suggested this could be his final season with Team Penske. All the French driver has done since then is win the Indianapolis 500 (in a month of May sweep), the overall oval championship for 2019, and has a legitimate shot at stealing the title away from his teammate.
“Portland is shaping up to be a super-exciting weekend. (World Wide Technology Raceway) was a very important night in our championship quest,” said Pagenaud.
“Moving up to second and winning the oval championship got us closer to the lead. This is the part of the season that I love the most. It is down to the wire exciting racing and competing at our highest level. It’s time to shine.”
With Rossi still close behind Pagenaud, and Dixon within shouting distance, the fight for the title is still wide-open heading towards the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – which features double points, of course. Add in the fact that there will be over 20 other competitors on the track trying to do their best, and we have a hell of a race on our hands for this weekend.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels.com for coverage throughout the weekend, and check out the Fast Facts below to get you ready for IndyCar from Portland.
Grand Prix of Portland Fast Facts
Race weekend: Friday, Aug. 30 – Sunday, Sept. 1
Track: Portland International Raceway, a 12-turn, a 1.964-mile road course in Portland, Oregon
Race distance: 105 laps / 206.22 miles
Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate. Teams must use one set of primary and one new set of alternate tires in the race.
Twitter: @Portland_GP, @IndyCar, #PortlandGP, #INDYCAR
Event website: www.portlandgp.com
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2018 race winner: Takuma Sato (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda)
2018 pole winner: Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet), 57.3467 seconds, 123.292 mph
Qualifying record: Will Power, 57.2143 seconds, 123.577 mph, Sept. 1, 2018 (Set in Round 1 of knockout qualifying)
NBC Sports television broadcasts: Qualifying, 6 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 31, NBCSN (live); Race, 3 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 1, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Dillon Welch and Robin Miller.
Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Anders Krohn. Jake Query and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Dan Rusanowsky reporting from the pits.
All NTT IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 98, XM 205, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. Live coverage of NTT IndyCar Series qualifying is available on Sirius 98, XM 205, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
NBC Sports Gold livestreaming: All NTT IndyCar Series practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports’ direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.
At-Track Schedule (all times local):
Friday, Aug. 30
10:50 – 11:35 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice #1, NBC Sports Gold (live)
12:40 – 3:25 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice #2, NBC Sports Gold (live) 3:40 – 4:10 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series warmup/pit stop practice
Saturday, Aug. 31
11 – 11:45 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice #3, NBC Sports Gold (live)
3 p.m. – Firestone Fast Six Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (live)
Sunday, Sept. 1
11:58 a.m. – Driver introductions
12:35 p.m. – Command to start engines 12:42 p.m. – Grand Prix of Portland (105 laps/206.22 miles), NBC (live)
Header image by Stephen King/INDYCAR.