2018 IndyCar Storyline: Bommarito v. Portland
A few lifetimes ago I worked as a scheduler for a statewide elected official. Schedulers are a rare breed: we are obsessive to a fault, we love timetables and logistics, we thrive in managing all types of information at once ...and secretly we enjoy telling very important people that they are very late. When IndyCar was going to make a return after 14 years to Gateway Motorsports Park – only 4 hours away – I was going.
My love of the Bommarito race was expressed on our podcast shortly after the race. It was an exciting race with an ending that has already gone down as one of the most daring moves of 2017 if not in IndyCar as a whole. I'm not the only one. Estimation puts attendance at 45,000, and I’ll speak from personal knowledge there were a lot of people from the Indiana IndyCar contingent there. They also did a fantastic job during the run-up to the event promoting the HELL out of it.
There were growing pains with the first/return race. I think the biggest issue everyone had was the lack of food vendors, or that the food vendors were overwhelmed. I know, I too stood in line for a good 30-45 minutes to get dinner prior to the race. As cranky as people got - yeah that's something that should almost be expected. It's their first major IndyCar race there, they can get estimations from other tracks and from the number of tickets bought, but until you have it happen - you just don't know. I also suspect that next year that'll be completely done.
Another gripe I saw afterward was traffic. Look, we showed up at the track at 10 am when it opened and left late after the race ended - staying for the post-race festivities. We had no traffic issues. We got to our parking place without a problem, got into the track without a problem, got out of the track without a problem, and drove back to our hotel without a problem.
This year, the new race is Portland (RIP Mexico City). I'm excited about a new race to see how everything is put together. Personally, I'm also excited because my brother moved to Seattle four years ago and this just means I get to visit him for a bit and see if he won't drive down with us to Portland. Plus, it's beautiful in the PDX, and if they're spared from wildfires. They'll already beat Bommarito just as far as scenery (Oregon is known as the Evergreen state...and on a clear day you can see mountains).
Portland, of course, isn’t coming into this completely green. They hosted the Champ Car there from 1984 through 2007. Attendance for the last race in 2007 was estimated at 30,000. Portland isn’t close to the mid-west and the other well-known IndyCar tracks (Indianapolis, Mid-Ohio, Road America, or even Iowa). So to really make it a well-attended weekend the track promoters are…well, they’re going to need to promote the hell out of it.
It will be interesting to see how Portland goes. Bommarito enjoyed being close to other IndyCar races (mainly the IMS - as I noticed quite a few IMS logos on trucks on the track), and I would wager those tracks reached out to help. Portland's nearest race is Sonoma and that's roughly a nine-hour drive.
I'll be there, observing not just the race but the logistics. My money is on Bommarito having a better showing, but maybe Portland will prove me wrong. Your thoughts?