NASCAR Exploring 2022 Race in Oregon: Report

Portland International Raceway

Getty K&N Pro Series drivers prepare for a race at Portland International Raceway.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series could soon head to the Pacific Northwest. According to a report by “The Athletic,” the sanctioning body is examining the possibility of holding a race at Portland International Raceway during the 2022 season.

Veteran reporter Jordan Bianchi provided the report on Saturday, Sept. 25. He noted that NASCAR has sought to potentially bring the Cup Series to the Pacific Northwest in order to reach a largely untapped market. Testing out the track with the Xfinity Series is a step in that direction. Though the sanctioning body has yet to release the 2022 schedule and confirm Bianchi’s report.

None of the top three series have raced in the Pacific Northwest since June 3, 2000, when Jack Sprague won at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. The Truck Series drivers also competed at Portland International Raceway on April 22, 2000, the second of only two trips to the track. Andy Houston started fifth at the 1.967-mile road course and locked up the win after leading one total lap.

Two active NASCAR Cup Series drivers actually have experience at Portland International Raceway. Kevin Harvick competed in the 1999 Truck Series race at the road course, finishing 20th while Greg Biffle won. Kurt Busch made a start in 2020 for Roush and took 11th place.

Other Racing Series Have Competed at PIR

While NASCAR has not raced at PIR since the 2000 season, other series have headed to the road course for events. IndyCar, in particular, raced at PIR from 1987-2007 before taking a hiatus. However, the series returned to the track in 2018, 2019, and 2021. Alex Palou is the most recent winner after he took the checkered flag on Sept. 12, 2021.

Similarly, the ARCA Menards Series West headed to PIR on Sept. 10, the first time since 2012, and showcased some of the up-and-comers. 18 drivers competed at the road course with Taylor Gray leading 18 of the 50 laps and locking up his first win of the season. Jake Drew actually took the checkered flag, but he received a last-lap penalty that gave Gray the win.

Nine different drivers led during the ARCA Menards Series West race as they dealt with seven total cautions — six for incidents. The list includes a stack-up on the first turn of the race, which knocked pole-sitter Drew out of the lead and gave Gray an early lead.

Questions Remain About PIR’s Ability to Host NASCAR

Portland International Raceway

GettyIndyCar drivers race at Portland International Raceway in 1996.

While NASCAR reportedly wants to bring the Xfinity and Cup Series to the Pacific Northwest, there are questions about the track’s ability to host these large-scale events. Specifically, the length of pit road and other factors could create potential issues.

According to a 2018 blog by motorsports reporter Jeff Gluck, there are multiple areas of concern at the Oregon road track. He noted that the safety setup is less-than-ideal with concrete walls and low fences while there is a distinct lack of permanent bathrooms or concessions stands.

Gluck explained that pit road is not long enough for a full NASCAR field and that there isn’t much room for expansion. Additionally, there are no actual garages where the Cup Series teams could work on the stock cars. Xfinity Series and Truck Series teams have considerable experience working on their vehicles next to the haulers and under awnings.

None of these issues are enough to fully shut down the idea of holding a NASCAR race at Portland International Raceway. Instead, the facility would just have to undergo some changes to make the weekend better for the teams and fans alike.

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