Laguna Seca IndyCar: Herta converts pole to victory as Palou extends title lead

Colton Herta converted pole position into his second Laguna Seca IndyCar victory, beating Alex Palou to the line as the two were pressured by Romain Grosjean towards the finish.

Laguna Seca IndyCar: Herta converts pole to victory as Palou extends title lead

Herta suffered a late scare after running over an animal, asking his team to check any damage to his front wing – but the Andretti Autosport driver was given the all-clear.

He only had to stay ahead of Palou, who spent the second half of the race having to contend with traffic and a resurgent Romain Grosjean as the former Haas F1 driver put in a dazzling display at the Monterey circuit.

With the warm weather and the twisty nature of the circuit, tyre management was crucial to a three-stop strategy for the race, handing a greater role to the harder tyre as most expected the majority of the race to be run on the softer red tyre.

After fellow front-row starter Alexander Rossi suffered damage in a botched attempt to pass Herta on the second lap, Herta cleaned up on the sole restart and pulled out a few seconds on Will Power, who began to suffer with engine issues.

Herta’s neatly curated gap then came under heavy assault during the middle portion of the race from Palou, with the interval dropping to a second, but the Andretti driver was able to stay ahead as the two were stuck in a queue behind Max Chilton, Jimmie Johnson and Felix Rosenqvist.

While Herta managed to clear Rosenqvist and Chilton, Palou made little impact on them before electing to make his final stop to relieve himself of the two.

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Following the pitstops, however, Palou once again found himself behind Chilton and Johnson – and had to tentatively make his way through while attempting to keep the life in his tyres.

This gave Herta a chance to extend his lead once again, while Palou had been more conservative as the likes of Graham Rahal and championship rival Pato O’Ward were slowly closing the gap.

Then Grosjean produced a series of stunning overtakes to fire up the order, dispatching a number of cars at the Corkscrew in the early stages of the race.

The French driver cruised around the outside of O’Ward at Turn 4 to move up to fourth with 15 laps remaining, then setting after Graham Rahal for a place on the podium.

This put pressure on both Herta and Palou and, although Grosjean’s swashbuckling antics almost ended with contact with Johnson at the Corkscrew, the two made it through in one piece, leaving the Dale Coyne Racing driver to continue his pursuit of the lead pair.

However, Grosjean’s pace began to marginally dip in the final few laps, easing the pressure on Herta and Palou to ensure trio crossed the line separated by just 3.7s - Herta winning by a margin of 1.974s.

Romain Grosjean, Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda

Romain Grosjean, Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Rahal completed the race in fourth, 10s adrift of the rapid Grosjean, with O’Ward a further 10s in arrears by the end – with his championship hopes taking a further hit as Palou finished ahead.

Marcus Ericsson finished in sixth place, ahead of a four-stopping Josef Newgarden, who kept himself within an outside shot of the title as the Swedish driver dropped out of the title fight.

Newgarden's Penske team-mate Simon Pagenaud finished 0.6s behind, as Rahal Letterman Lanigan part-timer Oliver Askew impressed with his run to ninth.

Ed Jones completed the top 10, having not been able to convert a similar pit strategy into the same heroics as DCR team-mate Grosjean.

Scott Dixon's hopes of a seventh IndyCar title in 2021 were largely ended after getting caught by an errant Takuma Sato, who spun at the Corkscrew and rolled across the circuit to collect the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. Dixon, who ended the race in 13th place, is now mathematically out of title contention.

IndyCar Laguna Seca race results - 95 laps

Cla Driver Team Time Gap
1 United States Colton Herta United States Andretti Autosport 2:02'31.544  
2 Spain Alex Palou United States Chip Ganassi Racing 2:02'33.519 1.974
3 France Romain Grosjean United States Dale Coyne Racing 2:02'35.253 3.708
4 United States Graham Rahal United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 2:02'45.406 13.861
5 Mexico Patricio O'Ward United States Arrow McLaren SP 2:02'56.241 24.697
6 Sweden Marcus Ericsson United States Chip Ganassi Racing 2:03'00.047 28.503
7 United States Josef Newgarden United States Team Penske 2:03'01.271 29.726
8 France Simon Pagenaud United States Team Penske 2:03'01.965 30.421
9 United States Oliver Askew United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 2:03'04.011 32.467
10 United Arab Emirates Ed Jones United States Dale Coyne Racing 2:03'19.538 47.994
11 United States Ryan Hunter-Reay United States Andretti Autosport 2:03'38.728 1'07.184
12 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin United States Team Penske 2:03'45.038 1'13.494
13 New Zealand Scott Dixon United States Chip Ganassi Racing 2:03'47.903 1'16.359
14 France Sébastien Bourdais United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 2:02'40.500 1 Lap
15 United Kingdom Jack Harvey United States Meyer Shank Racing 2:02'43.220 1 Lap
16 United States Conor Daly United States Ed Carpenter Racing 2:02'43.601 1 Lap
17 United States Jimmie Johnson United States Chip Ganassi Racing 2:02'48.949 1 Lap
18 Netherlands Rinus van Kalmthout United States Ed Carpenter Racing 2:02'54.634 1 Lap
19 Sweden Felix Rosenqvist United States Arrow McLaren SP 2:02'57.834 1 Lap
20 Canada James Hinchcliffe United States Andretti Autosport 2:03'02.344 1 Lap
21 United Kingdom Max Chilton United Kingdom Carlin 2:03'04.259 1 Lap
22 United Kingdom Callum Ilott Juncos Hollinger Racing 2:03'20.149 1 Lap
23 Canada Dalton Kellett United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 2:03'29.156 1 Lap
24 Brazil Helio Castroneves United States Meyer Shank Racing 2:03'29.701 1 Lap
25 United States Alexander Rossi United States Andretti Autosport 2:02'40.553 2 Laps
26 Australia Will Power United States Team Penske 2:03'39.524 2 Laps
27 Japan Takuma Sato United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:58'02.772 12 Laps

 

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