The Verizon IndyCar Series has returned to Portland International Raceway for the first time in more than a decade. When the dust settled on Friday, it was a familiar face sitting at the top of the speed chart. Sebastien Bourdais won three races at Portland, and paced the field today with a best lap of 57.3975 seconds. Championship contenders Will Power and Scott Dixon were just behind him, with Marco Andretti and Santino Ferruci rounding out the top five.
Sunday’s race is the last chance for title contenders to position themselves for the season finale in two weeks at Sonoma, where a champion will be crowned. Power trails Dixon by 68 points entering this weekend, and knows he must keep both he and Alexander Rossi well behind him. “We simply have to finish ahead of Dixon and Rossi,” he said. “There’s no other two ways about it. If we don’t we really don’t have a chance at winning the title at Sonoma.”
Friday Combined Practice Results
While there are seven drivers entered in the event that have experience racing on the 1.964-mile 12-turn road course, they have all stated that it is much different than they remember. Many of the drivers echoed the same characteristics of the circuit, mainly how narrow it is, and how little curbing is available to use. It was mentioned multiple times that just getting one tire off onto the dirt would cause the car to venture completely off course.
Several drivers experience that feeling on Friday, with Takuma Sato and Simon Pagenaud both having significant contact with the wall. There were no injuries though, as all 25 cars accounted for 1,075 total laps of practice. It was an impressive run for Marco, who was fast in both the morning and afternoon. Ferruci was also surprisingly fast, driving a third car for Dale Coyne Racing. He will be making his third career IndyCar start this weekend.
Tony Kanaan is searching for his first top-five finish of the season, but that wasn’t on his mind today. As he prepares to start his 299th consecutive IndyCar race, his wife Lauren gave birth to their daughter Nina this morning in Indianapolis.
The best news of the day came this morning, when it was announced that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Robert Wickens was transferred to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis on Thursday to continue treatment of injuries sustained in the accident at Pocono. Wickens is expected to undergo further surgery on his lower extremities soon. Carlos Munoz will be filling in for Wickens in the No. 6 Honda machine in the final two races of the season.
Rossi has chipped away at Dixon’s lead in each of the last three races, and will aim to continue that this weekend. He currently trails the Ganassi driver by 26 points, but could make it 25 if he were to capture pole position tomorrow. In the combined practice results, Rossi was 11th overall, trailing two of his three Andretti Autosport teammates. Josef Newgarden is also in the battle for the title, and was 6th fastest today.
There will be one final 45-minute practice session tomorrow at 2:10 PM ET, followed by qualifying for the GP of Portland, at 6:20 PM. Qualifications will be live on Timing and Scoring, but will air on NBCSN at 7:30 ET on a delay.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar
Josef Newgarden: “The Verizon car is really quick. We just kept getting held up today. There were a lot of yellow flags and a lot of people making mistakes. It was difficult to put a lap together. I don’t think Practice 2’s times were relative to our pace, but I think we should be in the top five tomorrow. We have a car to do that. The guys have been working really hard all weekend. I’m excited to qualify tomorrow.”
Matheus Leist: “Practice went all right, but the car is still not good enough to run close to the top 10, so we just have to keep trying new things, working hard, and hopefully at some point, we’re going to get there.”
James Hinchcliffe: “Fairly productive day. The track here in Portland is a tricky little place. It’s great to be back, first of all, and I think everyone in the series is really embracing the event and the organizers have done a really good job. For 25 Indy cars around a less than two-mile track, it gets pretty busy out there; it’s always tough to kind of get a good lap in. This afternoon, we made some really good improvements in the Arrow Electronics car. Having Carlos (Muñoz) and Jack (Harvey) here has been a huge help at a new circuit to get as much data as possible. Unfortunately, there was a red flag when we were doing our red (Firestone alternate) tire lap at the end, so I don’t think we got to show our true potential today. Obviously, with Jack in the top five, we know what the car can do. We’ll put our heads together overnight to get it even better still, and hopefully, we’ll be fighting for the Firestone Fast Six tomorrow.”
Carlos Munoz: “In second practice, I was definitely feeling more and more comfortable with the Lucas Oil car. It’s INDYCAR – everyone is really close to each other (with on-track times). I’m happy with the progression I made from yesterday to today. Yesterday at the test, it was a completely new car for me; it’s been a year since driving it (on the road course). Today was a little rough on my body, getting my muscles used to it, but I think tomorrow I’m going to be even better physical-wise and also with the car. I think we are doing a good job. The car balance has improved a lot compared to yesterday. Jack (Harvey) seems pretty fast, so that’s great for the team. Overnight, we’ll study the data and see where I can learn more.”
Scott Dixon: “I think it was a strong first day overall here in Portland. We had a good test day here yesterday where we were fastest in the PNC Bank car, so that was a good start for us. I think today really was about getting familiarized with the track again and just putting in the laps. It’s been several years, but it’s great to be back and I’m excited for the weekend.”
