09-24-2023  12:54 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
Alex Palou at Portland International Raceway (Photo courtesy Indycar)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 31 August 2023

Championship chases across multiple series will be decided at Portland International Raceway (PIR) this weekend at the BitNile.com Grand Prix of Portland, Sept. 1-3. The NTT IndyCar Series title is likely one of them as points leader Alex Palou brings a 74-point lead into the season’s penultimate race in the Rose City. 

With two races remaining, only two NTT IndyCar Series drivers are still eligible to win the Astor Cup awarded to the season champion - Palou and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon. Palou, the pilot of the No. 10 Honda, has won at Portland before, taking the checkered flag at the 2021 Grand Prix of Portland, a victory that propelled him to claim the 2021 IndyCar title. On Sunday, the 26-year old Spaniard can clinch his second series championship if he holds at least a 55-point advantage in the standings at the conclusion of the 110-lap Grand Prix of Portland.

"We’ve won at Portland before and I also got my first IndyCar pole there, so it is a special place,” said Palou.

“The team is looking good for the championship, and we know that it will stay within the team, which is the most important thing. We have a chance to win it and seal the title there, so hopefully we can bring it home early.”

pir indy fullAlex Palou in the No. 10 Honda at Grand Prix of Portland in 2021 (Photo courtesy IndyCar)
Even though Palou holds a sizable points lead heading into the weekend, Dixon, a six-time series champion, is making a late-season charge. The legendary veteran, second on the all-time IndyCar wins list (55 wins), has won two races in a row at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then at World Wide Technology Raceway outside of St. Louis to keep his championship hopes alive.

“I think the 10 car (Palou) has had an almost perfect season and kudos to everybody on the 10-car side. They’ve done everything right,” said Dixon. “On the days they may have struggled for pace, they were able to sort that out with strategy in the race. They’ve really just had no bad days. When people have those years, it can be a bit hard to watch for other competitors in the field, but I’ve been in that place where anything you kind of touch just turns to gold or goes in the direction you want it to. I think what is very special is, going into the last two races, to only have a Ganassi driver able to win the championship. It’s very cool and very, very good for this team.”

Though eliminated from title contention, Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin will also jockey for position in the standings as the season heads to the finish line. Newgarden, a four-time winner in 2023 including the Indianapolis 500, sits third in the standings, and McLaughlin, the defending Portland race winner, comes in at fifth. Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward, currently in fourth position, is looking for his first victory of the year.

“I would like to have some of the luck he (Palou) has had. If he could rub some of that off on me, that would be fantastic,” said McLaughlin.

“He gets the opportunities, and he takes them. You can’t be angry about that.

"You’ve just got to work harder and be better.”

Drivers from the three top open-wheel development series that feed into the series will also be battling for championships at PIR on Labor Day weekend. With three races left, Indy NXT by Firestone points leader Christian Rasmussen takes a 50-point advantage over Andretti Autosport’s Hunter McElrea. Champions will be crowned and scholarship funds awarded in USF Pro 2000. The U.S. Touring Car Championship will also add exciting sports car action to the weekend lineup.

Prior to the race weekend, fans are welcome to attend the kickoff party on Thursday, Aug. 31 from 5-7:30 p.m. at Kenton Station Restaurant & Pub at 8303 N. Denver Ave. IndyCar drivers Agustin Canapino, Callum Ilott, Benjamin Pedersen, Felix Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi, plus additional drivers from support series will be on site at select times to sign autographs and mingle with fans.

For all ticket pricing and additional festival information, visit raceportland.com.

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