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Palou Takes First Series Title, Herta Claims Victory at Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021) – Alex Palou clinched his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship with a composed drive to fourth place Sunday in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, a race won by Colton Herta.

Palou became the first Spaniard to win an INDYCAR SERIES championship and is Chip Ganassi Racing’s second consecutive title winner and 14th INDYCAR SERIES champion overall. This is his first season with the powerhouse team in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, joining CGR after his rookie season in 2020, when he finished 16th in the standings.

MEDIA LINKS: Official Results | Driver Video Quotes | Post-Race News Conference Transcripts: McLaughlin | Newgarden & Dixon | Ganassi | Herta | Palou

“What a race, what a year, what a season,” Palou said. “This team is amazing. I’m super proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing, all our partners. I’m super proud to be a champion and for the opportunity these guys gave me.

“Dream completed. Let’s get another one now.”

Said team owner Chip Ganassi: “Ladies and gentlemen, you’re seeing a young man that’s going to set a lot of records in this business, and he’s already starting. What a great year we’ve had. I’ve got to be honest with you: It has surprised us when he came in the door and the job he’s done. My hat’s off. Congratulations.”

In the most definitive sign of the youth movement this season in the series, Palou, 24, is the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion younger than 25 since current teammate Scott Dixon in 2003. Palou is the seventh-youngest champion in INDYCAR SERIES history.

Herta, who led all three practice sessions this weekend, beat Josef Newgarden to the checkered flag by .5883 of a second in his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda to finish the season with two consecutive victories and three overall in 2021. Herta rebounded from starting 14th after hitting the wall in NTT P1 Award qualifying. He swept both races in his native California this season and won for the first time at his home race in Long Beach, which he attended since childhood to watch his father and current strategist, Bryan Herta, race in the INDYCAR SERIES.

“It feels amazing,” Herta said. “This has been on the bucket list for so long. Super happy.”

Scott McLaughlin clinched the Rookie of the Year award after finishing 11th in the No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, becoming the first Team Penske driver to earn this honor. New Zealand native McLaughlin joined Penske’s INDYCAR SERIES team after winning three consecutive Australian Supercars titles for the organization.

“I’m really proud of everyone with the PPG Chevy,” McLaughlin said. “The car’s been awesome, and I finally got it to my liking the last six or seven races. I’m really excited for next year. This year was a foundation year, all about building, and I feel like I’ve done that.”

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon finished third today in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda, 1.3368 seconds ahead of champion teammate Palou. 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top five in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

Herta, who grew up in Valencia, just 60 miles north of Long Beach, took the lead for good on Lap 64 of the 85-lap race on the streets of Long Beach. He led a race-high 43 laps and was quick on both the Firestone “black” primary tires and “red” alternate tires.

That ability to find speed and traction on both tire compounds was vital for Herta. He started 14th on the alternate tires, staying on that rubber compound after his first pit stop, too. So, INDYCAR rules mandating that each driver must use both compounds during the race forced Herta to switch to the slower but more durable primary tires for his last stint on track, while Newgarden and other pursuers already had used primary tires earlier in the race and were on the faster but less durable alternate tires for their run to the checkered flag.

Herta had built an 8.8-second lead on his final stint on the alternate tires before pitting on Lap 55 for primary tires. Newgarden jumped into the pits on the same lap for alternate tires and began cutting into Herta’s lead almost immediately.

Newgarden also caught a break on Lap 62 when Oliver Askew’s No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda nosed into the tire barrier in Turn 9 after contact with Conor Daly’s No. 20 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet while dueling for position. That triggered the fourth and final caution period of the race, bunching field for a vital restart on Lap 65 with Herta in the lead and Newgarden second.

Herta, on primary tires, appeared vulnerable to losing the lead on the restart to Newgarden, on grippier alternate tires. But Herta rocketed away at the start of the restart zone and got superb traction exiting the famous hairpin corner leading to the front straight and green flag, while Newgarden’s car lost grip exiting the hairpin.

“We had a great car,” Herta said. “Reds or blacks, we seemed to have the pace. I just can’t believe it.”

But Newgarden refused to give up, showing the resiliency of a two-time series champion. He continued to shave the gap every lap, pulling to within .680 of a second with eight laps to go.

Herta and Newgarden raced in accordion fashion around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit, with Herta – who was running less downforce on his rear wing than Newgarden – building his lead on straightaways and Newgarden taking advantage of more grip to cut that deficit in tight turns.

Newgarden pulled to within a car-length or two of Herta late in the tight, treacherous fountain turn complex. But the gap grew on the straights due to less drag on Herta’s rear wing, and he was able to hold on for victory.

The runner-up finish helped Newgarden jump to second in the final championship standings, 38 points behind Palou.

“Colton did a great job, so congrats to him and his entire crew,” Newgarden said. “He was on the right tire on the right point of the race. If there were no yellows, I think we would have been OK today, to cruise out front. But that’s the way it rolls sometimes.

“Strong effort by our team. I think my crew was the fastest in pit lane all year, so there’s a lot to be prideful for. We fought hard. We came up a little bit short this year, which is unfortunate, but we fought all year long.”

Pato O’Ward, who entered the race 35 points behind Palou in second, ended up 62 points back in third after a disappointing day. O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevy was hit from behind by the No. 18 SealMaster Honda of Ed Jones and spun in the hairpin turn at the end of Lap 1, dropping him to the rear of the field. That contact led to a loss of drive on Lap 19 after the half-shaft in his right rear wheel snapped.

O’Ward returned to the track on Lap 53 after extensive repair time but dropped out when it became apparent second place in the championship was out of reach. He ended up in 27th place.

“It’s not the first time he has hit us and not the first time he has done something stupid all season,” O’Ward said of the early contact from Jones. “I just wish he could use his head a bit more, at least respect the guys who are fighting for the championship.

