Labor Day Weekend Indy Race in Portland

For 3 yeas IndyCar raced in downtown Baltimore over Labor Day weekend. I always wanted to go because it was so close and a holiday weekend and a true street course but we always went to Rehoboth Beach as a family so I never got the opportunity.

Arriving via Max on race day.

Baltimore lost the race and then Watkins Glen did the same thing and now it was Portland’s turn to host this race over Labor Day weekend. I was so excited when I found they would be coming to Portland International Raceway. Now that I live here it is super easy to attend and I have no chance of going to the beach house this year. The cherry on top is I can get there by the Max yellow line.

Being the long weekend and my first Indy race I wanted to do it right. I got a premium grandstand seat at turn 2 and a paddock pass for the entire weekend. All in all it was a great weekend but I think next time I will skip a premium ticket and the premium price and just go with something more generic.

A pretty good vantage point for the tight section of the track.

I unfortunately couldn’t make it out on Friday. I didn’t want to take time off of work and everything was over by 5:30pm any way. Saturday I was going to stay all day at the track. I packed everything I would need in my CamelBak and set out for the train station. A fifteen minute walk and then a 30 minute train ride I was at the front gate of PIR.

For quals I didn’t really care where I sat and actually decided not to see my seat until race day. I didn’t go into the infield on Saturday at all and instead decided to walk around the track exploring. By the time I left that night I had walked around the entire track.

When you first arrive to the track you walk down a hill and come in at the Pro Mazda and USF2000 paddock. It was great getting close to these cars but a little disorientating when I first stumbled across the paddock. I just wasn’t sure I was suppose to be there. Few signs, no barriers and no one directing people. Just go till they tell you to stop I figured.

Lets the festivities begin.

The front straight was a typical vendor area. Lots of pop up tents and weird shit being peddled. I was actually shocked at the the lack of facilities at this track. It really is just a track. Even the main grandstand was a temporary structure. Only one three story building and it was small and not at a good location.

The track is also really narrow with limited run off areas. I was shocked at just how narrow the turns are. Kudos to the drives all weekend for keeping things mostly under control. If you made even a tiny mistake you would be off track, especially at turn one. See lap one of the Indy race on Sunday for proof.

A good spot I found was the back straight along the top of the hill. Here there was no one around and I actually found some shade. The high on Saturday was in the low 70’s but escaping the radiant heat from the sun was good for a while. Here I caught some of the qualifying for the support races. The back straight is a long sweeping straight with a slight bend to the right right after a tight section of turns. Good opportunity to see the cars go by pretty fast. You really can hear the revs and shifting which is cool.

Go fast day was finally hear. The race didn’t start till around noon so plenty of time to get to the track, bum around and get my seat. Sunday was also my first trip into the paddock. By the time I got there the cars where already starting to exit their garage and get to the grid. This was great because I got to see some of the cars up close and personal which was cool. Also saw some of the driver introductions. Lots of grandstanding but still cool.

My seat turned out to be a pretty good one. The entire section was pretty well elevated so I could have saved some money for a lower seat. And in fact the other side of the track had the added benefit of seeing the cars come down the straight and out the pit. That view was blocked from our premium seats.

Quite unexpectedly there was a wreck just after turn three on lap one. All I could really see was the plume of dust that erupted as the cars went off the track onto the dry grass. One guy managed to go over top another which was pretty impressive. This lead to a long delay with the pace car while they cleaned up the mess.

After this there where only a few minor hiccups in the race but for the most part it was pretty clean. A good afternoon of racing. I honestly don’t follow the series so the drivers I don’t know. It was close to the end of the season and the drivers championship was still up for grabs. Apparently the turn one incident caused problems for the leader. He got back on track in last place but managed to work his way up through the field.

After an entire race weekend spent at PIR I was rather disappointed with the track. CotA has really ruined me when it comes to a race track. That track knows how to put on a race. From the entertainment before, during and after the race to the food, facilities, and vendors. Everything about that track is just so well done.

Not that I wouldn’t go back to see Indy next Labor Day weekend. I think the next time around I just wont spend as much money on my ticket and simply enjoy an afternoon at the track.