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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

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

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“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).