“I think we’ve had a great season. I’m proud of the team; I’m proud of myself.”

News from INDYCAR: 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Fast Facts

Photo by Chris Owens. IMS Photo

ALEX PALOU

2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES CHAMPION

Wins: 3

Podiums: 8

Poles: 1

FAST FACTS:

  • First NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion from Spain
  • The championship comes in just his second INDYCAR SERIES season
  • First champion from a predominately Spanish-speaking country since Juan Pablo Montoya (1999)
  • First under 25-year-old INDYCAR SERIES champion since Scott Dixon in 2003
    • 7th youngest INDYCAR SERIES champion (24 years, 5 months, 25 days)
  • This is Chip Ganassi Racing’s 14th NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship
    • Palou joins big CGR names:
      • Jimmy Vasser
      • Alex Zanardi
      • Juan Pablo Montoya
      • Scott Dixon
      • Dario Franchitti

News from INDYCAR: Newgarden Keeps Title Hopes Alive with Dramatic NTT P1 Award at Long Beach

Newgarden Keeps Title Hopes Alive with Dramatic NTT P1 Award at Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. (Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021) – One down, two to go: The miracle is still alive for Josef Newgarden.

Newgarden, who needs a perfect weekend in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to have any chance of winning his third NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship, kept his narrow chances afloat in the shadow of the Queen Mary ocean liner by winning the NTT P1 Award for the season-ending race on the Streets of Long Beach. Newgarden entered this race 48 points behind leader Alex Palou and needed to win the pole today and win the race and lead the most laps Sunday to have any chance to hoist the Astor Challenge Cup.

Team Penske driver Newgarden led the Firestone Fast Six with a top lap of 1 minute, 8.2241 in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet to earn his series-leading fourth NTT P1 Award of the season. His best lap came on his final trip around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit.

The pole came after Newgarden qualified 18th on Sept. 14 at Portland and 17th last Saturday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca despite showing impressive speed in practice.

“I was pretty much screaming that whole last lap,” Newgarden said. “I’m so happy. It’s been a little bit demoralizing the last couple of weekends with where we qualified. We’ve had really good cars. To start where we’ve started these last couple of races, it’s just taken the life out of me a little bit.

“I’m so pumped we were able to be quick here. I think we’ve got the package, for sure, with Team Chevy. We’ve accomplished our job for today. Now we have to go after tomorrow.”

Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup starts at noon (ET), live on Peacock Premium.

Palou must finish 12th or better – or 13th or better if he leads a lap – to clinch his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. He’ll start 10th on the grid after a dramatic end to the round of 12 in qualifying in which a handful of drivers, including Palou and closest title rival Pato O’Ward, on fast final laps were forced to slow due to a local yellow flag for an incident involving Will Power.

Newgarden’s only chance to win the title is to win and lead the most laps Sunday, with Palou finishing 25th or worse in the 28-car field.

“It’s very improbable for us to win this championship,” Newgarden said. “So, our goal is to win the race tomorrow. Let’s finish our season on a high note, and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s pretty unlikely, but you never say never in this sport.”

The other title contender, O’Ward, will start eighth in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

O’Ward is second in the standings, 35 points behind Palou. Like Newgarden, O’Ward needs to win Sunday and have Palou finish 25th or lower. He also could claim his first title by finishing second and earning at least one bonus point for leading a lap, if Palou finishes 25th or lower.

Six-time and reigning series champion Scott Dixon will join Newgarden on the front row after qualifying second at 1:08.4422 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

Four-time Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Helio Castroneves qualified third at 1:08.4827 in the No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda, easily the best start of his partial season. Castroneves’ previous best start was eighth for the Indy 500, which he won. His best start in four previous road or street course races this season was 15th at Nashville.

Joining Castroneves on the second row will be 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud, whose best lap was 1:08,6514 in the No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet.

Felix Rosenqvist qualified fifth at 1:08.7461 in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, while rookie Romain Grosjean rounded out the Firestone Fast Six at 1:08.7577 in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda.

Drama gripped the paddock and grandstands from the first round of NTT P1 Award qualifying and never relented.

Colton Herta, quickest in both practice sessions this weekend, was eliminated from the first round of qualifying and will start 14th. Herta hit the concrete retaining wall with the left side of his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda late in the second group while running on Firestone primary “black” tires. He came to the pits for a set of Firestone alternate “red” tires, but the toe link suspension piece bent by the earlier contact broke on his final flying lap on “reds,” and he was forced to abandon the run.

“It was a handful until it wasn’t bent anymore and just broke,” Herta said. “It was my fault, unfortunately. It will make for an interesting race, though. We’re starting 14th and have two sets of new reds. Could be a good thing, a charge to the front tomorrow.”

Another flashpoint came at the end of the Firestone Fast 12, when Power slowed to a stop in Turn 10 after clipping the wall in his No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet, triggering a local yellow flag. O’Ward, Palou and a handful of other drivers on fast laps were forced by the rules to slow in that area, and Ed Jones lost his fast lap in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda that would have put him in the Firestone Fast Six after officials judged he didn’t slow for the local yellow.

FAST FACTS: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Fast Facts

Race weekend: Friday, Sept. 24 – Sunday, Sept. 26

Track: 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course (clockwise) in Long Beach, California

Race distance: 85 laps / 167.28 miles

Media Links: Entry List (PDF) | Driver Video Quotes | Trackside Media Guide (PDF)

Push-to-pass parameters: 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.

Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate. Rookie drivers are allowed one extra primary set for Practice 1.

