The predecessors of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires series have made 14 previous starts at the Portland International Raceway natural terrain road course, but this is the first appearance at the Oregon circuit since 2001 for the top level of the American Open Wheel Ladder.
Tommy Byrne won the first race in 1988, with familiar names Paul Tracy, Eric Bachelart, Andre Ribeiro and Greg Moore winning on the track just south of the Colombia River.
You can watch that 1988 race here:
Two drivers, Patricio O’Ward (Andretti Autosport) and Colton Herta (Andretti Steinbrenner Racing) still have a shot at collecting the $1 million advancement scholarship that guarantees a driver at least three Verizon IndyCar Series races. That includes a chance to qualify for 103rd Indianapolis 500.
Tale of the Indy Lights Championship Tape
|PATRICIO O’WARD||COLTON HERTA|
|Monterey, Mexico||BORN||Valencia, Calif.|
|San Antonio, Texas||LIVES||Valencia, Calif.|
|338||2018 LAPS LED||121|
|16||2018 BONUS POINTS||6|
|2.8||2018 AVG. QUICK RACE LAP||2.6|
|99.8%||2018 % OF LAPS COMPLETED||87.2%|
|19||INDY LIGHTS STARTS||31|
|7||INDY LIGHTS WINS||6|
|8||INDY LIGHTS POLES||19|
|12||INDY LIGHTS PODIUMS||19|
In Patricio’s words:
“This is my first time racing at Portland, so I’m looking forward to getting on track and learning the track as quickly as I can. I’m ready to battle it out for the championship the last two rounds of the season and finish on top with a couple of wins
In Colton’s words:
“It’s a bittersweet feeling that the season is coming to an end, but I’m really excited to race on a new track, and finally fight for the championship. I had my first IndyCar test at this track a few weeks ago, and I really loved the track. It’s a short turnaround between race weekends, but I’m already looking forward to getting back into the car.”
Is the points race over?
Unlike the USF2000 and Pro Mazda fights, not quite yet. O’Ward has a comfortable 428-403 advantage over his teammate Herta, but there is still hope for the second-generation driver.
The simplest way for O’Ward to clinch the title is to outscore Herta in Race #1 on Saturday afternoon. If the Monterey, Mexico native can accomplish that, he doesn’t even need to start on Sunday to be crowned the champion.
If O’Ward fails to start Sunday’s Race #2, he will need a 25-point lead after Saturday, and taking the green flag on Sunday reduces that to needing a 19-point lead.
So what happens if Andretti Steinbrenner Racing’s Herta wins both races and scores max points?
A pair of wins from pole while leading the most laps would give Herta a final points tally of 467. O’Ward enters the weekend with 428 points meaning a max points weekend by Herta would require O’Ward to grab 40 points over the pair of races. Two fourth place finishes would not get the job done, but a third and fourth place finish would.
Avoiding trouble, especially on the first lap will be a key to collecting a podium finish. There have been a total of 23 cautions in the 14 Indy Lights races at Portland International Raceway, and only three of those have been caution free. Nine of the 14 Indy Lights races at the circuit has had a first lap caution.
Herta has one very slight advantage.
The Andretti Steinbrenner Racing driver has been a little bit better on natural terrain road courses collecting three wins and finishing on the podium in all eight races, giving him a slight eight-point advantage over O’Ward.
With four wins and six podiums, O’Ward has been no slouch on the natural terrain road courses himself. The only bobble came at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in May where he started on pole in both races but finished fourth and seventh.
Battles for fourth and sixth.
Ryan Norman and Victor Franzoni have been on different trajectories over the past five races. Norman’s exciting win a few days ago at Gateway Motorsports Park moved the 20-year-old ahead of Franzoni and into fourth place for the first time this season.
“I’m still feeling great after my first win at Gateway, and I can’t wait to keep that same momentum moving forward to Portland,” explained the first time winner Norman. “I have been studying the track a lot with my engineer, and I’ll be looking to close out the season with another win.”
Outside of points leader O’Ward, Norman has been the hottest driver in the last five races. Conversely, Franzoni has scored the fewest points since Iowa.
Belardi Auto Racing sophomore Aaron Telitz is a slim five points ahead of Andretti Autosport veteran Dalton Kellett for sixth place in the championship. Telitz, who won two Indy Lights races last year has four podiums in 2018.
One last chance to impress.
Whether a driver is looking to move up to the Verizon IndyCar Series, return to Indy Lights next year, or possibly continue their racing career elsewhere, ending the season on a high note is the goal.
Belardi Auto Racing duo Santi Urrutia and Aaron Telitz have not had the season they expected when the first practice began at St. Petersburg in March, but a win this weekend means they leave the season with positive momentum.
Chalk one up for Andretti Autosport.
Andretti Autosport has scored the maximum 40 team points in eight of the first fifteen Indy Lights races of 2018. The four-car squad has an insurmountable 140 point advantage over Belardi Auto Racing headed to the final doubleheader of the year.
Andretti Autosport is the fourth different team to take home the team championship prize following Belardi Auto Racing in 2017, Carlin in 2016 and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2015.
The 2018 crown is the first team championship for the Indianapolis based squad since 2009 and their third in the last decade (2008, 2009, 2018).
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires team points
|2||Belardi Auto Racing||400|
South Korean driver Heamin Choi will be returning to the Indy Lights doubleheader to end the season for the third time in four years. Choi made seven Indy Lights starts with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in 2015 and 2016. Choi who has also made USF2000 and Pro Mazda starts will be driving the No. 7 for Juncos Racing, the team he tested with at the 2017 edition of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test.
- Much like Indy car at Portland International Raceway, Indy Lights has also had some close finishes. Eight of the 14 races have been decided by less than one second. Only Paul Tracy (1990), Eric Bachelart (1991) and Greg Moore (1995) are Portland race winners that have gone on to take the championship, providing proof of the unpredictable nature of Portland International Raceway.
- Headed to the final two races, Ryan Norman is the only driver to have completed all 585 laps contested.
- Frank Freon and Tommy Byrne are the two most successful Indy Lights drivers at Portland International Raceway. Freon has two wins and three podiums in three starts for three different teams. Byrne made five starts on the Rose City street circuit, winning twice and finishing on the podium in another event.
- Belardi Auto Racing duo Aaron Telitz and Santi Urrutia both need one podium to keep their career Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires podium percentage about 50% – an incredible accomplishment.