A surprising result in Portland

Verizon IndyCar Series was back at Portland International Raceway, which hasn’t hosted a race in the highest formula car class in the US since 2007.

Will Power grabbed Pole Position ahead of his Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, while Andretti Autosports’ Alexander Rossi would start from third position. The winner from 2004 and 2007, Sebastien Bourdais and Dale Coyne Racing had qualified in P4, in front of two Andretti Autosports cars with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Zach Veach.

The championship leader Scott Dixon once again had a dreadful qualifying, and he would start the race all the way back from P11, which was three places behind his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Ed Jones.

There were 25 cars on the starting grid. Carlos Muñoz had overtaken the seat at Schmidt Peterson Motorsport #6 after Robert Wickens, who is still recovering from the serious accident two weeks ago. Santino Ferrucci was back in the series with Dale Coyne Racing, while Alfonso Celis Jr. would start for Juncos Racing. Jack Harvey started for Meyer Shank Racing, in a part of their selected race program in 2018.

Alfonso Celis Jr.
Photo: Indycar.com / Stephen King

The start was extremely chaotic. The narrow chicane in Turn 1 gave a lot of problems, at the exit of Turn 1.

James Hinchcliffe was squeezed in over the curb by Zach Veach, which caused Hinch to spin in front of the field. It created a panic, and cars were going left and right in attempt to avoid him. Ed Jones, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, and Sebastien Bourdais were also involved. The worst was Marco Andretti, who hit Hinch and rolled the car, so that it lay with the roll hoop down. Luckily, nothing happened to the drivers – though Dixon and Bourdais were the only ones who could continue. Bourdais managed to just drive past, and Dixon actually could move by himself, and he was caught behind some other cars so he didn’t even lose a lap, which was extremely important for the championship.

It took seven laps before the race was restarted, and there was already drama after a few corners, where Will Power suddenly slowed down and fell back to 11th place before he could get the car in gear again.

But the problems continued and he fell further back in the field.

Alexander Rossi had overtaken the lead, ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden.

It continued until lap 28, where Rossi pitted as the first one amongst the cars in front.

Scott Dixon
Photo: Indycar.com / Joe Skibinski

Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden had a duel on the track, where Newgarden came past and then got a penalty for taking a shortcut through the chicane. He had to give the place back, but he won it back the lap after.

Power had to pit in second gear, when his gearbox had a problem with the first gear. So it took him a bit longer in the pits, but he could come back to the track. Dixon had delivered a nice driving through the field until he pitted. The plan for him was to only pit one more time in the race, while the majority of the competitors had to pit an extra time.

But Dixon had to pit one more time, since he got a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

On lap 43, Newgarden went past Hunter-Reay, which was shortly followed by a Safety Car on the track after Will Power drove into the tire wall after a driving mistake.

It brought the field back together, and many used to opportunity to pit for the second time.

There was a battle down the field, where Spencer Pigot overtook Gabby Chaves in the fight for twelfth place.

Newgarden took the lead on lap 49, where he dived past Rossi. At the same time, Jordan King went up to third place, when he drove past Hunter-Reay.

Alexander Rossi
Photo: Indycar.com / Chris Owens

Team Penske tried to repair Will Power’s gearbox, but it cost him a whole lot of laps.

Newgarden had a lead of 6,5 seconds, before another Safety Car period caused by Zach Veach, who went off the track in the last corner. Veach had to be pulled by the marshals, so it took him a lap even though he simply stalled and didn’t hit the barrier.

Newgarden, Rossi, King, and Matheus Leist pitted for fuel and four new tires, while the other cars stayed on the track.

The race was restarted with Ryan Hunter-Reay in front, ahead of Takuma Sato, Sebastien Bourdais, and Scott Dixon. But the picture unclear, since they had different pit strategies.

Newgarden did a hopeless dive on Alfonso Celis Jr. in Turn 1 and hit the latter. Both cars could continue, and the stewards decided that it was okay. The drivers in USA could do a lot more than Formula 1 drivers, for example.

Both Newgarden and Rossi cut through the field and were quickly up on P12 and P13, after being in P17 and P18 in the safety car period.

The leading Hunter-Reay was the first driver to pit for the last time, followed by Dixon one lap after. Santino Ferrucci drove slowly on the track, making everyone panic and pitting right away to avoid being caught behind a potential Safety Car. It worked for all of them, except Max Chilton, before the race leader deployed the SC.

There was almost a collision between Rossi and Simon Pagenaud, when the latter was released from his pit just as Rossi was on the way to his.

The new order was Chilton, Sato, Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, and Dixon. Newgarden was all the way back in P10. From a potential winner to being in the middle of the field just like that.

Sebastien Bourdais
Photo: Indycar.com / James Black

Pigot overtook Dixon from the outside with 24 laps left, while Rossi went past Newgarden the lap after.

Chilton had to pit with 20 laps left and thus lost his chance to win, giving the lead to Sato who was ahead of Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, Pigot, and Dixon.

Hunter-Reay had saved on fuel, so that he could slowly increase his speed towards the end of the race, and he was catching Sato.

The two of them drove on the penultimate lap with only a small gap, with both on Push-2-Pass button down the straights.

Takuma Sato could keep the lead all the way to the chequered flag, ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Sebastien Bourdais. Spencer Pigot finished fourth, right ahead of Scott Dixon, who extended his lead in the championship to Alexander Rossi in P8.

It was Sato’s third victory in IndyCar, after winning Indy 500 in 2017 and Long Beach back in 2013. So now he has won on an oval, a street track, and one of the normal tracks.

Before the finale on Sonoma Raceway in two weeks’ time, we have Scott Dixon with 29 points in front of Alexander Rossi, while Will Power and Josef Newgarden are both 87 points after Dixon. With 105 points to drive for, since the final race gives double points, there is still a lot to drive for, and absolutely nothing is decided.

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