Twitter: @GPLongBeach, @IndyCar, #AGPLB, #IndyCar

Event website: www.gplb.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2019 race winner (most recent): Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda)

2019 NTT P1 Award winner (most recent): Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda), 1:06.4811, 106.569 mph

Qualifying lap record: Helio Castroneves, 1:06.2254, 106.980 mph, April 8, 2017

NBCSN telecasts: Qualifying, Saturday, Sept. 25 (3 p.m. ET, live); Race, Sunday, Sept. 26 (3 p.m. ET, live). Leigh Diffey will be the play-by-play announcer for NBCSN’s telecast of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

Peacock Premium Live Streaming: This weekend’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and NTT P1 Award qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.

INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes will be the lead announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Jake Query, Nick Yeoman and Michael Young are the turn announcers. Ryan Myrehn and Alex Wolff will report from the pits. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 205 and 211, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on SiriusXM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, Sept. 24

3-3:45 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice 1, Peacock Premium (live)

Saturday, Sept. 25

  • 9-9:45 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice 2, Peacock Premium (live)
  • 12:05 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN/Peacock Premium (live)

Sunday, Sept. 19

  • 9-9:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock Premium (live)
  • Noon – Driver introductions
  • Noon – NBCSN on air
  • 12:38 p.m. – Start engines command
  • 12:45 p.m. – Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (85 laps/167.28 miles), NBCSN (live)

Championship Facts:

  • Alex Palou leads the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship with one race to go for the first time in his career. Palou has led the point standings after 10 of the 15 races this season.
  • There are three drivers mathematically eligible for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship: Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward and Josef Newgarden. Neither Palou nor O’Ward has won the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship. Newgarden has won the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship twice in the last four seasons (2017 and 2019).
  • This is the 37th INDYCAR SERIES race on the streets of Long Beach and the first time that the INDYCAR SERIES championship will be decided at the track. The temporary street circuit routinely hosts an April race.
  • The winner at Long Beach has gone on to win the championship in the same season 14 times: Mario Andretti (1984), Al Unser Jr. (1990 and 1994), Jimmy Vasser (1996), Alex Zanardi (1997 and 1998), Juan Pablo Montoya (1999), Paul Tracy (2003), Sebastien Bourdais (2005, 2006 and 2007), Dario Franchitti (2009), Scott Dixon (2015) and Simon Pagenaud (2016).

KEY CHAMPIONSHIP POINT STATISTIC: This is the 16th consecutive year that the NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion will be determined at the final race of the season.

CHAMPIONSHIP WITH ONE TO GO (2008-2021)

YEARLEADERSECOND LEADCHAMPION
2008Scott DixonHelio Castroneves30Scott Dixon
2009Scott DixonDario Franchitti5Dario Franchitti
2010Will PowerDario Franchitti12Dario Franchitti
2011Will PowerDario Franchitti11Dario Franchitti
2012Will PowerRyan Hunter-Reay17Ryan Hunter-Reay
2013Scott DixonHelio Castroneves25Scott Dixon
2014Will PowerHelio Castroneves51Will Power
2015Juan Pablo MontoyaGraham Rahal34Scott Dixon
2016Simon PagenaudWill Power43Simon Pagenaud
2017Josef NewgardenScott Dixon3Josef Newgarden
2018Scott DixonAlexander Rossi29Scott Dixon
2019Josef NewgardenAlexander Rossi41Josef Newgarden
2020Scott DixonJosef Newgarden32Scott Dixon
2021Alex PalouPato O’Ward35?

Race Notes:

  • There have been nine different winners in 15 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season. Alex Palou (Barber Motorsports Park, Road America, Portland International Raceway), Colton Herta (Streets of St. Petersburg, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca), Scott Dixon (Texas Motor Speedway-1), Pato O’Ward (Texas Motor Speedway-2, Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2), Rinus VeeKay (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-1), Helio Castroneves (Indianapolis 500), Marcus Ericsson  (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1, Streets of Nashville), Josef Newgarden (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, World Wide Technology Raceway) and Will Power (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-2) have all won in 2021. The modern record (1946-present) for most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.
  • There have been seven different winners in the last 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races (Helio Castroneves, Alex PalouMarcus Ericsson, Pato O’WardJosef Newgarden, Will Power and Colton Herta). The only repeat winners in that stretch are, Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1 and Streets of Nashville), Newgarden (Mid-Ohio and WWT Raceway) and Palou (Road America and Portland).
  • This weekend’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will mark the 37th INDYCAR SERIES event on the historic street circuit. Mario Andretti won the first INDYCAR race there in 1984. Alexander Rossi won the race in 2018 and 2019. No race was held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sebastien Bourdais (2005-2007) was the last back-to-back-to-back winner at Long Beach.
  • Al Unser Jr. has won the most times at Long Beach (six), while Sebastien BourdaisWill Power and Alexander Rossi are the only entered drivers with multiple wins. Bourdais won three straight races from 2005-2007. Power won in 2008 and 2012, and Rossi won in 2018 and 2019. Other former race winners scheduled to compete are Helio Castroneves (2001), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2010), Takuma Sato (2013), Scott Dixon (2015), Simon Pagenaud (2016) and  James Hinchcliffe (2017).
  • Five drivers have won the race from the pole – Mario Andretti (1984, 1985 and 1987), Al Unser Jr. (1989-90), Helio Castroneves (2001), Sebastien Bourdais (2006-07) and Alexander Rossi (2018-19).
  • Twenty of the 28 drivers entered have competed in INDYCAR SERIES races at Long Beach. Sebastien BourdaisRyan Hunter-Reay and Will Power each have 14 starts, most among all entered drivers. Eleven entered drivers have led laps: Helio Castroneves 179, Bourdais 173, Power 170, Hunter-Reay 151, Alexander Rossi 151, Scott Dixon 103, Takuma Sato 67, Simon Pagenaud 54, James Hinchcliffe 25 and Josef Newgarden 4.
  • Four California natives are entered: 2018 and 2019 race winner Alexander Rossi is a native of Nevada City, while Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta hails from Valencia. Charlie Kimball is from Camarillo, and NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie Jimmie Johnson is from El Cajon.
  • Four NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookies – Romain GrosjeanCallum IlottJimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin – are expected to compete. The four rookies, along with veteran drivers Oliver AskewDalton KellettAlex Palou and Rinus VeeKay, will all make their first INDYCAR SERIES start on the Streets of Long Beach.

