Penske drivers wary of mayhem at “bad, inviting, wide” Turn 1

The Team Penske-Chevrolet drivers will start IndyCar’s Grand Prix of Portland from first, second and eighth but are worried about potential chaos at Turn 1 on the opening lap.

Scott McLaughlin and Will Power will start from the front row, while Josef Newgarden will start from the outside of Row 4 after qualifying second but losing six grid slots due to an early change to his fifth engine.

But there is much debate over how to approach Turn 1 which sees drivers approaching from 180mph, before flicking into a tight 75deg right-hander, and braking still further down to first gear for the left hand portion of the chicane.

Although IndyCar has taken great steps with temporary barriers to ensure that anyone going through the T1 runoff and avoiding T2 cannot gain an advantage – or at least, not without penalty – that doesn’t militate against the concertina effect causing chaos at T1’s turn-in point.

Newgarden said he would remain “flexible” on methodology for tackling Lap 1/Turn 1, stating, “I would think it would be better to be on the inside, but depending on where you are where the crash is happening, it could be good or bad, inside or out. I'm not sure. I'm just hoping we get a clean run through Turn 1, regardless.

“It's definitely the most unpredictable [corner in the series], I can tell you that. When it goes according to plan, it's fine. More times than not, that doesn't happen.”

Power, who leads Newgarden by just three points at the head of the 2022 points standings, described it as “such a bad corner, such an inviting, wide corner. Not ideal for the second-to-last race of the season.”

Regarding start procedure, Power observed that two of the USF2000 races this weekend had seen chaos at Turn 1 on the opening lap and believed that this was the result of getting the green flag so late down the pit straight. The advantage of a late green is that the cars approach Turn 1 at a much-reduced speed, but the disadvantage is that the field is still bunched together.

“Those guys are starting real late,” he said. “I don't think that's a key. The polesitter was taken out twice, two races in a row, lost the championship. If they don't want to crash, [we should get the green] out of Turn 12… It just means that [cars towards the back of the grid] get green through T12, lift [off the throttle], spread things out through most of the field.”

The 2014 champion said that the drivers had provided IndyCar their input during the offseason and had suggested the field got the green on the back straight, which would allow the field to treat Turns 10 and 11 – far faster and more flowing corners – as, effectively, Turns 1 and 2 on the opening lap. The idea isn’t without precedent, since Turn 4 at Mid-Ohio serves at Turn 1 on the opening lap.

“We gave them input at the Christmas meetings,” said Power. “We suggested that they start on the back straight. I'm not sure where starting extremely late came from. I could understand you don't get the tow effects, getting up to speed to get a tow effect.

“But if you had half the field in turn 12 when you went green, that's half the cars that are spreading out. Might be better to go really early.”

Power said the reason for Portland’s traditional Lap 1/Turn 1 chaos is that drivers would generally choose to adopt the racing line, sweeping across from the outside to the apex to make the angle more shallow and therefore faster, heading into to the heavier braking zone of Turn 2. However, this leaves a very tempting clear inside line, which is dirtier and therefore less grippy through lack of use, and yet ironically requires heavier braking since adopting that line makes T1 into more of a right angle, so it isn’t possible to carry so much speed through there.

“There's always room on the inside,” said Power. “They're used to braking on the very outside of the track, it's super wide. Obviously [on the inside] your 90 degrees is going to be much sharper. You're going to have to brake much earlier than you have been. I think that's most of the issue.”


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