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Five things to watch for during Grand Prix of Portland

JGS_2018-PORTLAND-189181-1 Sato win at Portland

Joe Skibinski

Long one of its staples when the CART series sanctioned races, Portland International Raceway did not host a NTT IndyCar race until last year. That makes this race a bit of an unknown entity and adds some drama to the points battle between Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud (38 points behind) and Alexander Rossi (-46).

With the ovals in the rearview mirror, IndyCar heads to consecutive road courses to end the season the way it began: with twists and turns.

Here are some of the storylines to watch this Sunday:

  1. Last week’s victory for Takuma Sato on the oval must have felt like vindication after his involvement in the Lap 1 crash at Pocono. Coupled with his win at Barber Motorsports Park, it marks the first time in his IndyCar career that Sato has won two races in a season. It might not end there. Sato is also the defending winner of last year’s race at Portland.
  2. Scott Dixon’s retirement on Lap 136 cost him 18 points to the leader in a race that should have allowed him to make up ground if Newgarden stumbled ever so slightly. Dixon entered Gateway with top-fives in his last two starts there. Newgarden did his part with a modest seventh-place showing, but Dixon finished 20th in the 22-car field. With eight top-fives in 10 races on road and street courses, Dixon should rebound this week, but it may be too late now that he is 70 points behind.
  3. Still looking for his first win of the season, Sebastien Bourdais may have an advantage this week. Bourdais won twice on this track in 2004 and 2007 when it was sanctioned by CART.
  4. Graham Rahal’s mechanical issues at Gateway snapped an eight-race streak of top-10 finishes while Pagenaud’s fifth gives him the longest current active streak of seven. That fifth-place finish in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 also kept Pagenaud’s perfect record of top-10s on ovals for the past two years intact.
  5. The short track of Gateway provided a shot of confidence for several drivers. In addition to Sato, who ended a seven-race skid of results outside the top five, Ed Carpenter’s second-place finish was his first top-five of the year. Tony Kanaan also earned his first top-five also with a third-place finish.

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