Race Weekend Central

Reconstructing the IndyCar Portland Start Calamity

Sunday’s (Sept. 12th) Grand Prix of Portland started the way the last two NTT IndyCar Series races have started at Portland International Raceway: with an incident in the Festival Chicane. With numerous cars having damage from all of the incidents and others scattering all over the place, it’s worth looking at the sequence of events that took place over the few seconds in time that chaos reigned at IndyCar’s lone stop in the Pacific Northwest.

As the 27 car field headed to the right-left-right that is the first chicane complex, Felix Rosenqvist had the first contact with Scott Dixon, sending Dixon further alongside Alex Palou. That forces the Chip Ganassi Racing teammates to use the runoff area inside the chicane while Rosenqvist goes straight on toward the styrofoam blocks, not attempting to make the chicane. Alexander Rossi started second and started to follow the chicane path but bailed, following Dixon and Palou instead.

A couple of things happened here to note. While Rosenqvist did tag Dixon from behind, Dixon had tried to overtake Palou on the inside in a disappearing pit exit lane, causing the six-time IndyCar champion to hit the brakes early, maybe a bit unexpectedly for Rosenqvist. Dixon’s added speed from the contact meant he was unable to slow his car down enough for the first chicane, and with Dixon on Palou’s inside going into the right hander, Palou had no chance to even attempt to turn into the corner.

Moving further back in the field, a lot of things happened simultaneously, so let’s handle them from the front of the pack and work our way backward. Oliver Askew made what looked like a good pass on Ed Jones and Colton Herta, but the 2019 Indy Lights champion spun on his own after his car got unsettled over the turn 1 curbing. Askew spun his car back around to get going but stalled.

Further back in the field, James Hinchcliffe locked up his brakes trying to avoid Sebastien Bourdais. However, Romain Grosjean then missed his braking point entirely, going around Conor Daly, Will Power, Scott McLaughlin, Helio Castroneves, Jack Harvey and Josef Newgarden to hit the right side of Hinchcliffe’s car. The No. 29 Andretti Autosport Honda went back to the pits and was unable to continue in the race, having completed only one lap.

Callum Ilott was the next driver involved in the incident. Ilott closed quickly on McLaughlin, hitting the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet in the right rear. Ilott corrected his car’s trajectory to the left to avoid hitting the inside wall, but in the process he drove into Castroneves and Power, causing both to stop and stall their cars. To avoid these cars, Newgarden took the escape road Daly and the rest of the frontrunners did.

Four cars remained stalled at turn 1. Power finished 13th but Grosjean and Castroneves would continue several laps down after repairs, finishing 22nd and 23rd, respectively. Askew would finish 24th after contact from Bourdais sent the Floridian into a spin. Following the spin, Askew could not get the car back in gear to continue.

See also
Alex Palou Wins in Portland, Retakes IndyCar Point Lead

Because of the first corner incidents, a number of drivers did not go over the timing lines that INDYCAR had in the track during the chicane. INDYCAR said that if an incident occurred at the first corner that priority in the running order would go to drivers that had tripped both timing lines on the race track followed by drivers that took to the runoff and then drivers that were involved in the incidents.

Palou, Rossi, Dixon, Rosenqvist, Daly, Herta, Newgarden and Power were ordered behind the rest of the field as they did not trip the timing lines on the race track. All of those except for Newgarden made their first pit stop under yellow and on the restart lined up with Newgarden in 16th leading Palou, Dixon, Rosenqvist, Rossi, Daly, Herta, Askew and Power.

The decision to pit helped lead the way for Palou to claim his third IndyCar win of the season ahead of Rossi and Dixon. By winning, Palou has retaken the lead of the championship by 25 points over Pato O’Ward. The next IndyCar race is the Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway on September 19th at 3:00 p.m. ET.

About the author

Christopher DeHarde has covered IndyCar racing and the Road to Indy for various outlets since 2014. In addition to open wheel racing, DeHarde has also covered IMSA and various short track racing events around Indiana. Originally from New Orleans, DeHarde moved to the Indianapolis area in 2017 to further pursue a career as a motorsports writer.

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Tom B

It should of been red flagged and a complete restart, for the sake of the fans and the racing show integrity. Also an open red so they could work on the cars. Penalizing drivers and teams doesn’t make a good show for the spectators. We all are entitled to a do over, Tonya Harding.

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