IndyCar: GP of Portland announces three-year extension through 2023

Portland IndyCar extension
Joe Skibinski/IndyCar
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Grand Prix of Portland race organizers announced a three-year extension Friday with the city to continue playing host to the NTT IndyCar Series through the 2023 season.

IndyCar returned to the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course last year after an 11-year absence. The Sept. 13, 2020 race at Portland was canceled because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

According to the release announcing the news, the 2021 date will be announced later this year. During a news conference Wednesday, Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said IndyCar hopes to announce next year’s schedule by the end of September.

Here’s the release from the Grand Prix of Portland:

PORTLAND, Ore. (August 20, 2020) – After reaching a three-year extension to their current agreement, City of Portland and Green Savoree Portland LLC officials announced today that the Grand Prix of Portland will return to the Pacific Northwest and Portland International Raceway (PIR) through at least 2023.

The 2021 date for the Grand Prix of Portland at PIR will be announced by the NTT INDYCAR SERIES later this year. The event was canceled this year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Oregon’s statewide restrictions on public gatherings.

“I was fortunate as a teenager to attend the Indy 500,” says Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “I remember the excitement then and we saw the same energy at the 2018 and 2019 Grand Prix of Portland races. As the only event of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, the race not only provides tremendous thrills but also contributes $12-$15 million in economic benefits for the city. I’m excited to see this premier race in Portland for at least the next three years.”

“We are very pleased to have ‘Portland’s Fastest Park’, the Portland International Raceway, hosting the Grand Prix of Portland NTT IndyCar Series race for three additional years,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Adena Long. “The Grand Prix has established itself as a summer tradition as Portlanders enjoy the festival atmosphere, the cars, and camaraderie. We look to 2021 through 2023 with great anticipation.”

“We’re disappointed to not be able to bring IndyCar racing back to the great fans in the Pacific Northwest later this summer, but our team is excited to be back in 2021 and beyond through this continued partnership with the City of Portland and the Portland Parks & Recreation division,” said Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Racing Promotions, organizers of the Grand Prix of Portland. “We appreciate Mayor Wheeler, the commissioners, Director Long, E.C. (Mueller) and the entire PIR team for their ongoing support of the Grand Prix of Portland, and working with us to make the Grand Prix of Portland even better when it returns next year.”

Ticket purchasers on file for the 2020 event will receive a direct communication from Green Savoree Portland LLC soon on their available options. Ongoing Grand Prix of Portland updates will be posted to portlandgp.com. Race fans can also stay up to speed on the event via social media by following #PortlandGP.

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area. The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean, who finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full season, said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps another his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”