IndyCar setup sheet: Grand Prix of Portland

What: Grand Prix  / Race 16 of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series

Where: Portland International Raceway, Portland, Ore. – 1.964-mile natural-terrain road course

When: Sunday, Sept. 3, 3:00pm ET (race starts 3:30pm ET)

When topline U.S. open-wheel racing returned to Portland International Raceway in 2018, after a 10-year absence, it was a relief that a) the NTT IndyCar Series had a race in the Pacific Northwest, and b) that a track so eminently suitable for the series had found a way to make it work, thanks to the foresight from Green Savoree, the promotions company that also brings you St. Petersburg, Toronto and Mid-Ohio.


This will be the 29th time that IndyCars have raced on the Oregon road course, and the basic layout hasn’t changed much. It’s still a track that demands low drag thanks to its long pit straight and back straight (which, in reality, is a long, gentle curve).

But the handling dynamics of the car are also important. Once past the difficult chicane that forms Turns 1-2-3, the track’s curves demand a neutral car for maximum speed. An understeering car in Turn 4 will put a driver progressively offline all the way through to the exit of Turn 7 if they try to maintain their pace, but ease off the throttle too much and tire scrub will slow them down significantly. Understeer can only be made to work coming out of the final turn as the entry onto the pit straight is wide and allows the driver to get the throttle down early.

The current-season statistics might suggest that Honda power will be an advantage in Portland: Chevrolet cars have yet to take a pole on a road or street course this year, and all but one of the Bowtie contingent’s five victories have been on ovals. However, Honda’s apparent torque advantage – believed to be worth 0.2s per lap on some tracks – should be less apparent here. That’s because the aforementioned final turn means the drivers can be hard on the power early and the corner sequence at the other end of the track is about flow, while keeping the engine in its power band. Only when nursing worn tires on corner exits will the HPD cars have a possible edge.

So, despite those two straights, a great handling setup is the predominant factor here. Honda-powered Chip Ganassi Racing Honda had it in 2021 and Chevy-motivated Team Penske in 2022 (below, ’22 polesitter and race winner Scott McLaughlin).

This year? Right now, it’s anybody’s guess, and that adds an extra frisson of excitement to the championship battle, which was confirmed as an all-Ganassi affair when Scott Dixon won at World Wide Technology Raceway last weekend, points leader Alex Palou finished seventh, and Penske’s Josef Newgarden was eliminated from title contention after being classified 25th for the second consecutive race.

Palou starts the race with a 74-point advantage over Dixon, but it’s doubtful that any of their rivals care much about the title battle – in fact, they’re likely to feel unleashed, a tad more gung-ho, as they no longer have to think big picture. Those 110 laps of this 12-turn, 1.964-mile course will be full of tension for Chip’s championship challengers, but full of excitement for the others – and for us.

You can follow all the practice and qualifying action from Portland on Peacock on Friday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 2, with NBC your go-to location for 216.04 miles of race action on Sunday, Sept. 3. And to get even closer to it all, grab the best seat in the house with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA and its 14 race day live onboard cameras.


Friday, Sept. 1 / 6.00pm – 7.15pm ET – Practice 1 – Peacock

Saturday, Sept. 2 / Noon – 1:00pm ET – Practice 2 – Peacock

Saturday, Sept. 2 / 3:30pm – 5:00pm ET – Qualifying – Peacock

Saturday, Sept. 2 / 8:15pm – 8:45pm ET – Practice 3 – Peacock

Sunday, Sept. 3 / 3:00pm – 6:00pm ET – RACE – NBC, Peacock

* All sessions and the race are also available as audio commentary on SiriusXM and INDYCAR Radio.

Ride along with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA

Taking you inside the action, 14 drivers will be carrying in-car cameras. During the race, you can live-stream every one of them with the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA. You choose who you ride along with, and you can switch drivers at any time. The App’s free to download for fans worldwide and you can find out more HERE. If you’re not already onboard, take your viewing experience to a whole new level HERE.

Bringing you the onboard action from the Grand Prix of Portland are…

Scott McLaughlin / No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet
The defending polesitter and race winner is doubtless one of the favorites going into the weekend in Oregon. He’s fighting hard to be top Team Penske driver in the championship and is now only 14 points behind his teammate and Bus Bros buddy Josef Newgarden. In fact, he’s closer to fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon in the standings than the latter is to points leader Alex Palou. If the car’s on the pace, expect another podium at the minimum.

Pato O’Ward / No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

O’Ward, currently fourth in the championship, scored two wins at Portland in his brilliant Indy Lights campaign back in 2018, but since graduating to the big cars, his fortunes here have been relatively poor. He led several laps in 2021 while the faster Ganassi cars were still storming through from the back, but ended up 14th after strategic mishaps, and last year he was penalized for blocking Dixon and was dropped to fourth (below).

