Portland got a nice win on Wednesday. The city didn’t land a Major League Baseball franchise or a Women’s NCAA Tournament Final Four. But NASCAR signed on for a three-year run at Portland International Raceway that will begin in the summer of 2022.
Gentlemen … start your hopes back up.
I’m not a motor sports honk. But I recognize a bend in the road when I see one. Landing the NASCAR Xfinity Series is an encouraging development for those of us who thought Portland was on cruise control, racing toward a pile of trash on the horizon. I’m viewing a sharp turn as an encouraging development.
NASCAR kept the news under tight embargo in recent days. Those involved signed non-disclosure agreements. There were whispers, but nobody would talk on the record about it. The motor sports organization wanted to break the news itself on Wednesday morning and even provided quotes, but asked for an 8:34 a.m. embargo.
Make note of the time, folks.
8:34 a.m. is when Portland officially dusted itself off in the eyes of the sports world and brought a legitimate event back to a city that has taken a public relations beat down in the last 18 months. The event is expected to fill 10,000 hotel rooms, countless restaurants and bring an economic impact of $15 million to our region. It also comes with a live TV broadcast that will let the country know we’re still here.
Still sort of beautiful — albeit still hidden behind a line of burned out cars, tarps, tents and garbage piled up.
That’s the rub isn’t it? NASCAR had a line of other options and chose Portland. I know, the Xfinity Series is NASCAR’s “B-team,” but it’s a nice win. Maybe this is a signal that city leaders are serious about mattering again. Maybe by the time this event happens the homelessness issue will have been addressed, a city-wide clean up will have occurred and a re-branding will have happened.
Basically, you know, leadership.
NASCAR senior vice president Ben Kennedy said, “The Pacific Northwest is a region of the country where we haven’t had a presence for quite some time, and as we continue to take steps to grow the sport, bringing the NASCAR Xfinity Series to Portland is an ideal and exciting next step.”
Hold up. Ideal? Exciting?
It’s been some time since an outsider said things like that about Portland. Take the win people. Because it took a heavy lift from a group of entities to get this done. City officials, Travel Portland and Sport Oregon teamed up with Green Savoree Racing Promotions to lock the event down. NASCAR hadn’t held an event in the region since a truck race in Washington more than 20 years ago.
“NASCAR had a hole in their heat map,” said one person involved.
Portland had a hole in its heart. So this partnership makes sense and I’m glad it’s happening. Ticket prices? Not set yet. Updates will be posted in the coming months. But I’m more focused on whether NASCAR viewing Portland as a destination might signal some movement on other sports-related fronts.
Is it safe for the Portland Diamond Project bring MLB representatives to the city for a visit? Will a Women’s Final Four bid look more attractive to the NCAA? Could Portland seize this as an opportunity to re-brand itself and sink some funds in a public/private clean-up effort. Maybe a marketing campaign? Heck, hire Wieden+Kennedy and tell them, “Make Portland sound cool again.”
I know. I know. I’m talking crazy now. But that’s what Wednesday’s news did to me. It made me curious about NASCAR and it made me hope again. There are worse things.
Subscribe to the John Canzano weekly email newsletter.