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IndyCar confirms tweaked 2018 slate with Portland added

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What appeared to be the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule ahead of a new season was meant to feature a large degree of normality and predictability, as most of its 2018 dates were already been released by the tracks themselves or by other series racing on those weekends.

And then the last few weeks since the 2017 season finale in Sonoma happened.

The penultimate round in 2017, Watkins Glen International and the much-discussed potential revived race in Mexico aren’t going to be part of the 2018 calendar and a race that, like Mexico, last appeared on an North American open-wheel calendar in 2007 – Portland – now is instead.

Watkins Glen’s Labor Day date didn’t prove a viable date for either the picturesque upstate New York road course or INDYCAR, and Portland’s addition has come on at the relatively last-minute. The track posted a statement about a half an hour before the official release.

With Portland added, Watkins Glen dropped and Mexico not revived, the schedule will remain at 17 races next year, as there will be 16 holdovers from this year’s calendar.

PORTLAND, OR – JUNE 09: Graham Rahal drives his #2 Medizone Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Cosworth Panoz during practice for the Champ Car World Series Mazda Grand Prix of Portland on June 9, 2007 at Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Portland joins the trio of Phoenix International Raceway (to be called ISM Raceway in 2018) Road America and Gateway Motorsports Park as revived venues IndyCar has added in recent years. Green Savoree Racing Promotions will promote the Portland race on the 1.967-mile road course, adding this event to its other three at St. Petersburg, Toronto and Mid-Ohio.

Of course now Watkins Glen, which was the 2016 schedule savior following Boston’s cancellation, is now the 2018 calendar casualty, and Portland slots in on the same weekend of Labor Day, Sept. 2.

“The strength and consistency of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ 2018 schedule is something all of us should be proud of,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series. “We’re also looking forward to continuing the upward trend of the series through the introduction of the universal aero kits, which testing has shown to be an exciting product.”

Beyond that, the rest of the schedule will be status quo from 2017 save for a couple expected different dates and starting times. The broadcast schedule on NBCSN, ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network will be released at a later date.

Official track activities for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season begin with two days of open testing at Phoenix Raceway on Feb. 9-10.

After the St. Petersburg season opener on March 11, April gets busy as Phoenix moves back ahead of Long Beach to create a two-week West Coast swing, and then a week after Long Beach the series goes to Barber Motorsports Park.

The month of May stays the same with the Indianapolis Grand Prix on Saturday, May 12, Indianapolis 500 qualifying the following week and the 102nd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27.

The grueling doubleheader at Belle Isle Park in Detroit follows for the first week of June, with Texas Motor Speedway a week later before the series’ first off weekend since the IMS road course race.

The now-traditional trip to Road America comes a week after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which again allows any drivers who’d be able to secure a ride for the endurance classic a chance to do so.

After another week off, the three race-in-four weeks stretch of Iowa, Toronto and Mid-Ohio will be a critical stretch in the championship chase, and will build up to the final portion of the season with Pocono, Gateway and now Portland all in a row.

Sonoma, on September 16, will close the season for the fourth straight year. Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and now Josef Newgarden have been the three drivers to hoist the Astor Cup there.

Miles and driver Graham Rahal (pictured top in his 2007 rookie year, in MediZone Champ Car) will be on to discuss the calendar in a conference call later today.

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series race schedule, by venue, is as follows:

  • March 11 – Streets of St. Petersburg
  • April 7 – Phoenix Raceway
  • April 15 – Streets of Long Beach
  • April 22 – Barber Motorsports Park
  • May 12 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course
  • May 27 – Indianapolis 500
  • June 2-3 – Raceway at Belle Isle Park
  • June 9 – Texas Motor Speedway
  • June 24 – Road America
  • July 8 – Iowa Speedway
  • July 15 – Streets of Toronto
  • July 29 – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
  • Aug. 19 – Pocono Raceway
  • Aug. 25 – Gateway Motorsports Park
  • Sept. 2 – Portland International Raceway
  • Sept. 16 – Sonoma Raceway

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.