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IndyCar Laguna Seca

IndyCar Laguna Seca: Palou beats Herta after Corkscrew pass

Second win of the year for reigning champion after a perfectly executed flat-out strategy in caution-ridden, chaotic race

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou fended off Colton Herta on a late restart to claim victory in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca.

The Spaniard, who started on pole, successfully defended the top spot after a restart with four laps to go, winning by 1.9780s on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course over Herta’s No. 26 Andretti Global Honda.

It is the second win of the season for Palou, who previously won on the Indianapolis Road Course in May. 

“It was a chaotic race,” Palou said. “The strategy was a bit risky for the position we were in, but we knew we had the pace and just had to execute.

“It was fun, too much intense at the end with those restart, but overall an amazing win.”

Joining Palou and Herta on the podium was Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi in third.

Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Romain Grosjean and Andretti Global’s Kyle Kirkwood finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

The Race

Palou led the field to the green flag but it was front row-mate Kirkwood who drove it deep into the corner and hung tough on the outside of Turn 2, which set up a switchback to complete the pass on the inside entering Turn 3 and take the race lead.

While much of the field got through the opening lap clean, Will Power’s tough weekend of off-track adventures continued; he went off in Turn 4 while battling AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci and Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Christian Rasmussen, with his No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet dropping 10 spots from his starting position of 15th as a result.

Despite having the lead, Kirkwood couldn’t break away from Palou, with the gap staying between 0.2-0.6s until he pitted on lap 26 and switched from the harder primary tires to a new set of softer alternates.

Palou opted to pit the next lap but remained on the primary compound. While Palou was diving to pit lane, Christian Lundgaard endured an off-track moment in Turn 9, hitting signage that stuck on the front wing of his No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda as a result.

When the first round of pit stops cycled out, it was Rossi making the most of an undercut of pitting on lap 24 and jumping from fourth into the lead. By lap 32, the California native, running on new alternates, held a 5.2s lead over Kirkwood.

Through the initial cycle of pitstops, the overcut hurt Palou, who came out fourth behind Rossi, Kirkwood and Herta. Additionally, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who was pressing to make up for a lowly qualifying effort of 14th, was handed a drive thru penalty by Race Control for improper exit, having gone off at pit out after his stop on lap 26.

Dale Coyne Racing’s Luca Ghiotto then went off at Turn 4 and pounded the tire barrier, putting a premature end to his day and bringing out the first caution on lap 35.

With the window of the next pit stop opened up during the caution, Rossi and half of the field opted for service as Palou stayed out and assumed the race lead.

Ganassi’s Scott Dixon caught the curbing coming to pit lane and hit the outside pit wall – lightly damaging the front wing – while also getting tagged lightly from behind by Penske’s Scott McLaughlin. Of the 13 drivers that pitted, Herta came out ahead while also swapping to the primaries, ahead of Rossi on used alternates and Kirkwood on primaries.

Palou led the field to the green flag on lap 40, with second-place man Pato O’Ward under fire from the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet of Romain Grosjean.

In a similar move as Kirkwood at the start, Grosjean drove deep on the outside of O’Ward into Turn 2 and took the runner-up spot with the inside pass going into Turn 3.

A second caution came out moments later after Arrow McLaren’s newly-signed rookie Nolan Siegel spun and stalled in Turn 2.

The race resumed on lap 43, with Palou holding Grosjean at bay into Turn 2 before quickly setting off to a gap of over 1.2s.

Palou stretched the lead out to a 3.8s lead over Grosjean by lap 48, while O’Ward opted to pit and handed third over to Meyer Shank Racing’s David Malukas, who pitted the next lap.

Grosjean pitted from second on lap 55, swapping from primaries to fresh alternates. Palou dove in for service the following lap and also took fresh alternate tires, which handed the lead to Herta.

Herta led Rossi, with Palou coming out third ahead of Kirkwood in fourth after 56 laps, with all within 4.7s of each other. McLaughlin ran fifth, followed by Power and Dixon.

The runner-up spot changed hands on lap 62 after Palou made a pass on the inside of Rossi in Turn 2, with Palou moving to within 0.3s of Herta moments later.

Palou hounded Herta for the lead before making an inside pass for the race lead into the Corkscrew on lap 64. The lead for Palou widened to 3s over the next two laps.

Kirkwood and Dixon dove to pit lane on lap 67, opting for the undercut. Kirkwood opted for primaries, while the six-time IndyCar Series champion Dixon took used alternates.

Herta fell to 6s behind Palou before diving to pit lane on lap 68, switching to primaries, with Rossi also pitting and coming out behind his former team-mate with used alternates.

Palou was called to pit lane on lap 71 by strategist Barry Wanser and elected to swap from the alternates to used primaries. Grosjean, who elevated to second in the pit cycle, dove to pit lane behind Palou and took primaries.

Lundgaard gave a hip check to Marcus Armstrong in Turn 4, which sent him off course. Armstrong’s attempt to save it brought him back across the track and nearly led to a massive collision with Graham Rahal. Fortunately, the incident only resulted in the New Zealander stalled on the inside of corner and brought out the yellow flag.

Newgarden, who was running second trying to stay out and overcome the early penalty, pitted, and then Race Control waved the yellow flag, which allowed the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion to return in second with new primaries.

