The NTT IndyCar Series continues their end of season tour of the west coast this weekend with the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, held at the world-famous WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Alex Palou reclaimed his championship lead by winning the Grand Prix of Portland last weekend, building a 25-point cushion to second place Patricio O’Ward in the process. Josef Newgarden overtook third place from Scott Dixon, with only five points now separating the 2020 championship rivals. Marcus Ericsson still holds fifth place, 26 points behind his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate.
Only two races remain this season, and the championship fight is coming down to the wire. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterrey.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?
Like Portland, Laguna Seca was taken off of the schedule due to COVID-19 restrictions, but in 2019 the race was the season finale that saw Colton Herta win from the pole and Newgarden crowned as the series champion.
Much like the 2019 Grand Prix of Portland, Herta was forced to defend his lead from Dixon in the early stages of the race. Unlike the previous outing, Herta was able to manage his tyres and keep Dixon behind him, until he came under fire from Will Power at the end of the final pit stop phase.
The lone caution of the race came as Conor Daly made contact with Marco Andretti in turn two, with Daly spinning and stalling on the sausage kerb on the inside of the second corner.
After starting fourth, Newgarden slipped down the top ten to sit in eighth position with ten laps to go. His title rival and teammate Simon Pagenaud sat in fourth, desperate to pass Dixon and charge for the leaders. If Pagenaud got to the lead, he would have stolen the title from his teammate, but it wasn’t meant to be as he finished fourth while Newgarden finished eighth to maintain his championship.
At the same time at the front, Herta held off Power who made a few mistakes in the last few laps to give the then-rookie his second IndyCar victory at the track his father made famous.
You can read the full race report here.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?
Like Portland before and Long Beach after, both Palou and O’Ward have not raced an IndyCar at Laguna Seca. Palou easily proved inexperience wasn’t an issue at Portland while O’Ward struggled, qualifying seventh and finishing fourteenth. The Mexican will be one to watch in every session, as he needs a much better weekend here to stay with Palou in the title hunt.
Dixon sits fourth behind Newgarden, Palou and O’Ward in the points, and was one of the fastest cars at Laguna Seca last year. Dixon showed pace at Portland, keeping up with Palou more than he has in recent weeks, and hasn’t finished ahead of the Spaniard since the Music City Grand Prix. One mistake from any of the drivers ahead of him in the standings puts Dixon right back in the hunt for his seventh series championship, can he capitalize if he sees blood in the water?
Alexander Rossi earned his first podium finish of the year last weekend, and was competitive during the last race at Laguna Seca starting third but finishing sixth. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner hasn’t won since Road America in 2019, plagued by awful luck. With momentum on his side, can Rossi finish the season with a stretch of strong finishes like he did last year, and maybe even break this winless streak?
WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE FOR THIS WEEKEND?
Friday 17 September
1730 EST / 1430 PST / 2230 BST – Practice
Saturday 18 September
1345 EST / 1245 PST / 1845 BST – Practice 2
1705 EST / 1405 PST / 2205 BST – Qualifying
Sunday 12 September
1500 EST / 1200 PST / 2000 BST – Race
WHERE CAN I WATCH?
Coverage in the UK for the race will be provided by Sky Sports F1.
In the United States, coverage for practice and qualifying will be broadcast on the Peacock streaming service, with the race being broadcast on NBC.
HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ALL THE ACTION?
You can follow all the all the action here at The Checkered Flag. We will be providing coverage of the practice, qualifying, and race sessions. You can also follow IndyCar on Twitter (@Indycar) for live updates during the sessions.