Herta Dominates in Laguna Seca Win; Palou Closes in on Championship

(Photo Courtesy of Penske Entertainment)

Herta Dominates in Laguna Seca Win; 
Palou Closes in on Championship

MONTEREY, Calif. (Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021) – Colton Herta continued his family’s success at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with a dominant victory Sunday in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, while Alex Palou marched closer and closer to an even bigger win.

Herta earned his second victory this season and fifth career victory, beating Palou’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda to the finish by 1.9747 seconds. NTT P1 Award winner Herta led 91 of the 95 laps in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.

California native Herta also won this event from the pole the last time it took place, in 2019 in his only other start here. This race was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Herta’s father and race strategist, Bryan Herta, won this race as a driver from the pole in 1998 and 1999.

“I enjoy racing here so much,” Herta said. “It’s an amazing track for me and my family. It’s been so good to us. To go two-for-two so far (at Laguna Seca) is great. We were fast all weekend, and I’m glad we could pull it off in the race.”

Spaniard Palou pulled 35 points ahead of Pato O’Ward in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings with just one race remaining, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this Sunday at Long Beach, California. Palou must finish 11th or better at Long Beach to earn his first title in his second season in the series.

“We didn’t have it today for the win, but we did the most we could,” Palou said. “I was trying, but it was tough. It was Herta’s day today. I’m happy with P2.”

Palou, O’Ward and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden are the only drivers eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup at the season finale. Newgarden is third in the standings, 48 points back. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson were eliminated from contention at this race after finishing 13th and sixth, respectively.

This will be the 16th consecutive season in which the NTT INDYCAR SERIES title race will be decided at the final race of the season.

Romain Grosjean finished third today in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda after a stirring late-race charge past rivals and lapped traffic in which he sliced between one to two seconds per lap from Herta and Palou. Grosjean’s third podium finish of the season helped him stay alive in the race for Rookie of the Year honors, as he trails Scott McLaughlin by 20 points.

Grosjean was 10 seconds behind Herta with nine laps remaining but closed to within 3.7087 seconds at the finish after some deft driving, including a wheel-banging, side-by-side duel to lap Jimmie Johnson in the famous “Corkscrew” turn with seven laps remaining. Series rookie Johnson was hip-checked off the track by Grosjean but returned to the racing surface to finish a season-best 17th in the No. 48 Carvana Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.

“The last stint was very fun because we were on new tires and fresher than everyone else,” Grosjean said. “So, that was exciting. It’s been a great day. Sorry to Jimmie for the contact out there. He was trying to protect Alex (Palou, teammate), and I wanted to go chase Alex.

“P13 to P3 today, it’s a pretty good day. Laguna Seca, I love you. That’s all I can say.”

Graham Rahal finished fourth in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda, with O’Ward rounding out the top five in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

“All weekend we didn’t have it,” O’Ward said. “I truly feel like we used every single ounce of energy and pace that this car had. We pulled off a near-miracle in qualifying to start in the first three rows. In the race, honestly, that was as much as I had.

“All we can do at Long Beach is win, and then let everything else fall. I’ve got faith in myself. I know I’m pretty handy around a street course, so let’s see what we can pull off next week.”

Herta’s path to victory become much clearer on Lap 2 of the 95-lap race, ironically after he made a mistake. Herta went wide in Turn 4, opening the door for fellow front-row starter and Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi in Turn 5.

Rossi and Herta banged wheels while side-by-side in Turn 5, and Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda then spun into the gravel and stalled. Rossi’s car was refired, but he finished 25th, two laps down.

After that incident, teams unfolded varying tire and fuel strategies trying to undercut or overcut Herta’s lead. None worked, as Herta’s speed and consistency were too much.

The only time Herta didn’t lead the race came when Grosjean was at the front on Lap 19 and from Laps 69-71 during pit cycles.

Palou kept the race close around the midway point, pulling to within one second of Herta as both drivers’ Firestone tires wore during a stint. But Herta had extended his lead to 5.4 seconds by Lap 75.

“There was always pressure there from Alex behind me,” Herta said. “Even at the beginning of the stints when I was a little bit better, he was still there. And he closed it back up at the end of the stints. I think he was a little better that time.

“I’m just happy to have done it. This place is so awesome – it’s my favorite track in North America by far. To win here means so much.”

About the only drama for Herta over the closing laps came with 14 laps remaining when he couldn’t avoid what appeared to be a rabbit or a squirrel running across the track. But the wildlife collision did no damage to his machine, and he marched home to victory.

Grosjean’s charge kept the race lively over the closing laps. It appeared with 10 laps to go the Frenchman may have been able to shave enough time per lap to pass Palou and possibly catch Herta for the win. But traffic and tire wear blunted that effort, and Grosjean ended up 1.734 seconds behind Palou.

While the Drivers’ Championship will go to the wire at Long Beach, Honda today clinched the Manufacturers Award for the fourth consecutive season.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES Announces 17-Race 2022 Schedule

INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021) – INDYCAR has announced a 17-race schedule for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, which will feature its bold and daring athletes competing against the thrilling backdrop of unprecedented coverage on network television, an earlier start date, a re-energized summer of fan favorites and a turbocharged stretch run.

In the United States, a record 14 events will air on the NBC broadcast network, one more than previously announced in July. It is the most single-season appearances on network television in INDYCAR SERIES history. Two additional races will appear on USA Network while Peacock Premium, NBCUniversal’s streaming service, will provide live coverage of all 17 races in addition to practices and qualifying.

