Canada Markets closed

Colton Herta Dominates IndyCar Race at Laguna Seca

·3 min read
Photo credit: Chris Owens / IndyCar
Photo credit: Chris Owens / IndyCar

Today's IndyCar round at Laguna Seca was set to be an all-out battle between Alex Palou, Pato O'Ward, Scott Dixon, and Josef Newgarden for championship position before the season finale next weekend. In the race itself, all of O'Ward, Dixon, and Newgarden struggled with in-race pace in an event that was dominated by just one driver.

That would be Colton Herta. Inconsistency meant that the young Andretti Autosport driver fell out of championship contention early this year, but his qualifying and in-race pace have been unquestionable all season. He again flashed that qualifying speed to tie O'Ward and Newgarden for a season-high third pole on Saturday in a shared front row with teammate Alexander Rossi. He pulled out to an early lead on the start.

One lap later, Herta slid out of a corner exit and Rossi saw an opportunity. He over-drove the corner exit to strike, causing him to lose control while side-by-side with Herta. Rossi flew into the inside wall, ending the biggest challenge Herta would see all day.

If not for pit stop timing, Herta would have led the rest of the race. He led 91 of 95 laps, being forced to re-build his lead on a few occasions after being caught up in traffic but never really facing any serious pressure. With no cautions in the final 85 laps, Herta was able to win with relative ease.

Palou finished an equally easy second after breaking away from Pato O'Ward when O'Ward went to the red tire compound during the race's second stint. O'Ward would fall to fifth by race's end, leaving Palou with a 35 point championship lead ahead of the season's final race at Long Beach. Josef Newgarden recovered to seventh, leaving him 48 points out and technically mathematically alive for a title if he wins from pole and Palou finishes last without leading a lap. Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon were eliminated from contention after finishing sixth and 13th, respectively.

If O'Ward wins and scores maximum points next weekend, Palou clinches a championship with any finish in the top ten. There are other scenarios involving distribution of bonus points and different finishes, but all outcomes that end with an O'Ward championship start with a top two finish for him at Long Beach and a serious struggle for Palou.

The most exciting moments of the race all came from Romain Grosjean, who finished third after his Dale Coyne Racing team set a strategy that put him on fresh red tires in the final stint. Grosjean charged from seventh to fourth quickly, made an aggressive outside move to get past O'Ward for third, then started cutting into what was at one point a 20-second gap to Palou in second. With nine laps to go, he had cut the gap down under ten seconds and was gaining at two seconds a lap. He hit traffic with seven to go and the gap down to four seconds. With the lapped Jimmie Johnson between him and Palou, he did something drastic.

Grosjean dove into the braking zone for the Corkscrew as aggressively as possible, then hit the inside kerb that had spun three cars at different points in the race. That bounced him up into Johnson's car with two wheels in the air while he was entering the corner, shoving Johnson off track and getting Grosjean through the corner without losing all that much time. No penalty was assessed, but it proved pointless when Grosjean ran out of time to catch Palou. He would settle for third, his third career IndyCar podium finish.

The IndyCar season wraps up at Long Beach next Sunday. Only Pato O'Ward still has a realistic shot to upset what is looking like the coronation of Alex Palou.

You Might Also Like

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting