Tuesday, September 21, 2021

IndyCar West Coast Wrap: Laguna Seca

So I guess it really is the Herta’s House After All, Eh?


Perhaps it’s just Mwah, but I find myself more ‘N more interested over how the IndyCar grid progresses over the weekend, in what many drivers denote how they “rolled Off the Hauler.” Although thought it was Rookie Romain Grosjean who said you Don’t want to start off P1 since then you Don’t have any room to improve? Yet , being P1 All weekend long at Portland wasn’t too Shabby for Alex Palou!


Interesting first practice session results on Friday, with Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden topping Ye Charts, followed by Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta nipping at his Heels. Herta led Mikey A’s three top 10 runners with team-mates Alexander Rossi fifth and James Hinchcliffe seventh. Chip Ganassi Racing’s (CGR) Alex Palou was third with team-mate Marcus Ericsson P10, while CGR runners Scott Dixon was P11 and Jimmie Johnson P24.


Ed Jones of Dale Coyne/Vasser Sullivan was a surprising P4., with his Coyne-Ware Racing team-mate Romain Grosjean ninth.


Oliver Askew led the way for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in sixth, whilst Graham Rahal was 17th and Takuma Sato 19th. With A.j. foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais being the Meat in the RLLR Sandwich in P18.


Jack Harvey led the way for the Meyer Shank Racing’s duo, with Helio castroneves P13, one place ahead of Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who obviously won’t be happy being 14th! With O’Ward’s “Wingman” Felix Rosenqvist P16.


Ed Carpenter Racing didn’t have a great session, with Rinus VeeKay P21 and Conor Daly P23, the latter just one position ahead of Jimmie Johnson!


Penske’s Scott McLaughlin was 12th, will Power was P15 and Simon Pagenaud was 20th. And Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay did little to impress in 22nd.


Rounding out the 27 Car field was Juncos Hollinger Racin’s Callum Ilott last, beaten out by Carlin’s Max Chilton and A.J. Foyt’s Dalton Kellett respectively.


Saturday Practice

Colton Herta sat atop the time sheets until Scotty McLaughlin bolted on a set of Firestone’s Alternate Red Rubber and stole P1 away from Herta! Alex Palou did likewise and vaulted to third. Simon Pagenaud jumped to P4 with Will Power behind him in fifth. Felix Rosenqvist took sixth with Alexander Rossi P7 and Ryan Hunter-Reay P8. Whilst Ed Jones slid to ninth with Josef Newgarden rounding out the Top 10.


Romain Grosjean dipped to 16th while Callum Ilott (P19) was the meat filling between surely two disappointed title Contendahs’, with Scott Dixon 18th and Pato O’Ward 20th, Yikes!  



Whale’ Lookie Thar’ folks, another Bleepin’ Roundy round race making us wait until 8:30PM (Pacific) for the Canned qualie’ replay, SPEW! Not to mention my P.O.s. ISP Crapping Out when typing this, telling me the programme isn’t responding, WTF! And now it’s done it again; Urgh, but I digress!


According to IndyStar’s Nathan Browne; Of the 23 previous IndyCar races held at Laguna Seca, the winner has come from Outside the Top 3 Starters only twice! The Pole sitter has won an amazing 15 times and only finished Off the Podium five times! Of the total 69 Podium finishers, only 14 have come from outside the Top 6 Starting positions. Thus  making It into the Fast Six Shootout Uber Imperative!


So wadda Yuhs know? The Taxicab bombers Show ran late with the Canned IndyCar Qualifying TV Broadcast starting at 8:37PM Pacific, Thanks NBC Sports! Since they Chopped 5mins out of IndyCar’s allotted 90mins Broadcast, BOO!


And the massive exploding thunder clap over ye bungalow By the Sea at 8:30PM seemed like an ominous sign of what laid ahead at Laguna Seca! Since perhaps it was a warning for what Colton Herta would do Race Day?


Group 1 saw Pato O’Ward advance in 3rd and Scott Dixon P6 with Romain Grosjean seventh and Josef Newgarden Knocked Out in ninth by Three Hundreds of a second! And will start a lowly P17 on a track notoriously difficult to pass upon.