Colton Herta / No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

Another driver whose best Portland result is fourth, Herta can at least console himself with the thought that he snatched his second ever NTT IndyCar Series pole here in his rookie season of 2019. Finding satisfaction this season on race days has been harder – just one podium for the No. 26 machine – but there are reasons to be optimistic. Andretti Autosport has taken pole at three of the road course events held this year.

Alexander Rossi / No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Rossi has looked very strong around Portland in years past – two podium finishes included – and he may prove extremely helpful in bringing Arrow McLaren fresh perspective from his seasons spent at Andretti Autosport. He also shows bravery and good judgment when it comes to outbraking maneuvers into Turn 1, not letting himself be intimidated by those who squeeze him to the inside or crowd him to the outside. That could prove crucial.

Will Power / No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet
The Portland track holds a special place in Power’s heart. It was here where he first tested an IndyCar in 2005 and convinced Derrick Walker that he would be a great addition to Team Australia/Walker Racing in CART. On the NTT IndyCar Series’ return in 2018, he grabbed pole position with a lap record; the following year he clinched victory, and last year he finished just 1.2s shy of winner McLaughlin. The reigning champ (below) has yet to win in 2023, but could that change this weekend?

Christian Lundgaard
/ No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Lundgaard has become someone we expect to see near the front of the pack on road and street courses – that’s a credit to him and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team – and he could be a potential winner this weekend. Last year at Portland, the Dane qualified fourth and was a real thorn in the side to the otherwise dominant Penske team, with only an inferior pitstop and a rare error preventing a podium finish.

Romain Grosjean / No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda

Knowing how much the front wheels are gripping is crucial for speed around Portland, so we’ve yet to see the best of RoGro at this track as he struggled to get good steering feel in his first two years of IndyCar (the breakthrough not coming until Laguna Seca last year). Reaching Q2 will be refreshing for the F1 veteran, and matching his Andretti teammates would be considered a big step forward.

Kyle Kirkwood / No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

A driver who amassed five wins here on the Road To Indy ladder – including arguably his greatest drive in Indy Lights (now Indy NXT) – Kirkwood should arrive in confident frame of mind. But the two-time NTT IndyCar Series race winner definitely needs to add a Portland podium to his achievements this year if he’s to stand a chance of vaulting from 11th to a more representative top-10 in the points race before the season is out.

Graham Rahal / No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Given Lundgaard’s pace here last year and the fact that RLL managed to win here with Takuma Sato (albeit on strategy) back in 2018, plus the team’s ongoing revival in 2023, Graham Rahal should be a contender. Pole position on the Indy road course a couple of races ago has re-convinced him he can get the job done in both qualifying and the race, and to hell with his natural weight disadvantage. He was fifth in Portland last year (below) and will be looking to better that this time around.

Felix Rosenqvist / No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Portland is one of several venues where Rosenqvist has shown he can match friend and teammate O’Ward for pace, so expect a strong weekend from the Swede who finished runner-up here in 2019 in his rookie season with Ganassi. One trait on which we can rely is that he will remain impervious to the speculation surrounding his future at Arrow McLaren, and will instead run hard while trying to dodge his usual bad luck.

Ryan Hunter-Reay / No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

A former runner-up here, this year Hunter-Reay will consider it an achievement if he can outpace his teammate Rinus VeeKay, who was spectacular here in Indy Lights, but has yet to find a strong Portland setup in an Ed Carpenter Racing IndyCar. Can RHR help? That’s been the idea since he took over the No. 20 car from Conor Daly, but the progress is not (yet) obvious.

Agustin Canapino / No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet

Having outqualified teammate Callum Ilott on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, Canapino can hopefully show similar form this weekend. However, JHR’s giant-killing days are looking evermore distant so the chances of getting through to Q2, for example, appear somewhat remote for the Argentinian rookie.

Tom Blomqvist / No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda

The reigning IMSA champion’s second start in the NTT IndyCar Series will make for a fascinating study, not only because it will provide Meyer Shank Racing with a form guide for his full rookie season in 2024, but also because his predecessor in this seat, the Chip Ganassi Racing-bound Linus Lundqvist, set an extremely high bar. MSR teammate Helio Castroneves – his future boss! – will also provide a good yardstick. And hopefully Blomqvist’s second IndyCar race will last longer than his first in Toronto.

Juri Vips / No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

It’s not unreasonable to expect a lot of the 23-year-old Estonian making his series debut this weekend. He shone in testing for RLL at both Sebring and Barber Motorsports Park, so he has a good feel for the car already, and his resume suggests he can win on any type of track. Teaming with another ex-F2 driver, Lundgaard, can only help, and with the RLL cars’ increasing pace, we’re thinking a Q2 appearance is on the cards. What happens thereafter will rather depend on what happens at that tricky chicane on the opening lap…

The INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA is free to download and access, so don’t miss out – CLICK HERE to get started.

Story originally appeared on Racer