Portland International Raceway
Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Portland International Raceway 1940 N Victory Blvd Portland, OR 97217
Year Opened: 1960
Portland’s House of Speed
Take premier sportscar racing and put it on a historic track in the Pacific Northwest, and you have yourself a race weekend at Portland International Raceway. The track hosts rounds for the likes of Trans-Am, SVRA, and IndyCar, as well as various SCCA and club racing events. However, the average fan who may remember those halcyon days of Champ Car past will be disappointed to see that very little, if anything, has changed in the last 20-plus years. That said, several improvements were made two years ago, including newly paved roads and the expansion of food offerings throughout the facility.
Food & Beverage 3
Where once stood only a sole concessions stand, fans now see a wide variety of food options. The main stop is the Fast Track Grill in the outer paddock; here you can find items like fish & chips ($11), burgers ($8.50-$9.50), BBQ sandwiches ($10-$11), nachos ($6-$8), and much more. Drinks range from $2.50 to $4.
The inner paddock also features a similar concessions stand near the dirt track for some events, while several food trucks line the fan zone just outside the track near the crossover bridge. In addition, down near the Shelton Chicane grandstands, fans are delighted to find pop-up coffee, drink, and snack booths as well.
The track is located in a beautiful part of America – the Pacific Northwest is known for being green and having great weather. However, recent years has brought with it economic strife, including a dramatic surge in the homeless population around the facility. Nearly every road in and out of the track is lined with tent cities. Something this track has, however, that no others on the sportscar schedule have, is volcanoes in the background; a quick look to the east from any point on the track will reveal the towering peak of Mount Hood, and to the north, Mount St. Helens rises above the landscape.
Portland International Raceway - Racing Past Mt Hood, Photo by Chris Green, Stadium Journey
For fans, the track offers various vantage points all around the track in the form of grandstands or viewing mounds. The grandstands are primarily wooden bleachers on the outside of the front straight, however, making for a less than comfortable sitting situation. Furthermore, the inner grandstands at Turns 1 and 2, now renamed Shelton Chicane, are metal, which means they are scorching hot under the summer sky; these stands also have no backs to the seats either. Restrooms are not plentiful, and while portable restrooms are located throughout the property, the comfort of more permanent restrooms would be welcomed.
Portland International Raceway is located in a city park in the extreme northern reaches of Portland, just across the Columbia River from Vancouver, WA. Vancouver has plenty to see and do, including the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, or for nature lovers, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood are each an hour from the track, offering great nature trails and mountain scenery.
A few minutes to the south of the track is the city of Portland. Here you can find everything you want and need, from shopping and dining to sports and recreation. The International Rose Test Garden and Pittock Mansion are popular stops, while Salt and Straw and Voodoo Donuts are both a must-visit when it comes to food in the city. For somewhere to stay, Portlander Inn and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Portland North are both across the street from Portland International Raceway itself.
The fans have been going to the Rose Cup Races for decades, but now, more seem to show up nowadays than in previous years to see some of the best racing in the country. The track is set up to offer great viewing areas for fans all around the circuit, and campers and pop-ups can be seen all down the backstretch.
However, while the fans may spread out, the grandstands themselves never fill up fully, which can make for a rather empty-seeming track at times. This is especially distressing as part of the allure of motorsports is the fans packing the grandstands, and thus making it feel like a rocking place.
Portland International Raceway is so easy to get to that you can literally throw a stone over the I-5 wall and have it land in the track parking lot. Located off exit 306/307 on I-5, the parking lot offers plenty of parking, both at the main entrance area of the track and inside the main gate past the outer paddock. Signs are also plentiful in the area to help you get to the track when you are looking for the circuit.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets for the Rose Cup race weekend are very inexpensive, with general admission tickets running just $20 for either Saturday or Sunday, with 3-day tickets costing $50 – parking is included in the 3-day ticket option. The track also offers a car-corral ticket which includes parking, a 3-day ticket, and a free lap around the track.
Overall, this means a weekend trip with the family to the races can be really affordable compared to many tracks and race weekends. Prices are similar for SVRA and Trans-Am SpeedTour weekend, which features some of the top vintage racing in America.
Race weekends here feature a fan autograph session for all the major racing series involved, and fans also have plenty of access to the paddock areas on both sides of the track for all of the series. In addition, several vendors also set up their shops, as well as sponsor displays, along the front stretch grandstand area. Finally, a car show is also a frequent sight on race weekends to help draw in the Portland car culture.
Taking in a race at Portland International Raceway is one that can really be affordable. However, the track still lacks several amenities that could make this facility truly one of the best on the schedule for fans. That said, the venue still remains one that is unique in sportscar racing due to its location in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Tremendous potential exists here, and with great weather and great racing on site, it is easy to see why fans have been flocking to this track for nearly 60 years.