After their successful return at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in last month, the stars of the NTT IndyCar Series compete this weekend in a race that launches the final push in the 2021 championship title picture.
Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland is the first of the final three events of the 16-race IndyCar campaign and the green flag drops for the 110-lap feature at 2:42 p.m. Central.
The 12-turn, 1.964-mile natural road course at Portland International Raceway provides plenty of passing opportunities for the competitive field of two-dozen drivers, some of which are jockeying for an early advantage towards a potential season crown.
With three races left, series points leader Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren SP) maintains a ten-point edge over Alex Palou, 435-425.
O’Ward’s runner-up finish at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway on August 21 leapfrogged the pilot to the top of standings over Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing), who finished a disappointing 20th following a Turn 1 incident in Lap 65 at the Madison oval race.
Both O’Ward and Palou have a pair of wins on the season and both will equally charge Sunday as each eye their first-ever IndyCar championship.
“With only three races left, I’m super-excited to get to Portland,” said Palou, who looks to regain the points lead. “We were able to test there a couple of months ago and it was nice to get to know the track. I love that track. It’s super-fast, it’s really good for racing and we have a good car. Hopefully, we can score another win.”
Hot on the heels of the contenders will be two-time IndyCar champ Josef Newgarden (Team Penske), who won the aforementioned Bommarito Race and sits third in the standings (-22 points). Newgarden has also snared a pair of checkered flags this season.
Mathematically still in the chase are defending champion Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) who currently ranks fourth in the standings (-43) and teammate Marcus Ericsson who is currently fifth (-60).
The road course at Portland boasts a lap average of 122 MPH, which is followed by the final two tussles of the campaign held over consecutive weekends: Laguna Seca on September 19th and the season finale at the Streets of Long Beach the final weekend of the month.
“Looking forward to the West Coast swing,” said Dixon, whose team also tested at Portland earlier this year. “Hopefully, we can equate that to some great results. It’s fantastic that Chip Ganassi Racing can have three cars in the Top 5 of the championship fight. Gotta lay everything on the line and go for it.”
Qualifications take place Saturday and Sunday’s coverage can be seen locally on KSDK Channel 5 beginning at 2 p.m.
For more information on the NTT IndyCar Series, go to their official website.