A restart with 17 laps left saw Palou lead Newgarden, Herta, Rossi and Grosjean as the top five.

The restart gave way to chaos as McLaughlin and Power, battling for sixth, collided. McLaughlin spun, while Power faded down to ninth. McLaughlin pitted and returned, but the damage was too severe to continue.

Moments later, Lundgaard blew through the Corkscrew and caught some air, receiving a penalty for track limits and falling to 22nd.

Meanwhile, Newgarden dropped wheels in Turn 6 and fell from second to fifth.

A caution returned on lap 83 after Dale Coyne Racing’s Jack Harvey parked it on the front straight near the pit exit with smoke billowing from his Honda engine.

Palou led Herta to the green flag restart with 10 laps to go, the Spaniard making a poor exit from Turn 11 but clinging to his lead.

Three laps later saw another yellow as Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Kyffin Simpson spun out of Turn 5 while running 13th, which left Rahal with nowhere to go as he pounded the side of Simpson’s car.

The race resumed with four laps to go as Palou made a clean getaway this time from Herta, who was under fire momentarily from Rossi.

Newgarden found trouble again at Turn 6, spinning from fifth and nearly stalling before gathering it back up and keeping the race under green flag conditions.

Palou held serve to the finish, with Herta and Rossi collecting the other podium spots. Palou led 48 of 95 laps and takes the championship lead, 285-262, over Power – who recovered to finish seventh.

1
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4
1
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2
Cla Driver # Laps Time Interval Mph Pits Points Retirement
1 Spain A. Palou Chip Ganassi Racing 10 95

2:04'09.8545

102.740 3 54
2 United States C. Herta Andretti Global with Curb-Agajanian 26 95

+1.9780

2:04'11.8325

1.9780 102.712 3 41
3 United States A. Rossi Arrow McLaren 7 95

+4.5136

2:04'14.3681

2.5356 102.678 3 36
4 France R. Grosjean Juncos Hollinger Racing 77 95

+4.8243

2:04'14.6788

0.3107 102.673 3 32
5 United States K. Kirkwood Andretti Global 27 95

+8.6768

2:04'18.5313

3.8525 102.620 3 31
6 New Zealand S. Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing 9 95

+9.1504

2:04'19.0049

0.4736 102.614 3 28
7 Australia W. Power Team Penske 12 95

+9.9964

2:04'19.8509

0.8460 102.602 3 26
8 Mexico P. O'Ward Arrow McLaren 5 95

+10.6214

2:04'20.4759

0.6250 102.593 3 24
9 United States S. Ferrucci A.J. Foyt Enterprises 14 95

+11.0025

2:04'20.8570

0.3811 102.588 3 22
10 Sweden M. Ericsson Andretti Global 28 95

+11.6398

2:04'21.4943

0.6373 102.579 3 20
11 Sweden F. Rosenqvist Meyer Shank Racing 60 95

+12.7088

2:04'22.5633

1.0690 102.565 3 19
12
N. Siegel Arrow McLaren
6 95

+13.1305

2:04'22.9850

0.4217 102.559 3 18
13
C. Rasmussen Ed Carpenter Racing
20 95

+14.3770

2:04'24.2315

1.2465 102.542 3 17
14 Brazil P. Fittipaldi Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 30 95

+14.7541

2:04'24.6086

0.3771 102.537 4 16
15 Denmark C. Lundgaard Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 45 95

+15.0744

2:04'24.9289

0.3203 102.532 3 15
16 United States D. Malukas Meyer Shank Racing 66 95

+18.5009

2:04'28.3554

3.4265 102.485 4 14
17 Sweden L. Lundqvist Chip Ganassi Racing 8 95

+20.1723

2:04'30.0268

1.6714 102.462 4 13
18 Argentina A. Canapino Juncos Hollinger Racing 78 95

+23.5447

2:04'33.3992

3.3724 102.416 3 12
19 United States J. Newgarden Team Penske 2 95

+27.2568

2:04'37.1113

3.7121 102.365 3 12
20
R. Robb A.J. Foyt Enterprises
41 94

+1 Lap

2:04'30.4500

1 Lap 101.378 3 10
21 New Zealand S. McLaughlin Team Penske 3 93

+2 Laps

2:04'31.9741

1 Lap 100.279 5 9
22 New Zealand M. Armstrong Chip Ganassi Racing 11 93

+2 Laps

2:04'48.4558

16.4817 100.058 3 8
23 United States K. Simpson Chip Ganassi Racing 4 86

+9 Laps

1:50'32.2312

7 Laps 104.472 3 7 Accident
24 United States G. Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 15 86

+9 Laps

1:50'33.2600

1.0288 104.456 4 6 Accident
25 United Kingdom J. Harvey Dale Coyne Racing 18 82

+13 Laps

1:44'40.7853

4 Laps 105.187 3 5 Mechanical
26 Netherlands R. van Kalmthout Ed Carpenter Racing 21 72

+23 Laps

1:39'43.0398

10 Laps 96.956 3 5 Mechanical
27 Italy L. Ghiotto Dale Coyne Racing 51 34

+61 Laps

40'57.8112

38 Laps 111.453 1 5 Accident

 

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