“This schedule continues to build on the growth and momentum the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has achieved, especially in 2021,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “Our terrific partnership with NBC Sports has led to a fantastic opportunity to place an unparalleled 14 events on broadcast television while completing the rest of the schedule with USA Network and Peacock.

“Our drivers and teams will give the fans a strong, earlier start with six consecutive races on NBC, building even more anticipation for the crown jewel of the Indianapolis 500 in May. Our summer schedule also is full of action, with no extended breaks in the calendar, leading into the crowning of a champion on the West Coast with our last two races also on NBC.”

The 2022 calendar is benchmarked by the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 29. This year’s “500” on NBC was the most-watched edition of the race since the 100th Running in 2016.

“We’re incredibly excited about our 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule, highlighted by the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 and a record 14 INDYCAR races on the NBC broadcast network that will bring added exposure to the series,” said Mike Perman, VP, Programming, NBC Sports. “With more races than ever on NBC, plus comprehensive live coverage of every minute of the 2022 season on Peacock with practices, qualifying and race simulstreams, we look forward to continuing to grow the sport and super-serve INDYCAR fans across the country.”

Traditions Return

NBC will feature the first six races of 2022, as fans won’t have to wait long for INDYCAR action following the 2021 season finale. The NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship will begin at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which will host the series’ season opener for the 11th time, Sunday, Feb. 27. It is the first February start for the INDYCAR SERIES since 2004 and the earliest the season has started since the opener on the Streets of St. Petersburg on Feb. 23, 2003.

The action-packed oval at Texas Motor Speedway moves to March for the first time, Sunday, March 20. It is the second consecutive year that the series will race at the “Great American Speedway” ahead of the Indianapolis 500, placing a crucial oval on the early part of the schedule.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns to the spring calendar, Sunday, April 10, appearing on network television for the first time in 15 years. It is the 38th year the INDYCAR SERIES has raced on the iconic streets of Southern California as the event celebrates its 47th edition.

Barber Motorsports Park hosts its 12th Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Sunday, May 1. Then, the series moves into the traditional Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a series of events featured on NBC: the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, May 14; Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying weekend, Saturday and Sunday, May 21-22; before the 106th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29.

The Raceway at Belle Isle Park returns with its traditional post-“500” date Sunday, June 5, followed by the series’ 33rd visit to ultra-fast Road America on Sunday June 12 and another Fourth of July holiday celebration Sunday, July 3 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Over half of the events on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule have been on the calendar for 19 or more years. Mid-Ohio joins Long Beach in longevity as it hosts the series for a 38th year in 2022.

Fantastic Finish

The 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship will finish with a flurry of eight races in the final nine weeks of the season, with six events on NBC.

This jam-packed second half of the season starts with the long-awaited return to the Streets of Toronto on Sunday, July 17, for the series’ 36th Honda Indy Toronto. The season continues with a high-speed oval doubleheader Saturday and Sunday, July 23-24 at Iowa Speedway. With partnership from Hy-Vee, it will mark the 16th and 17th INDYCAR SERIES events at the track known as “The Fastest Short Track on the Planet.”

“Iowa Speedway has traditionally produced some of most intense racing the NTT INDYCAR SERIES has to offer,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “It is great to see that this short oval, where we’ve seen up to 955 on-track passes in a single race, is back on the schedule. Combined with the rest of the calendar and a growing paddock, which has produced as many as 28 entries at non-Indy 500 events this year, the 2022 season will be as compelling and competitive as ever.”

Another historic NASCAR-INDYCAR Brickyard weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will see the NTT INDYCAR SERIES featured Saturday, July 30 followed by another wildly popular visit to the Streets of Nashville on Sunday, Aug. 7. In 2021, the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix played to packed grandstands and drew the largest cable television audience for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in over two decades.

The series’ final oval of 2022 will come Saturday, Aug. 20 at World Wide Technology Raceway before back-to-back races on the classic American road courses of Portland International

Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to finish the season. The 28th Grand Prix of Portland is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 4 while the 25th Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey returns to crown the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion, Sunday, Sept. 11.

“This is an excellent schedule for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship,” Miles said. “This calendar provides a level of balance between temporary street circuits, road courses and ovals, and that variety and required versatility from our drivers are important, distinguishing attributes of NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing.

“The continuity among our events and the growth in the number of teams showcase our strong positioning and continued momentum.”

Start times for 2022 events will be announced at a later date.

Laguna Seca NTT P1 Award Qualifying

Herta Continues Mastery of Laguna Seca
with NTT P1 Award

MONTEREY, Calif. (Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021) – Colton Herta won the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey from the pole in 2019, the last time this NTT INDYCAR SERIES event took place at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

He’s halfway toward that dominant equation again at the track that could be nicknamed “Herta House.”

MEDIA LINKS: Qualifying Results | Driver Video Quotes | Post-Qualifying News Conference Transcript

Herta earned the NTT P1 Award on Saturday with a top lap of 1 minute, 10.7994 seconds during the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian. It was his seventh career pole and series high-tying third top spot of the season.

“I’m glad we ended up doing three (laps in final stint of qualifying) because I guess two wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “I really got to nail that third lap. The Gainbridge car was awesome, awesome being powered by Honda. What an amazing track. I love this place so much. Two for two for poles here.”

Herta has two poles and one victory at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit that features the famous “Corkscrew” turn complex. His father, Bryan, who serves as his strategist, won INDYCAR SERIES races in 1998 and 1999 at this track, both also from the pole. Bryan Herta also won the pole here in 1997.

Live coverage of the 95-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup session will precede the race at noon (ET), live on Peacock Premium.

