IndyCar preview: Grand Prix of Portland

The NTT IndyCar Series trades in the high speed short track of Gateway for the twist and turns of one of the Pacfic-Northwest's toughest road courses, Portland International Raceway. 

After an 11-year-hiatus, the series made it's return to the facility replacing what was orginally a race at Watkins Glen. 2018's return to the 1.967-mile road course produced an excting race. Between Marco Andretti flipping on the first lap and Takuma Sato scoring a dominant win, IndyCar fans are excited to see what this season's race has in store. 

Last week at Gateway, it was Sato scoring the victory in a very bizarre race. Being joined on the podium by Ed Carpenter and Tony Kanaan, Sato's win served as a response to all the pundits who critisised the Japanese racer following the Pocono crash. With the final three races being on road courses, the points standings were shaken up following Gateway. Josef Newgarden extended his lead over a new second place runner, Simon Pagenaud. With Rossi slipping back, Portland could serve as a good place to make up points. 

Here are some headline stories to look out for ahead of the Grand Prix of Portland. 

Welcome back Conor Daly 

IndyCar's favourite subsitute driver will be back with new colours this week. Following an emergecy call-up from Afla Romeo Racing, Marcus Ericsson will be replaced by Conor Daly this week in Portland. Ericsson will be taking part in the Belgian Grand Prix weekend and recieved the go ahead from IndyCar to miss the event.

Daly has been all over the IndyCar paddock this season, making starts for Carlin and Andretti Autosport before his team debut with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Daly has a best finish of sixth one week ago.

Is Rossi starting to lose steam?

A driver once projected to run away with the 2019 title. It has seemed that Alexander Rossi has started to lose some steam, dropping from second to third in the driver's standings with only three races left. Rossi seemed in good position after Mid-Ohio, narrowing the points gap to only 16, everything on the up and up for the young American. 

However the plan seemed to unravel after that. Following a crash at Pocono and bad pit call at Gateway the almost dream season has come to a turning point. Rossi has been strong on the road courses and looks to gain momentum head of Laguna Seca's double points finale. 

Drivers to watch

With three races left all eyes will be on the top three in points, Newgarden, Pagenaud and Rossi. However, with so few races run at Portland it can be a challenge to determine who really is the favourite. Here are three non-champsionship contending drivers who look to make some noise at Portland. 

Sebastian Bourdais

The No.18 team has been strong in the recent three races, with driver Sebastien Bourdais feeling like the team has been clicking even better in 2019's homestretch. With Bourdais winless so far in 2019, look for the frenchman to use to ChampCar experience to motor to the front at Portland. Dale Coyne Racing's been looking good, it only a matter of time until the SealMaster Honda reaches victory lane. 

Takuma Sato

The only driver to win here in past, is also looking to go back to back this season. Having won last weekend's race at Gateway, Sato rides the momentum of the win and carrys it into one of his best tracks. The Japanese star looks to finish his 2019 campaign strong, having scored two wins already at Gateway and Barber. The Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan No.30 looks to conquer Portlan once again. 

Conor Daly 

Driving with one of IndyCar's top teams, Conor Daly could be a dark horse pick come Sunday. Daly has been using 2019 has a high speed audition tape for 2020, with a chance to now showcase his talents on a grand scale. Despite this being Daly's first road course start of the season, never count out a kid with nothing to lose and everything to gain.