Polesitter and race winner: Colton Herta takes victory again at the Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca.
Colton Herta got a good start over Alexander Rossi, the latter of whom tried to squeeze around the outside of turn two but couldn’t make it happen. Max Chilton backed up the whole field, leaving Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist spinning; he did manage to straighten out and get racing again.
After the first lap, the championship leaders sat at fourth (Palou), fifth (Dixon), sixth (Palou), and 17th (Newgarden).
Rossi lost control on the second lap of the race, launching into the a barrier and into the dirt. He had tried to pass Herta for first place, and the two made contact. The spin brought out a yellow flag.
The green flag flew on lap four. O’Ward and Ericsson both tried to pass Dixon for fourth place, with the three drivers running three wide. No one ultimately made a pass. O’Ward then lost his position to Simon Pagenaud. O’Ward, though, was one of the only drivers in the top 10 to start on the black tires, so his performance was expected. Newgarden made an early stop on lap 9 of 95, followed by teammate Power one lap later, complaining of engine power problems. It kicked off the first stops for other drivers like O’Ward, who desperately needed track position, though Newgarden’s early stop put him ahead of O’Ward.
On lap 16, Rosenqvist spun again, this time hitting the curb, once again pulling off a full 360 before getting back on the track.
Leader Herta waited to pit until lap 19, where he’d be changing to sticker black tires. He returned to the track very comfortably ahead of Palou.
During a commercial break, Takuma Sato caught the curb and spun; as he backed up, he collided with Scott Dixon. He then rolled forward, almost colliding with Ed Jones.
O’Ward opted to pit again on lap 40 to swap to black tires after a stint on reds saw him struggle. Meanwhile, Alex Palou maintained his second place. By that point, the field was highly separated out, with Herta maintaining a near-30 second lead over Palou until pitting. At that point, Palou was within one second of Herta, the closest the drivers had been all race.
The two drivers then got caught up behind lapped traffic, allowing third-place O’Ward to begin carving down the 20-second gap between himself and O’Ward.
Palou pitted from second on lap 67, followed immediately by O’Ward. Both drivers had comfortably quick stops that would allow the two championship contenders to fight for the championship, but O’Ward lost a place to Rahal during the stop. Herta pitted the following lap; it was another good stop for Herta, and he came out behind temporary leader Romain Grosjean.
With 15 laps to go, Grosjean pounded through behind O’Ward, passing for fourth place and pushing O’Ward down a position. Three laps later, Grosjean overtook Rahal for a podium and continued to cut down time between himself and second-place Palou and leader Herta. With seven laps to go, a lapped Johnson was told to make Grosjean work for it; the Frenchman made a huge lunge on Johnson, with the two making contact. Johnson skittered into the grass, and Grosjean kept going.
Herta took the checkered flag with ease, having led a majority of the race. Palou took second, followed by Grosjean. O’Ward finished fifth, and Newgarden sixth.
Heading into the final race of the season at Long Beach, there will only be three drivers competing for the championship. Alex Palou leads, with O’Ward sitting 35 points and Newgarden 49 points behind. Newgarden will need a win with his two other competitors failing to finish the race to secure his third championship, but it’s not impossible.
- Colton Herta
- Alex Palou
- Romain Grosjean
- Graham Rahal
- Pato O’Ward
- Marcus Ericsson
- Josef Newgarden
- Simon Pagenaud
- Oliver Askew
- Ed Jones