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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

Latest INDYCAR Aeroscreen test continues to provide feedback; data to series

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After completing its third Aeroscreen test since October 2, INDYCAR continues to collect valuable data and feedback from the drivers and engineers involved in testing.

The latest test of the Aeroscreen came Tuesday, October 15 at Richmond Raceway, a .750-mile short oval. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been involved in testing dating all the way back to 2017 at Phoenix with the original “Windscreen.” Tuesday’s test was the first-time two-time NTT IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was able to test the device that partially encloses the cockpit proving greatly enhanced driver safety.

It was also the first time the current “Aeroscreen” designed and created by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and Dallara has been tested at a short oval – a track that measures under 1.5-miles in length.

The previous tests were at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and the Barber Motorsports Park road course on October 7.

“It wasn’t a problem getting in the car today and relearning a new viewpoint,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com at the conclusion of Tuesday’s test. “It felt like a new viewpoint. It’s still an Indy car. It still feels like an Indy car. The car does a lot of the things it did before. It required some slight tuning differences to accommodate a different center of gravity and different total weight.

“Overall, it still felt like the same Indy car I drove three weeks ago. You get used to that new viewpoint within 30 or 40 laps. It was alien at first but halfway through the day it feels like home again.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske test team along with INDYCAR officials worked on changes to getting air into the cockpit and directing the air to the right place where the driver can utilize it.

“We’ve come up with some solutions that we like,” Newgarden said. “INDYCAR and the teams will continue to fine-tune this. That is why we are doing these tests. The main goal was to figure this out and fine-tune this stuff. We have come up with a lot of good solutions to all of the little things we have talked about that we have needed so when Sebastien Bourdais goes to Sebring (on November 5), it will just be another version.

“We are already close. Because they are such small details, it feels like normal racing stuff and we will come up with solutions for that.”

Some drivers who have participated in the Aeroscreen test has said, they almost feel naked without having the halo-like structure with a clear windshield protecting them on the race car.

“Once we got through a whole IndyCar season, if you took it off, it would feel really strange,” Newgarden said. “People adapt so quickly to a change, what the car looks like. Once you give us a couple of races and a full year, it will feel like home and something we are very used to as drivers.

“It is already starting to get that way. People are feeling more comfortable with it. The field of view is almost identical to the way it was before. Your peripheral vision is identical, the way you look out the front of the cars is identical, the way you see the tires is identical.”

Individual driver preference will allow for shading of the sun and that can be accomplished with the visor strips on the helmet and the tear-offs on Aeroscreen.

Drivers will also have a bit of a quieter atmosphere inside the cockpit. The partial enclosure makes it easier to hear his radio communication and the sounds of the engine in the driver’s car. It partially blocks out the sounds of the engines in the other cars and the rush of wind traveling at high speeds that used to buffet in and around the helmet.

“It has changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit,” Newgarden said. “For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.

“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine.”

Dixon was in the car at Indianapolis on October 2 and returned on Tuesday. The Barber test on October 7 included this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, in a Team Penske Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

“The only differences are the openings on the front wing that creates some more airflow around the legs and body and a different inlet in the screen that was in place today,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There were helmet cooling options since the Barber test because on the road course, some of the drivers were getting a little hotter.

“This project has been very in-depth. It hit the ground running very smoothly. There are some alternate options they are trying to create, especially on the street courses where we will experience hot condition. On street conditions, your depth perception changes because of how close you are to the walls, but we should get used to that.”

Two weeks ago, Team Penske driver Will Power said it takes a different style to get out of the race car because of the added height of the Aeroscreen.

That hasn’t been a problem for Dixon.

“That’s easy, man,” he said. “Just go through the hole in the top.”