The Portland start in 1996. Photo: Getty Images

Green Savoree Racing Promotions to lead Portland IndyCar return

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The announcement of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Portland International Raceway next year comes in a partnership with Green Savoree Racing Promotions, which serves as promoter of three other events on the IndyCar calendar (the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the Honda Indy Toronto, and the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course).

The Portland event will be the fourth one that the Indianapolis-based GSRP operation will be in charge of, and one they are more than happy to take on. It is a three-year deal through 2020.

“Indy car fans in Portland and the Pacific Northwest have waited a long time for this day,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and chief operating officer of Green Savoree Racing Promotions, of the series’ return to the 1.967-mile road course.

“Thank you to Mayor (Ted) Wheeler, (Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz) and their teams at the City of Portland and INDYCAR for joining together to help us make this happen. Our due diligence proved without any doubt that it was time to bring a race back to Portland International Raceway. With a population of well over two million, the Scarborough research showed the Portland market as the number one target for a Verizon IndyCar Series race. It has a high concentration of Indy car fans as well as being a popular choice for existing partners already involved with the sport.”

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles explained how Green Savoree was selected over a roughly two-year process.

“I think the process started from an IndyCar perspective at least two years ago. In some respects, back to when I first got involved as a board member. You know that we had some consultants help us think about how to grow the series. They helped us focus on what many of you take for granted, I think, the need for geographic balance around the country,” Miles said.

“So we’ve been thinking about the Pacific Northwest for a while, and in earnest Stephen (Starks, of INDYCAR) started a process to reach out and make opportunities for new events known, especially in this region. Between ourselves and other prospective promoters and Green Savoree, I know four or five major cities in this part of the country and Canada where discussions and diligence occurred. In the end, it’s just coming back to Portland.”

Mayor Wheeler detailed that his own memories as a racing fan date back to attending the Indianapolis 500 as a young boy, and that the city of Portland can expect a lot of benefits from fielding an IndyCar event.

“As a young man, I had the opportunity to attend the Indy 500,” Mayor Wheeler recalled. “I remember well the excitement and thrills that INDYCAR racing bring to a city and to race spectators. The return of INDYCAR racing to Portland will give us terrific international exposure, a great deal of revenue, new jobs, and an exciting experience for race fans.”

Portland Parks Commissioner Fritz echoed those sentiments, even getting into specific numbers regarding the potential impact of the race. “An event of this magnitude means $12-$15 million in revenue to the City, scores of jobs, and an exciting weekend of racing with new cars using clean-burning ethanol for fuel. Portland International Raceway continues to be an integral part of the City’s recreation portfolio,” she detailed.

The Verizon IndyCar Series’ Grand Prix of Portland is scheduled for September 2, 2018. The last open wheel event held at the venue was in 2007, with Sebastien Bourdais taking the victory.

Miles addressed potential track improvements and the push to find a title sponsor for this race.

“They’ve made some investments. I think Graham (Rahal) referred to some improvements in a group of turns. I’m going to see it for the first time this afternoon, but sounds like it’s five, six, seven. They’ll do some other things to improve fencing and tire walls and the like. None of that is major.

“Those will be the responsibilities of the promoter, which they came in here and ‘kicked the tires’ is a pun, but literally looked at everything and committed themselves to those more minor modifications that need to be made.

“As to a title sponsor, they’re already on that. A lot of great companies out here. I’m sure that’s a very high priority for them.”

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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.