Green Savoree Racing Promotions to lead Portland IndyCar return

The Portland start in 1996. Photo: Getty Images
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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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The road to the 2023 Daytona 500 is not paved for Travis Pastrana, he’ll attempt the DIRTcar Nationals

Pastrana DIRTcar Nationals
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.

In mid-January, it was announced Pastrana will attempt to qualify a third car from 23XI Racing that fields fulltime entries for Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Sponsorship will come from Black Rifle Coffee, who approached him during the offseason to ask what kind of “really cool stuff” he would like to do. Pastrana replied, “the Daytona 500” with a characteristic laugh in his voice.

“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”

But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.

After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.

Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”

The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.

And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.

While Pastrana is accustomed pitching his car sideways on a combination of left and right turns in a rally car – he won the Nitro Rallycross race at ERX Motorsports Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October and became the first two-time winner in the 2022/23 season at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona in November – the DIRTcar Nationals will be an entirely different proposition.

It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.

“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”

Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.

Travis Pastrana will race one of Steve Arpin’s dirt modifieds during Florida Speedweeks as he prepares for the 2023 Daytona 500. – Jacy Norgaard, World Racing Group

The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.

“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”

And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.

“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.