Group 2 Saw Points leader Alex Palou barely scrape in at sixth quickest, with Conor Daly missing knocking out Palou by Five One-hundreds!


The Fast 12 saw both Palou and O’Ward having Scruffy laps but ultimately advancing to the Fast 6 Shootout, while Marcus Ericsson and Dixon would ultimately miss the Cut. As the Swede’ waited to see if he’d been impeded? Impressively Oliver Askew made the Fast Six Shootout, while Ericsson and Dixon wound up P7-8 respectively.


O’Ward was penalized for bringing out a yellow when spinning in the Corkscrew, and ends up P6 with Palou starting directly ahead of him on Row 2 in fourth. Will Power loses second place for not slowing down enough during Pato’s Yellow Flag and ends up third, whilst Askew ties his career best Qualie’ position with fifth.


Alexander Rossi moves up to start second after Power’s infraction, alongside Pole sitter Colton Herta, giving Andretti Autosport a Front row lockout. With Colton wryly noting how Mario’s sitting on Pit Wall and I’m sure He’s Happy about Power Not getting another Pole position…


Romain Grosjean and Scott McLaughlin both failed to advance to the Fast 12 Qualie round from their respective Groups, as Grosjean will roll off 13th and McLaughlin P16. As the Kiwi’ currently sits 13th Overall in the points standings on 268 markers to Grosjean P15 on 230.


Race Day

While I enjoyed Pato O’Ward’s answer to Kelly Stavis Pre-race when asked how he was going to attack the start and get around Alex Palou; “Uh, guess I’ll Have to Send It! I’m kinda in a Chip Ganassi Sandwich…” As Pato was directly behind Palou and had Marcus Ericsson and Scott Dixon starting directly behind him on Row 4.


Yet O’Ward’s other answer was more telling, when he said they’d gotten the maximum out of the car in P6 after finishing 20th in practice. Which was a sign of things to come as Pato started on the Primary Black tyres with everyone else on the softer Alternate Reds and summarily plummeted down the order! And never once during the entire race got ahead of title rival Palou.


Colton Herta’s two biggest challengers took themselves out of the running, albeit Herta and Alexander Rossi touched on lap-2 with Rossi then spinning off track and going a lap down. Will Power had an engine problem on lap-3 and think he went two laps down? Whilst we’ll never know how much Palou truly had  in his tank? Since the Spaniard Harried Herta  all day long, but eventually settled for second, en route to widening his points lead over O’Ward to 35 points.


Driver of the race Hands Down was romain Grosjean who put on a passing Clinique where you’re not supposed to be able to pass! Rocketing from 13th to eventually the final step on the podium. (3rd) As two of his numerous 27 “Victims” were eventual fourth place Graham Rahal and O’Ward soldiering home in fith.


Scott Dixon probably had the worst day of all, first faltering to many while trying to survive on the primary Black Firestone tyres before being Hit by a backwards Takuma Sato, who’d spun ontrack, and didn’t manage to stop his car from rolling into Dixon’s path! As both Dixon and (CGR) team-mate Marcus Ericsson were mathematically eliminated from the championship Sunday.


Josef Newgarden had a pretty rough day, but made a four stop strategy see him finish seventh after starting 17th. Yet Newgarden fell to 48 points behind Palou and is virtually eliminated from the title fight also.


Jimmie Johnson had his career best finish in P17 and provided some of the races “Best” action late going when he was instructed to make Grosjean “Earn it!” And try to hold up the Hard Charging Frenchman who was trying to track down fellow Ganassi team-mate Palou running second. As the pair momentarily collided in the Corkscrew but both soldiered on to finish the race.


But make no mistake, Colton Herta put another Beatdown on the IndyCar field at Laguna Seca, leading 91 of 95 laps, following his 2019 rout of leading 83 of 90 laps! Having now won Back-to-Back victories in Monterey, and has now won one more IndyCar race then his Pops Bryan “High speed Hurdles” Herta did during his IndyCar career, with Colton claiming his 5th W’.