Portland features a few 'cicanes'

There are just a few road courses that get my attention. For the most part, they pit driver against track rather than mano a mano. But this week's Freightliner/G.I. Joe's 200 happens at one of my favorites. The Portland International Raceway is a 12-turn, 1.967-mile treat that allows drivers to out-brake and out-brave each other at the end of the main straight in an area known as the "festival turns." Sometimes people make a little mistake on the way out (of the festival turns)," said Toyota driver Roberto Moreno. "You can actually dive in on the right side and pass before the next corner." Portland emphasizes a steady rhythmic driving approach. "It's one of those circuits that there's a lot of momentum the way we drive through, meaning speed for one corner, it's important to carry on to the next one," Moreno said. The up-and-down the gearbox routine each lap also tests equipment. After the "festival turns," the track alternates between high-speed, high-downforce corners and what Moreno calls flow corners. "They are a sequence of corners much slower that you flow through, meaning one leads into the other," he said. "You need to carry momentum from one to the other to do a fast lap. "Then there's the the back straight. There's a chicane that you don't see going into the back straight. It's an extremely quick chicane at the end of the back straight with a hard-breaking sharp turn before the pit straight again." "Portland is similar to many tracks in Europe," said Kenny Brack, CART's current points leader. "There are a couple of passing zones." But Portland offers more than a challenging track to the transplanted Swede. "I really like the Portland area," he said. "It made me a little homesick because it looks like Sweden in many areas." The race distance also puts fuel strategy into play. "Fuel strategy is always an issue at Portland," says 1999 and 2000 winner Gil de Ferran. "I was able to win the last two races there by going flat-out rather than conserving fuel. That's the way I like to race -- it's much better to go for it rather than playing it cool and over-strategizing the race." But feel has dictated the outcome of more than one Portland outing. Maybe the most memorable Portland race was the 1986 Father's Day event that saw Mario Andretti and son Michael finish one-two after the elder Andretti passed his son in the late stages of the race. "People bring that day up a lot and comment that it must be a great memory," Michael Andretti said. "It's a great memory of Portland and for my dad and me, but it would have been better had I finished first and my dad second." Going into this race, momentum rides with Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. The effervescent Brazilian captured the Detroit Grand Prix last weekend on a much more technical course than that presented in the Pacific Northwest. "Marlboro Team Penske brings a lot of momentum into the Portland race, which we need to turn into a strong result." Castroneves said. "We've done well on road and street courses so far this season, and we performed well in Portland last year, so we are optimistic going into the weekend. It is important to keep adding to our championship points total." Castroneves trails Brack by just five points.