Motorsport's greatest moments in Portland

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Motorsport's greatest moments in Portland

Formula E heads back to the Portland International Raceway - the Oregon race track that's been hosting American racing series since the 1970s.


The circuit has seen plenty of historic and exciting moments in its time — here's a look through some of the greatest races ever from Portland's past, featuring NASCAR and IndyCar.

1986: Mario Andretti beats Michael Andretti by 0.07 seconds

One of American open-wheel racing's most iconic moments took place during CART's 1986 Portland event. Racing legend Mario Andretti secured a victory over the competition by a mere 0.07 seconds — but in this case, the competition just so happened to be Mario's son, Michael.

Michael Andretti had secured a commanding lead of the event when his car began struggling to pick up fuel. On the final lap, his engine sputtered, and Mario was able to zip past his son at the line. His winning margin was only about two feet.

As you might imagine, it wasn't exactly a happy day for all the Andrettis; as Mario celebrated, a visibly hurt Michael declared that Mario's win should count as that year's Father's Day present. At the time, it was the closest finish in the sport.

1996: Rookie Alex Zanardi takes a stunning first win

In 1996, Alex Zanardi had come from Formula 1 to start his first season in the CART open-wheel series. Despite his skill in other series, Zanardi was classified as a rookie, which made it all the more impressive when he won the Portland event by leading 88 of the 102 laps.

Don't be fooled, though; a sudden rain shower soaked the track just 30 laps into the race, and Zanardi risked it all by staying out on slick tires. His 17-second lead disappeared, and he was passed by Al Unser Jr., who had changed to rain tires.

Zanardi's forethought, though, paid off. As Unser's tires wore through, Zanardi retook the lead. It was his first win in CART, and by the end of the race, he had once again built up a nine-second lead.

1997: The closest finish in CART road course history

Portland International Raceway has been home to countless stunning finishes, but perhaps no finish was more exciting than the track's CART event in 1997. A wet track made for tricky conditions and a tighter than normal field. On the final turn of the last lap, Gil de Ferran, Mark Blundell, and Raul Boesel kicked off a three-way drag race to the checkered flag.

Blundell won the race by just 0.027 seconds over de Ferran. Boesel was 0.055 seconds behind in third place. The closest CART finish on a street course at the time was Blundell's first race win since the 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans — and his first win in the CART.

2000: Norfleet and Lester make NASCAR history

Portland played host to the NASCAR Trucks Series for two years in 1999 and 2000, but that second event has maintained a place in history: It was the first — and, at this time, the only — NASCAR event to feature two black drivers. Racers Bill Lester and Bobby Norfleet started the Line-X 225, finishing 24th and 32nd, respectively.

Of the three top-tier NASCAR series — Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks — only the 2000 Portland event has seen two black drivers start the same event.

2023: Jeb Burton and Chandler Smith throw hands

Of course, not every memorable moment involves setting records or securing incredible finishes. The NASCAR Xfinity Series began racing at Portland in 2022, and sparks flew between drivers Jeb Burton and Chandler Smith after the 2023 running of the Pacific Office Automation 147.

Burton and Smith have been rivals for a while now, and on the final lap of 2023's race, Burton claimed that Smith attempted to wreck him twice; contact between the two drivers sent Burton into the wall and out of the race. After the race, Burton approached Smith with the intention of fighting, and it took NASCAR crew members to separate the two drivers. Maybe not a record, but it was a moment that kept fans talking for weeks afterward.