Race Preview: Portland International Raceway



Posted on 08/31/2023

Race Preview: Portland International Raceway

The chase for INDYCAR’s Astor Cup continues with two races remaining on the West Coast. Chip Ganassi Racing embarks upon the final stretch knowing that the trophy will be hoisted by one of their own in either Alex Palou and the No. 10 American Legion team or Scott Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank crew.

Palou holds an encouraging 74-point margin over his teammate, but Dixon is riding a wave of momentum having won two races in a row.

Dixon has previously proven that he can unlock another gear, as he remains the only driver in the history of the sport to achieve three distinct streaks of three consecutive race victories (2020; 2013; 2007) in a single season. Palou also has reason for optimism considering his 2021 victory from pole position at Portland International Raceway. 

Chip Ganassi Racing has found plenty of pace at Portland International Raceway with three wins (Palou: 2021; Zanardi: 1998/1996), three pole positions (Palou: 2021: Montoya: 1999; Zanardi: 1996) and nine podiums (most recently, Dixon P3 in 2022).

The team is not only in pursuit of their 15th INDYCAR championship, but they could be in position for their first 1-2 finish in the points standings since 2009 (Franchitti and Dixon).

Chip Ganassi Racing is additionally in an exceptional position to boast both the INDYCAR Champion and the Rookie of the Year with Marcus Armstrong holding a 20-point advantage over the next closest newcomer. Chip Ganassi Racing is responsible for the past two instances in which that exact achievement has been accomplished (1999: Juan Pablo Montoya as Champion and Rookie of the Year; 1996: Jimmy Vasser as Champion and Alex Zanardi as Rookie of the Year).

Tune into the three days of action at the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course from September 1-3. The 110-lap race will be broadcast Sunday on NBC beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. 

Alex Palou - No. 10 American Legion Honda

"We’ve won at Portland before and I also got my first INDYCAR pole there, so it is a special place. The team is looking good for the championship, and we know that it will stay within the team, which is the most important thing. We have a chance to win it and seal the title there, so hopefully we can bring it home early.”

Palou, with a 74-point advantage in the championship standings, needs just a 54-point lead upon the conclusion of the Portland race to clinch the championship. A podium finish would guarantee the 2023 title for the American Legion Honda team.

The No. 10 pilot has mastered road course tracks since joining Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021. Across the 19 such races, he leads all drivers in podiums (12), laps led (274) and average starting position (4.6), and is tied for first with teammate Scott Dixon in average finishing position (6.6).

Palou captured the first pole of his career at Portland in 2021 and went on to take the victory after leading 29 laps. The race was highly contested, as it featured the most lead changes (12) in track history. 

Scott Dixon - No. 9 PNC Bank Honda 

“I’m definitely looking forward to Portland and it’s always good to go out west. The track has been an interesting one throughout the years and now this year is coming down to the championship fight. Obviously, the fight is far more widespread this year, and we need a big swing and we will be going for a win. But I always love going to Portland and I love the track because it’s pretty intense, especially turn one on the starts and restarts.”

Dixon enters Portland on a high note having won two races in a row (Gateway and IMS RC). Dixon could very well be in position to win another, as he is the only driver in INDYCAR SERIES history to win three races in a row at least three separate times (2020; 2013; 2007).

The Iceman has earned two podium finishes (P2 in 2022 and 2021) in six career starts at Portland International Raceway.

He has pulled off the improbable before, winning the 2015 INDYCAR SERIES championship despite not sitting atop the points standings until the conclusion of the season finale.

Marcus Ericsson - No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda

“Excited to head to the West Coast; it is always a fun trip. I really enjoy driving on this track and I think it has some unique challenges, particularly the last section of the track with the last chicane and the fast corner. It’s very challenging, but it is fun to drive. Things are always very tight here between drivers and the cars. We need to bring our A-game and I believe we will. We have some good ideas on what to do and have improved our road course package throughout the year. It will be an important weekend and we want to maximize every opportunity at the end of the season here.”

Ericsson will aim for a strong qualifying session, as he has made gains throughout both of his previous two starts in Portland. In 2022, he finished P7 after starting P10, and in 2021, he finished P11 after starting P18. 

The No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda pilot has led the more laps (51) this season than any other throughout his INDYCAR career. Ericsson is aiming to finish among the top-five in the points standings for the first time in his career.

Marcus Armstrong - No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda

“I’ll be doing my best to get on the pace as soon as possible and maximize the package we have. I have the feeling that it may be a difficult track to nail down, so will try to adapt as best as possible. I think it can be a good circuit for me and it’s reasonably similar to what I’ve raced in Europe, as is Laguna. These tracks are constantly flowing and there’s no reason that we can’t get our best result yet.”

Armstrong is dialed in on bolstering his qualifying results and the results shined through in his last race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course he set a new career best with a P7 qualifying result. He missed out on advancing to his first Firestone Fast 6 appearance by a margin of just 0.0008 seconds.

The Christchurch, New Zealand, native remains the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award with a 20-point advantage over all other newcomers.