Andretti Autosport found a silver lining in a challenging season by seizing the front row, as Herta’s teammate Alexander Rossi qualified second at 1:10.9951 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda.

2014 series champion Will Power will start third after a top qualifying lap of 1:11.1317 in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet. Power appeared to qualify second, but his quickest lap was nullified after race officials deemed he didn’t slow during a local yellow triggered near the end of the session when Pato O’Ward spun in the Corkscrew turn.

Championship leader Alex Palou will start fourth in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda after a best lap of 1:11.3317. Palou leads second-place O’Ward by 25 points with two races remaining in the season.

Oliver Askew burnished his credentials while auditioning for a full-time ride in 2022 by qualifying fifth – tying his career best – at 1:11.8937 in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda.

O’Ward will start sixth. His best lap in the Firestone Fast Six was nullified due to a penalty for his spin at the Corkscrew, with his second-best lap of 1:24.2715 standing up. But it still marked a significant recovery for the Mexican as he fights for the Astor Challenge Cup. O’Ward was 14th-quickest in the first practice Friday and dropped to 20th in pre-qualifying practice Saturday morning.

Among the other three drivers still mathematically eligible for the season championship, Chip Ganassi teammates Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon will start seventh and eighth, respectively. Ericsson is 75 points behind Palou in fifth in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, while six-time series champion Dixon is fourth, 49 points behind Palou, in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

Qualifying struggles continued for the second straight race for two-time series champion Josef Newgarden. He will start 17th in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, failing to advance from the first round of qualifying after leading practice Friday and registering the 10th-quickest time in practice this morning.

Newgarden was fast in practice last weekend at Portland but struggled in qualifying, rallying to a fifth-place finish after starting 18th. He is third in the standings, 34 points behind Palou.

Any driver 55 points or more behind the leader after this race will be eliminated from championship contention entering the season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, Sept. 26 at Long Beach, California.

Newgarden Paces Opening Practice at Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif. (Friday, Sept. 17, 2021) – Josef Newgarden isn’t going down without a big fight.

Two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Newgarden led practice Friday for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, turning a top lap of 1 minute, 11.7125 seconds in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet after losing ground to championship leader Alex Palou last weekend at Portland International Raceway.

MEDIA LINKS: Practice Results | Driver Video Quotes | Post-Practice Transcript

“Overall, we unloaded pretty good,” Newgarden said. “Small differences here or there, but for the most part globally it felt like the car was in the window. Just got to look after it.

“Obviously, things can change quickly. In Portland, we were pretty sorted out in practice one, we choked in qualifying and were pretty far off the pace. That’s the number one thing for us in the 2 car, have a consistent run all the way through. If we can do that, we’ll be in the fight.”

Newgarden enters this penultimate event of the season third in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings, 34 points behind leader Palou. It’s far from impossible he can rally for a third career title, but he’ll need to leapfrog Palou and second-place Pato O’Ward – 25 points behind Palou – to wear the crown.

Colton Herta was second at 1:11.7927 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda before going off course just past the famous Corkscrew turn complex in the final minute of the 45-minute session on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course on the beautiful Monterey Peninsula of Northern California. 2019 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey winner Herta made no contact and continued to the pits.

“I think it’s tough to do a 45-minute session on one set of tires,” Herta said. “Waiting for most of it, waiting to see what kind of lap times guys were doing.

“Compared to when we were at the test, I think the track was a lot better. It was quite nice. Even though it seemed like it was similar temperature, seemed to be a little bit more grip today.”

Track activity resumes with a 45-minute practice at 1:45 p.m. (ET) Saturday, followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 5:05 p.m. (ET). Both sessions will be streamed live on Peacock Premium.

Palou was third overall in the practice at 1:11.9750 in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. Ed Jones was fourth at 1:12.0166 in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda, while 2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five at 1:12.0625 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda.

Among the other three drivers mathematically eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup as season champion, Marcus Ericsson (fifth, 75 points behind) was 10th at 1:12.3564 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon (fourth, 49 points behind) ended up 11th at 1:12.4415 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda, while O’Ward was 14th at 1:12.4982 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

Herta wasn’t the only driver to go off track while pushing for lap time toward the end of the session.

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves nudged the tire barrier in Turn 2, also known as the Andretti Hairpin, with the nose of his No. 06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda with about 18 minutes remaining. Then Rossi went off in Turn 3 and continued, while Sebastien Bourdais spun and continued in the No. 14 ROKiT/AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.

Rookie of the Year points leader Scott McLaughlin also slowed in the final minute approaching the Corkscrew turn complex.

Live coverage of the 95-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBC, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Preview: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021) – There are two races remaining in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ 2021 season, and Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca likely comes down to the finish of one driver.

Keep an eye on where Alex Palou stands at the end of the 95 laps.

The four other drivers still mathematically in contention for the season title – Pato O’Ward, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson – need to finish ahead of the series points leader to have a realistic chance to overtake him at the season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sept. 26.

All drivers not within 54 points of the lead after this weekend’s race will officially be eliminated, and if the leader participates in Long Beach, they’ll need to be within 49 points to catch him. Palou leads O’Ward by 25 points, Newgarden by 34, Dixon by 49 and Ericsson by 75.

Palou is bidding for his first series championship in just his second season. He won last weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland for his series-leading third victory of the season.

Here are five hot topics heading into the race weekend:

Limited Experience for All

Palou was one of the handful of INDYCAR drivers who had never experienced a race at Portland International Raceway, but he didn’t let that deter him. He earned the bonus point for winning the NTT P1 Award pole, handled the stress of restarting 17th following a Lap 1 incident and wasn’t threatened in the final 25 laps as he pulled away from the other contenders.

Palou faces another new track when practice begins Friday at Laguna Seca. Like Portland, the driver of the No. 10 NTT Data Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing has tested at the 11-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course in Northern California, but he has never raced there. Can he win again?

