The sight of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES machines plowing through the rumble strips on the far-right side of Turn 1 at Portland International Raceway is dramatic, especially in television’s slow-motion replays.
According to Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward, taking that path so close to the guardrail requires maximum commitment.
“If you don’t commit to it, you’re going to bounce around like a bobblehead,” the driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet he said following Friday’s first practice for the BITNILE.COM Grand Prix of Portland. “It’s either you commit to it 100 percent, or you don’t do it at all.
“You can’t go halfway because when you go halfway, it just feels horrendous.”
It also looks nerve-wracking, especially when the driver has another car on the left side as Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) had during practice. David Malukas (No. 18 HMD Trucking Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD) seemed to give Power room to bounce through there, a cushion that likely won’t be there when 27 cars go charging toward the corner on the opening lap of Sunday’s 110-lap race (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network).
The other potential result is what happened to Helio Castroneves midway through Friday’s practice. The No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing shot across the track after bouncing over the rumble strips.
“Everyone uses every bit of track that you can find,” said Kyle Kirkwood, who drives Andretti Autosport’s No. 27 AutoNation Honda. “Over the years, that’s kind of gotten ground out, so that’s the new line. It goes all the way to the wall.”
Felix Rosenqvist (No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) said Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) was the first to experiment with it.
“He did it in qualifying, and he was like two-tenths quicker than everyone there (in Turn 1),” Rosenqvist said. “Since then, I think everyone kind of learned to cut (the corner).
“You can get it wrong if you touch the curb wrong – it kind of throws the car out – but it seems like we kind of grinded it down because I remember it was pretty rough, and now it’s pretty easy to do.”
Applications Available for Women in Motorsports Program
Chip Ganassi Racing and PNC Bank have opened the application window for the 2024 Women in Motorsports Initiative, which will be held for the third year.
Women in Motorsports was launched as part of PNC’s national commitment to drive awareness and support for accelerating women’s financial equality. The program was established with a vision of accelerating career pathways and mentorship opportunities for students interested in motorsports.
Interns will be fully integrated into Chip Ganassi Racing’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams, including that of Dixon, the six-time series champion who is one of two drivers still mathematically eligible to win this year’s title. With projects ranging from engine builds and electronic design in the team’s Indianapolis headquarters to race day duties and performance modifications at tracks across the country, members of the internship class can use the opportunity as a launchpad toward a career in motorsports.
Chip Ganassi Racing has leveraged the talent introduced by the program, bringing former intern Rebecca Hutton onboard full time within the team’s engineering division. She was mentored by Angela Ashmore, an assistant engineer on Marcus Ericsson’s No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda, which won the 2022 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
U.S. college students are encouraged to apply no later than Sept. 30. Applications for the fully funded program are available at chipganassiracing.com/wim2024.
Dixon Needs a Big Finish
Dixon likely will need to win the final two races of the season to overhaul CGR teammate Alex Palou (No. 10 The American Legion Honda) for the series championship.
If Dixon does that, it will be the first four-race INDYCAR SERIES winning streak since Sebastien Bourdais in the 2006 Champ Car World Series season.
Dixon has won three races in succession three times (2007, 2013 and 2020). Over the past 11 seasons, the only other series driver to win three races in a row has been Simon Pagenaud in 2016.
Dixon’s deficit to Palou is 74 points, and he needs to be within 54 points heading to next week’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey to have a chance to upend the Spaniard. The bad news for Dixon is he has never won at either remaining track while Palou has won at both, including last year’s 30-second victory at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Palou won in 2021 at Portland en route to the championship.
Odds and Ends
- Alexander Rossi (No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet) is one to watch this weekend as he has an average finish of 5.0 in four starts in this event. He was ninth on Friday’s speed chart.
- Rosenqvist said Turn 10 at this track is arguably the fastest, largest-commitment corner of the season, with speeds about 170 mph. “Really challenging, really quick,” he said. Rosenqvist’s trouble Friday was with Turn 12, where he ran wide and came to a stop against the tire barrier. He later posted the day’s fifth-fastest lap.
- Rosenqvist said an announcement about his driving future is near. “Between two and six days,” he said, smiling. Speculation has centered on him joining Tom Blomqvist, who is making his second series start this weekend, at Meyer Shank Racing.
- Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 BITNILE.COM Chevrolet driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay will serve a six-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change following last weekend’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Axalta and Valvoline at World Wide Technology Raceway.
- The series debut of Juri Vips got off to a strong start Friday, with the No. 30 Kustom Entertainment Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing posting the session’s 15th-fastest lap. His lap was just a tick quicker than that of last year’s race winner, Scott McLaughlin in the No. 3 Freightliner Team Penske Chevrolet.
- Devlin DeFrancesco (No. 29 Sapphire Gas Solutions Honda) delivered another strong late-season effort in his final days with Andretti Autosport. He posted the 11th-fastest lap.
- INDY NXT by Firestone points leader Christian Rasmussen of HMD Motorsports with DCR led Friday’s practice, with Kyffin Simpson of HMD Motorsports with CGR second and Andretti Autosport’s Hunter McElrea third. Rasmussen leads McElrea by 50 points with three races remaining (two next weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca).