Power clinches second IndyCar title as Palou takes dominant Laguna Seca win


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Will Power further cemented his legacy as one of the greatest IndyCar Series drivers of any era today at Laguna Seca Raceway. The Penske driver clinched his second championship with a third place finish in the Grand Prix of Monterey, behind a dominant race-winning performance from the outgoing series champion Álex Palou.

Palou led 67 out of 95 laps to win in what is expected to be his final start for Chip Ganassi Racing, owing to his ongoing legal dispute with the Ganassi organisation which was spurned by his desire to transfer to McLaren for 2023.

Power made a perfect start to the race, leading from his record-setting 68th career pole position to guide the field of 26 cars into the Andretti Hairpin, while Alexander Rossi – in his last race for Andretti Autosport – drove past Callum Ilott into second place, followed by Pato O’Ward who took third on the opening lap.

The champion-elect was able to hold the lead after starting on a fresh set of alternate compound rubber. The clean air helped him mitigate some loss of grip, but he pitted on lap 15 for primary tyres.

Meanwhile Palou, who started on a fresh set of primary tyres, moved into the lead before pitting on lap 19. He took a fresh set of alternate tyres, which eventually helped him leap past the likes of Rossi and O’Ward into second behind Power once the first pit cycle ended.

Palou made the most of his tyre advantage when he overtook Power for the race lead on lap 27, then began to pull away rapidly, drawing over 10 seconds clear of Power before the race was neutralised. That was triggered when Ilott’s race came to an agonising halt at the exit of pit lane due to an engine failure. He was the only retirement of the day.

Ilott’s stranded car brought out a full-course caution, after most of the field had a chance to pit for routine service.

This caution brought one of Power’s title rivals – team mate Josef Newgarden who had started all the way on the last row in 25th – into serious contention. Using his pace advantage to make several well-executed overtakes at the top of the tricky Corkscrew, Newgarden charged his way up from fifth on the restart and past Power into second place. He briefly led the race before making his final stop on lap 73.

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That cleared the way for outgoing champion Palou to seal his first victory by a commanding margin of over 30 seconds, ending an 18-race win-less streak in the process. He ended the season as its ninth different winner.

Newgarden’s valiant charge from last row to podium fell just short of earning him his third career IndyCar title in the end. The championship went to Power, who clinched the Aston Challenge Cup for the second time by 16 points with his third-place effort.

In what may well be his last race as a McLaren SP IndyCar driver, Felix Rosenqvist finished in fourth, followed by former Alpine Academy prospect Christian Lundgaard, who became Rookie of the Year with a fifth-place finish. Lundgaard’s principal rival, David Malukas, finished 13th after a strategic backfire on his first pit stop cost him valuable track position early on.

Scott McLaughlin finished a strong sixth with some impressive overtakes in the final laps of the race. He was able to take fourth place in the championship, ahead of Palou by way of his three wins this season. Romain Grosjean ran inside the top 10 virtually all day to finish seventh, while O’Ward dropped to eighth.

Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson’s season ended with a ninth-place finish after he overtook Rossi, who came in 10th.

Behind them, two-time and defending Monterey GP winner Colton Herta finished in 11th place after a tough effort just to make his way from 18th on the grid, and Scott Dixon consolidated third in the championship with a 12th place finish. But Dixon could well have become a seven-time champion this year, tying AJ Foyt’s record, had it not been for his fateful pit lane speeding penalty at the Indianapolis 500 in May.

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Grand Prix of Monterey results

110Alex PalouGanassiHonda
22Josef NewgardenPenskeChevrolet
312Will PowerPenskeChevrolet
47Felix RosenqvistMcLaren SPChevrolet
530Christian LundgaardRLLHonda
63Scott McLaughlinPenskeChevrolet
728Romain GrosjeanAndrettiHonda
85Pato O’WardMcLaren SPChevrolet
98Marcus EricssonGanassiHonda
1027Alexander RossiAndrettiHonda
1126Colton HertaAndrettiHonda
129Scott DixonGanassiHonda
1318David MalukasCoyne/HMDHonda
1421Rinus VeeKayCarpenterChevrolet
1529Devlin DeFrancescoAndretti SteinbrennerHonda
1648Jimmie JohnsonGanassiHonda
1760Simon PagenaudMeyer ShankHonda
1815Graham RahalRLLHonda
196Helio CastronevesMeyer ShankHonda
2045Jack HarveyRLLHonda
2114Kyle KirkwoodFoytChevrolet
2216Simona de SilvestroParettaChevrolet
2351Takuma SatoCoyne/RWRHonda
2420Conor DalyCarpenterChevrolet
254Dalton KellettFoytChevrolet
2677Callum IlottJuncos HollingerChevrolet

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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8 comments on “Power clinches second IndyCar title as Palou takes dominant Laguna Seca win”

  1. I’m so sad for Newgarden, he was the hero of the race! And with 5 wins, it is him who had the most champion-like season.
    It is also Newgarden who deserves the attention Colton Herta is getting…

    But Will Power is still a worthy champion. His consistency won it. Congrats to him.

    1. Exactly my thoughts.
      Power has a weak record on the 13 years driving for the almighty Penske.
      The 2 “newcomers”, Newgardena nd MacLaughin are doing a beter job
      And Scott Dixon. Scott is by far, the best IndyCar driver. His record speaks for itself. In 19 years he has 6 championships, 2 runner up, 6 3rd, 3 4th, so in 17 out of 19 opportunities he was in the top 4 in the championship, and if it was not by his own boo boo in the Indy 500, he’d had clinched another title with at least 2 races to go. In a category like Indy where all cars have pretty much the same performance, that is an impressive record.

  2. I would love to understand more, for a fairly spec series, how drivers like Herta can be so far off the pace. What is it about his car that did not work so well this race & most of this season. Thank you.

    1. “how drivers like Herta can be so far off the pace.”
      – It’s mainly comes from the set up. From what Grosjean has said, the car set-up in IndyCar is much harder than in F1, because that’s basically what teams compete against each other with. Herta won the pole position at Laguna Seca last year, but seeing that this year’s general quali times were ~0.9sec slower, it means that the conditions this year were different, so the set-up solutions had to be found anew as well.

      In Formula 1 we don’t really know how good a set-up each team comes up with for any race. To know how good McLaren’s set-up for a race is, we would need to have another team running the same McLaren cars to see a direct comparison. Even more accurately – several more teams using the same cars.
      Half of the Formula 1 grid each GP may race with a terrible set-up, or with a great one for all we know – but we will never know how good a set-up anyone delivers really is relative to their car’s potential. We could only know which one is which if there were other teams using the very same cars.

      But also the drivers’ performances are more visible in IndyCar – just like in physical sports like athletics or sport games. In F1 everything is rounded down to the car’s relative performance against other cars, i.e. a Red-Bull driver on a bad day is still gonna be faster than anybody driving a Hass, Williams and Aston Martin on their greatest day etc.
      A basketball player doesn’t score a record no. of points every game and a football player doesn’t score a hat-trick every match.
      In IndyCar, just like in real sports, the level of the driver’s disposition on top of the car’s set-up success generates vastly different results because it actually matters.

      1. @gabf1 To amian’s comment I would add that getting the car to work in F1 is mostly down to getting your aerodynamic philosophy to work, which is more about the car design than setup. In IndyCar, because the aero is spec, less powerful, and less complex, it’s more about mechanical grip, which brings car setup into play—particularly dampers, which are the only part of the car (minus the engines) that are not spec in IndyCar, and are where the teams spend all their development money. All of that is exacerbated by the extremely worn and uneven surfaces that the series races on.

        So even within IndyCar’s constraints, teams do develop packages and go down certain setup and development paths, and clearly the entire Andretti team—not just Herta—was missing something this year. To find that setup window, exchanging data between your teammates is more important in IndyCar, and from the outside, it doesn’t look as if Herta had much help. Grosjean struggled all season to adapt to Andretti’s package, Rossi is in a years-long slump and is decamping for McLaren, and DeFrancesco is a rookie who didn’t make much of a mark in Indy Lights.

        1. Thank you @markzastrow and @amian for the thoughtful and informative replies

  3. So happy for Power, an excellent and perfect season. Best strategy calls throughout from the team and great runs from Power when he was in trouble. What makes me even more happier is that none in the top four was in top 12 at Indianapolis, so the double points from that race thankfully didn’t mean anything to the podium in the final standings. They ended with 32, 34 and 33 points respectfully.

    That new engine for Palou was a rocket. Perfect setup and perfect run from him. And as much a great run from Newgarden who clearly had another agenda than the actual win, but strong ride and he stayed away from Hamilton like antics. Also have to say im disheartend for Ilott, great qualifying and a fine race against better teams until he came to a halt. RLL and Andretti should be taking a good look at him during next season.

    Looking forward to next season which could be an even bigger blend of drivers as the rookies will build unto their first season. Not that they will contend from HMD, Andretti, RLL and Juncos, but they will show more presence in the top5 runnings next year. But we need to hope for a more equal year since Penske ran off with more than half this seasons wins.

  4. Herta once again proving he deserves a spot in F1.

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