O’Ward has made five starts at Laguna Seca in the Road to Indy program – all in Indy Pro 2000 – and he won once, in 2016. He, too, has tested an INDYCAR at the track, driving the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, but he has not raced there in one of these cars.

Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) and Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) have combined for 71 race wins and eight series championships in this series, and they have experience at this venue, albeit without a victory. Newgarden’s only start came in 2019 when Colton Herta won for Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Newgarden finished eighth.

Dixon, who finished third in that race, made two starts at the track while in his first two INDYCAR seasons, finishing fourth in 2001 and sixth in 2002. Ericsson finished 11th in his only appearance in 2019.

Herta at the Point

Herta, the second-generation driver now piloting the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian, was a blur in the 2019 race. After winning the NTT P1 Award pole, he led the first 17 laps and relinquished the lead only during pit cycles. Of the 90 laps, he controlled 83 of them.

Herta’s victory shouldn’t have been a surprise. His father and current race strategist, Bryan, was legendary at this track. He won three consecutive poles from 1997-99 and won the race in 1998 and 1999. He nearly won the 1996 race, too, but was famously passed on the last lap by Alex Zanardi charging through the dirt in the Corkscrew.

The younger Herta won the second race of this season, in St. Petersburg, Florida, from the pole, and started from the top spot and largely dominated the inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in August in Nashville before crashing late in the race trying to catch Ericsson. He desperately wants another win this season to generate momentum for a 2022 title run.

Andretti Autosport helped Alexander Rossi produce his best performance of the season last weekend in Portland, a second-place finish driving the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. Rossi finished sixth in the 2019 race at Laguna Seca.

Others To Watch

Will Power (No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet) isn’t having the season he wanted, but the winner of the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix in mid-August on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course took well to Laguna Seca two years ago. Power was the only driver in the same zip code as Herta, finishing .5878 of second back. He also led six of the seven laps Herta didn’t.

Rossi is still searching for his first victory of the season as is teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, who is completing his 12th and final season in Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda.

Jack Harvey (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) tied a season best at Portland, finishing fourth as he did in St. Petersburg. Harvey would like to end his association with Meyer Shank Racing with his first series victory.

Graham Rahal (No. 15 United Rentals Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) did virtually everything right at Portland, leading a race-high 36 laps, before giving way to a different fuel strategy and finished 10th. He, too, is looking for his first win of the season.

Callum Ilott will make his second career INDYCAR start in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet, and Oliver Askew returns to the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. They are among the 27 drivers entered in this event.

A Team Penske First?

Believe it or not, there is something Team Penske has never done in INDYCAR competition: Have one of its drivers win the series’ Rookie of the Year Award. The award dates to 1979.

But Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet) has the potential to lock up the crown Sunday with a strong performance. He enters the weekend 38 points ahead of Romain Grosjean, who drives the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR. McLaughlin has been ahead of Grosjean in points since the completion of the season’s third race but stretched the advantage after a ninth-place finish at Portland.

The top-10 finish was McLaughlin’s fifth of the season and second in succession. He finished fourth in the Aug. 21 oval race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Grosjean has been at a disadvantage in this battle because he did not compete in three of the four oval races, including the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, which awarded double the usual number of points. McLaughlin scored 84 points in the three races Grosjean wasn’t in.

The Weekend Schedule

The final two race weekends of the 16-race season are three-day events, with the first of two 45-minute practices Friday at Laguna Seca at 5:30 p.m. (ET). The action can be viewed on Peacock Premium, NBC’s live streaming service.
The second practice of the weekend is Saturday at 1:45 p.m. (ET), with NTT P1 Award qualifying at 5:05 p.m. (ET). Both will air live on Peacock Premium.

Sunday’s schedule includes a 30-minute warmup at noon (ET) – again on Peacock Premium – with the 95-lap Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC beginning at 3 p.m. (ET), also simulcast on Peacock Premium. The green flag is estimated at 3:30 p.m. (ET).

Like the Portland race, this one also is five laps longer than the most recent event in 2019. That’s 95 laps to the checkered flag.

Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey Fast Facts

Race weekend: Friday, Sept. 17 – Sunday, Sept. 19

Track: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, a 2.258-mile permanent road course in Monterey, California

Race distance: 95 laps / 214.51 miles

Media Links: Entry List (PDF) | Driver Video Quotes 

Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation.

Firestone tire allotment: Six sets primary, four sets alternate. Teams must use one set of primary and one new set of alternate tires in the race. (Note: A seventh set of primary tires is available to any car fielding a rookie driver.)

Twitter: @WeatherTechRcwy@IndyCar, #IndyCar #FirestoneGP

Event website: www.WeatherTechRaceway.com

INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com

2019 race winner (most recent): Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda)

2019 pole winner (most recent): Colton Herta (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda), 1 minute, 10.1405 seconds, 114.867 mph

Qualifying record: Helio Castroneves, 1:07.722, 118.969 mph, Sept. 8, 2000

NBC television broadcast: Race, 3 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 19, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

Peacock Premium Live Streaming: This weekend’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on Peacock Premium, NBC’s direct-to-consumer live streaming product.

INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes will be the lead announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton. Jake Query, Nick Yeoman and Michael Young are the turn announcers. Dan Rusanowsky and Alex Wolff will report from the pits. The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will air live on network affiliates, SiriusXM 205 and 211, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT INDYCAR SERIES practices and qualifying are available on SiriusXM 205, indycar.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

At-track schedule (all times local):

Friday, Sept. 17

2:30–3:15 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice 1, Peacock Premium (live)

Saturday, Sept. 18

10:45–11:30 a.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice 2, Peacock Premium (live)

2:05 p.m. – NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), Peacock Premium (live)

Sunday, Sept. 19

9-9:30 a.m.– NTT INDYCAR SERIES warmup, Peacock Premium (live)

11:50 a.m. – Driver introductions

Noon – NBC on air

12:23 p.m. – Start engines command

12:30 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (95 laps/214.51 miles), NBC (live)

Championship Facts:

  • Alex Palou leads the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship with two races to go for the first time in his career. Palou has led the point standings after nine of the 14 races this season.
  • Palou leads Pato O’Ward by 25 points with Josef Newgarden (-34), Scott Dixon (-49) and Marcus Ericsson (-75) behind. Palou assumed the point lead following his win at Portland. The lead has changed hands six times between Palou, O’Ward and Dixon.
  • There are five drivers still mathematically eligible for the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship: Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson. Any driver who trails the points leader by 54 points or more following the race will be eliminated from contention.
  • Since the first INDYCAR SERIES race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, the winning driver has won the INDYCAR SERIES championship six times: Bobby Rahal (1986 and 1987), Danny Sullivan (1988), Michael Andretti (1991), Alex Zanardi (1998) and Cristiano da Matta (2002).

Key championship point statistic: Since 2008, the driver who has led the championship with two races to go has failed to win the championship five times. Scott Dixon in 2008, 2018 and 2020, Dario Franchitti in 2011, Will Power in 2014, Simon Pagenaud in 2016 and Josef Newgarden in 2017 and 2019 are the exceptions who have won the title after leading with two races remaining.

Don’t call it a comeback: No point lead is ever safe in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Five times since 2008, a driver has made up a deficit with two races to go to win the championship – Dario Franchitti, who trailed Ryan Briscoe by four points in 2009 and Will Power by 23 points in 2010; Ryan Hunter-Reay, who trailed Will Power by five points with two races remaining in 2012, Scott Dixon, who was in third place, 48 points behind Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 and Power who overcame a four-point deficit to Helio Castroneves in 2014.

CHAMPIONSHIP WITH TWO TO GO (2008-2021)

YEARLEADERSECOND LEADCHAMPION
2008Scott DixonHelio Castroneves78Scott Dixon
2009Ryan BriscoeDario Franchitti4Dario Franchitti
2010Will PowerDario Franchitti23Dario Franchitti
2011Dario FranchittiWill Power26Dario Franchitti
2012Will PowerRyan Hunter-Reay5Ryan Hunter-Reay
2013Helio CastronevesScott Dixon49Scott Dixon
2014Will PowerHelio Castroneves4Will Power
2015Juan Pablo MontoyaGraham Rahal42Scott Dixon (-48)
2016Simon PagenaudWill Power27Simon Pagenaud
2017Josef NewgardenScott Dixon18Josef Newgarden
2018Scott DixonAlexander Rossi29Scott Dixon
2019Josef NewgardenAlexander Rossi35Josef Newgarden
2020Scott DixonJosef Newgarden72Scott Dixon
2021Alex PalouPato O’Ward25?

RACE NOTES:

  • There have been nine different winners in 14 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season. Alex Palou (Barber Motorsports Park, Road America, Portland International Raceway), Colton Herta (Streets of St. Petersburg), Scott Dixon (Texas Motor Speedway-1), Pato O’Ward (Texas Motor Speedway-2, Raceway at Belle Isle Park-2), Rinus VeeKay (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-1), Helio Castroneves (Indianapolis 500), Marcus Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1, Streets of Nashville), Josef Newgarden (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, World Wide Technology Raceway) and Will Power (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course-2) have all won in 2021. The modern record (1946-present) for most different winners in a season is 11 in 2000, 2001 and 2014.
  • There have been seven different winners in the last 10 NTT INDYCAR SERIES races (Rinus VeeKay, Helio Castroneves, Alex PalouMarcus Ericsson, Pato O’WardJosef Newgarden and Will Power) The only repeat winners in that stretch are, Ericsson (Raceway at Belle Isle Park-1 and Streets of Nashville), Newgarden (Mid-Ohio and WWT Raceway) and Palou (Road America and Portland).
  • The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey will be the 24th INDYCAR SERIES race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, but just the second since 2004. Teo Fabi won the first INDYCAR SERIES race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 1983. Colton Herta – who won the most recent race at the track in 2019 – and Helio Castroneves -who won at the track in 2000 – are the only former winners entered in this year’s race.
  • Thirteen drivers have won at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca from the pole – Teo Fabi (1983), Bobby Rahal (1985), Danny Sullivan (1988), Rick Mears (1989), Danny Sullivan (1990), Michael Andretti (1991 and 1992), Paul Tracy (1994), Alex Zanardi (1996), Bryan Herta (1998 and 1999), Helio Castroneves (2000), Cristiano da Matta (2002), Patrick Carpentier (2003) and Colton Herta (2019).
  • Team Penske has won six times at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Penske’s winning drivers are Danny Sullivan (1988 and 1990), Rick Mears (1989), Paul Tracy (1993 and 1994) and Helio Castroneves (2000). Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has three wins with Bryan Herta (1998-99) and Max Papis (2001). Chip Ganassi Racing has two wins with Alex Zanardi in 1996 and Jimmy Vasser in 1997.
  • Eighteen drivers entered in the event have competed in past INDYCAR SERIES races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Helio Castroneves has four starts, most among the entered drivers, but hasn’t raced at the track since 2001. Five entered drivers have led laps at the track (Colton Herta 83, Will Power 6, Scott Dixon 2, Sebastien Bourdais 1 and Simon Pagenaud 1).
  • Four rookies – Romain GrosjeanCallum IlottJimmie Johnson and Scott McLaughlin – are expected to compete. The four rookies, along with veteran drivers Oliver AskewDalton KellettPato O’WardAlex Palou and Rinus VeeKay, will all be making their first INDYCAR SERIES at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
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