Ed Jones: “I just wasn’t happy with the car in the second session. We’re not where we need to be and we’ll need to go back and really work on where we are tonight before we get to qualifying tomorrow here in Portland. The NTT DATA car should be further up the speed chart and we’ll be working hard to figure out how to get it where it should be.”
Will Power: “Not bad. I think we’ve kind of been in the window with the No. 12 Verizon Chevy the whole time. We just need to look at a few driving details and pick up a bit of time in the first sector. We’ll have a look at it tonight and see if we need to make any adjustments and see what we have tomorrow.”
Tony Kanaan: “Tough days. Two very difficult days for us. It seems like we’ve been trying a lot of things and we haven’t found a way yet. I think we have a good direction now, but it’s hard. The last couple days have not been fun…apart from having a baby! That brightens up anybody’s life. We’ve been expecting it for so long. I know people say, ‘It’s your fourth.’ But it doesn’t matter how many there are, it’s still very sweet. I feel very lucky that we have healthy kids-all born very healthy with no problems. When you have a bad day on the racetrack, you have to put life in perspective and believe there are much bigger issues than just having a bad race car and not starting well. Days like yesterday and then being up all night with Lauren (Kanaan, wife) on the phone, and hearing the baby cry and it was a girl, which deep inside, when you have three boys, you kind of hope for a girl, it’s awesome. I don’t think there’s anything this weekend that can make me upset, but I still want to do a good job for ABC and for A.J. (Foyt, team owner). We rebuilt this team quite a bit and we’ve been suffering quite a bit the last few races with some bad luck. Hopefully, we’re building things up and making us stronger for next year.”
Graham Rahal: “It’s a tight field, so it’s a bad weekend to be off slightly. We need to keep working hard. There are no quick and easy solutions. Everyone is trying awfully hard and we’re just missing it a little bit. The track is slightly different, but in most respects, it’s the same. It’s great to be back. These cars are fast around here, they really scream around this track. If you are watching these things in person or watching the onboard cameras, that comes across. We are hauling the mail; just flying around this place.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “It was kind of a two-speed day. The first practice was pretty good. The Gorilla Automotive Products Honda No. 18 was dialed in from yesterday’s test. Then, it got quite a bit warmer in the afternoon. The track temp was much higher and the whole afternoon session was disjointed – red flags, guys leaving the pits not really paying attention and blocking each other. So, it was difficult to get a real read about the car. We had a decent run on the black (primary) Firestone tires, then on the red (alternate) tires, I just didn’t get a read. We did our fast lap on the reds on Lap 6, which is far too late. My teammate, Santino (Ferrucci) was extremely quick and happy with his car on red tires and I am a little too accustomed to not being super happy on reds. We will have to regroup and analyze the data and see what happens.”
Pietro Fittipaldi: “Today was a tough day for the No. 19 Paysafe crew. We missed the first practice session because we had an issue with the brakes, so we didn’t make it out on track. In the second practice, I think we were good on the black Firestone (primary) tires, within the top 11 or 12. All three Dale Coyne Racing cars had slightly different setups, and when we went on reds (Firestone alternate tires), I didn’t find the grip like my teammates did, but it’s good that we’ll be able to go back and debrief and see what they did different and use it tomorrow.”
Jordan King: “We made good progress again today. On the black (Firestone primary) tires, we were pretty good. We were up there straight away from the start, only a couple of tenths off. We’re getting there, small bits at a time. I am a little annoyed with the run on red (Firestone alternate) tires. More the warmup process, then there’s traffic and you only get one lap before you have to back off. From my side, it wasn’t the best lap in the world, so there’s a couple of tenths still in the car, for sure. I think a lot of people probably had a similar session to that because there’s a lot of good drivers who were down at the back. We’ll probably be a couple of tenths quicker, but we’ll see if everyone goes quicker, as well. I’d say we’re within the window, so it will be interesting tomorrow to see what we can get out of it. Going into qualifying, I have high hopes.”
Spencer Pigot: “We had a fairly decent day. We made some good changes throughout the day. The car we ended with at the end of the second session is the best we had all day, so that’s encouraging. It was really tough to get some clear track out there to validate changes or to put in a good lap. There was so much traffic, it was difficult to get a clear read. Other than that, we did lots of things that made the car better, and hopefully, that trend continues tomorrow.”
Simon Pagenaud: “It’s super tight, but we’ve made big progress on the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet. I’m quite happy with where we are. We don’t have the balance yet to challenge for pole position, but we are right there. We just have to find a way to give it a little more turn. I think we will have plenty of pace, though.”
Charlie Kimball: “From the first lap we ran today, the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet was better than it was yesterday during the test. We worked through a lot on yesterday’s test day and we were able to dig through so much data to come up with a better starting point this morning. Do we still have room to improve? Absolutely, but at the same time we have a solid direction now and we have a really good idea of where we need to go to get stronger throughout the rest of the weekend.”
Zach Veach: “Overall, today was pretty good. I’m a little upset that we didn’t get the most out of our Firestone reds (alternate tires) at the end of the day. I made a small mistake that put us P8 instead of probably in the top three. I think we have a pretty good car and a pretty good chance this weekend, but I need to put it all together.”
Alexander Rossi: ” We made good progress from yesterday to today. We weren’t able to get our fast lap in at the end of the session when we were on reds (Firestone primary tires), which is unfortunate, but I think the car is pretty good. It’s very difficult to pull it all together around here with it being such a short lap. We’re going to have to keep moving forward and stay on top of the conditions, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “Today was just one of those days when absolutely nothing went right, especially during the second session with new red (Firestone alternate) tires. We weren’t able to get a good run on them. Cars kept coming out in front of us on track, and we weren’t able to get our run going or able to do anything with it. I think right now we’re about a P7 car and that’s not going to cut it. We need to go back to the drawing board tonight and make sure the DHL machine has a shot at the pole tomorrow.”
Takuma Sato: “It was a mixed day today. After a good day yesterday where we got more understanding of the car and the track, this morning I felt pretty positive, the car was competitive. We were comfortably in the top 10, there were a lot of 57.8’s, and we were only a couple of tenths off of the leader and that was quite encouraging. The balance was good, too. We tried to improve the balance of the car for this afternoon, and of course, it was in warmer temperatures and a hotter track. The temperature made the car have less grip, but not only that, it didn’t feel as good as this morning. We need to look at the data. Both cars also underperformed on the red (Firestone alternate) tires. Luckily, we have one more day to work on it before the race, so hopefully, tomorrow is a better day. This is a fantastic track. It’s a little road course, but it is quite challenging. You need a lot of commitment. It’s a busy track, especially considering you have two long straights. There are so many corners together. It’s just nonstop, constant work. It’s a great track. We had a good autograph session today. There were so many fans here and they were so enthusiastic that INDYCAR is back. It’s a great venue and it’s so close to downtown, which has great food and a great atmosphere.”
Alfonso Celis Jr: “Today we learned a lot. We have some things to work on and figure out for tomorrow. We will go back and analyze the data and make some decisions for our setup. I look forward to improving in qualifying tomorrow.”
Santino Ferrucci: “I can’t thank Dale (Coyne) enough for giving me this opportunity. The team has done a great job preparing the No. 39 Cly-Del car. They’ve been working really hard the past couple of weeks because it’s been back-to-back-to-back. I’m very happy with how today went. We were really quick on the Firestone red (alternate) tires, but on the blacks (Firestone primary tires), there’s still some work to do.” (About his thoughts on the track): “Learning the track has been a bit of a challenge, but it’s been nice to have Sebastien (Bourdais), who coached me, with which lines to take. The track is also really challenging because you have so many people on track within a short distance, plus it’s a really quick track and extracting every little hundredth and thousandth of a second that you can is making the difference here. I can’t thank the guys enough, they’ve given me a really good car so far, and hopefully, we can keep going in that direction the rest of the weekend.”
Max Chilton: “We made a big step forward overnight after our test day here yesterday. It might not necessarily show in the timing sheets after that last practice session, because the reds (Firestone alternate tires) just come in so quick, and we caught traffic when I was on my quick laps. I’m not exactly sure where we are with the red tires, but I think we’re better than where the timing sheets are showing us position-wise. Like I said though, we made a pretty sizable change on the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet after yesterday and I think it’s probably one that we should’ve done all year. I feel like we’re in a better position than we’d originally thought we’d be. With how short of a lap it is here, everything is critical and it’s all very close.”
Jack Harvey: “Honestly, I think we have been quite OK since we got here. That last session we hovered around 10th and then ended the day P5. The track is awesome, I can’t believe we haven’t raced here in so long. Portland, the city, has been good fun as well. There are just a lot of positive vibes around us right now. I try not to get too carried away, but it is nice to take the time and enjoy the result. The whole team has done a great job, and we have consistently improved and we will try and do the same tomorrow.
Gabby Chaves: “Productive day, we made some good changes and ended the day with a solid run of seventh. Very happy with that, so looking forward to practice and qualifying tomorrow. I’ll try to do a really good job at nailing a quick lap time. The field is so tight that it’s going to be really important to make sure we hit everything as perfect as we can to execute a perfect lap in qualifying.”
Marco Andretti: “We’ve been in the top four all weekend and the car is particularly good on reds (Firestone alternate tires). I think we can still make a small improvement, but I think we have enough to make it into the Firestone Fast Six tomorrow. We’ve been guessing correctly with the balance between the blacks (Firestone primary tires) and reds, and that makes it fun for me because we’re kind of hitting it on both compounds, and I think if we follow the track correctly, we can have a shot at pole.”