Herta’s House: Colton Dominates Laguna Seca for Third Win of Season

The Herta family seems to own WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, as Colton Herta wins the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, now tying his father Bryan with two wins at the circuit. Herta started on the pole and dominated the race from start to finish, leading 91 of 95 laps.

“I enjoy racing here so much,” Herta said post-race. “It’s an amazing track for me and my family, it’s been so good to us. To two for two so far is great.”

“This place is so awesome, it’s my favorite track in North America by far, and to win here means so much.”

Championship leader Alex Palou finished second, extending his championship lead to 35 points over Patricio O’Ward who finished fifth. The championship now comes down to the final race next weekend between the young duo as well as Josef Newgarden, with Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson mathematically eliminated from championship contention.

Herta led the field to green alongside teammate Alexander Rossi, as Dixon did exactly what he needed to do to assist his teammate Palou by putting himself between the Spaniard and O’Ward from third to fifth. Rossi’s miserable stretch of luck continued with a wreck on lap two, making contact with Herta going for the lead in turn four and sending him spinning into the gravel and bringing out the caution.

Herta led the field back to green on lap five where O’Ward was once again swallowed up while on the primary black tyres as Ericsson passed him for sixth and Simon Pagenaud for seventh. Will Power, who restarted second, found himself on pit road with an engine issue that the team was able to diagnose and get him back on track.

Herta cruised through each stint, with Palou holding onto second place protecting his championship. Palou was closest to Herta at around the halfway point of the race, where he got within one half second, but the two got into a rhythm for the rest of the race to finish first and second.

The only driver to give any threat to Herta and Palou was Romain Grosjean, the only other driver to lead a lap in this race during the pit cycles, as he stormed through the field in the waning laps of the race. Grosjean was the last driver to make his final pit stop on lap 73 for a fresh set of the faster, alternate red-wall tyres. With 15 laps to go Grosjean boldly passed O’Ward around the outside of turn three and charged furiously towards then-third place Graham Rahal, who he dispatched of with 12 laps to go.

The ex-Formula 1 driver was taking multiple seconds out of Herta’s lead per lap, weaving through lap traffic until he reached Palou’s teammate Jimmie Johnson. Heading to the corkscrew turn eight, Grosjean boldy dove to the inside of Johnson where the two made some contact but went on unscathed as Grosjean continued on his march. He wouldn’t get any further than third, but closed a 14 second gap in 15 laps in a brilliant performance.

Grosjean gained ten positions from his starting position of thirteenth, making a total of 27 passes with 15 for position. The Swiss-born Frenchman had an exciting duel early in the race with Dixon that prompted an Alex Zanardi-like move in the corkscrew for position. After the race, he had only one thing to say.

“Laguna Seca, I love you.”

The damage to Romain Grosjean’s car after his pass on Jimmie Johnson in the corkscrew on his run to the front. (Photo Credit: James Black / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Rahal finished fourth, up eight positions after starting just ahead of Grosjean in twelfth, with O’Ward in fifth as he struggled with tyre wear throughout the stints and fell back at the start on the less favorable compound.

Ericsson finished the race in sixth ahead of Newgarden in seventh, who went off-strategy to make a four-stop work after starting seventeenth. Newgarden sits 48 points back from Palou, putting him mathematically in the hunt for the championship. His Team Penske teammate Pagenaud finished behind him in eighth.

Oliver Askew finished ninth, slipping from his top five starting position to finish ninth after a slow start and error in the pits, but the Florida native still had a great audition with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as he looks for a seat next season.

Rounding out the top ten was Ed Jones, who has shown a lot of speed in this west coast loop. The 2016 Indy Lights champion finished just on the fringes of the top ten in Portland, now breaking through for his third top ten of the season.

Johnson deserves a special mention outside of the pass with Grosjean, making moves of his own on track including one in the corkscrew on James Hinchcliffe for position. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion earned his best result of the season finishing seventeenth.

Next weekend a champion will be crowned at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which will take place on 26 September.

Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey Final Results

1 26 Colton Herta USA Andretti Autosport 2:02:31.544 sec.
2 10 Alex Palou ESP Chip Ganassi Racing + 1.974 sec.
3 51 Romain Grosjean (R) FRA Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing + 3.708 sec.
4 15 Graham Rahal USA Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing + 13.861 sec.
5 5 Pato O’Ward MEX Arrow McLaren SP + 24.697 sec.
6 8 Marcus Ericsson SWE Chip Ganassi Racing + 28.503 sec.
7 2 Josef Newgarden USA Team Penske + 29.726 sec.
8 22 Simon Pagenaud FRA Team Penske + 30.421 sec.
9 45 Oliver Askew USA Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing + 32.467 sec.
10 18 Ed Jones UAE Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan + 47.994 sec.
11 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay USA Andretti Autosport + 1:07.184 sec.
12 3 Scott McLaughlin (R) NZL Team Penske + 1:13.494 sec.
13 9 Scott Dixon NZL Chip Ganassi Racing + 1:16.359 sec.
14 14 Sebastien Bourdais FRA A.J. Foyt Enterprises – 1 lap
15 60 Jack Harvey GBR Meyer Shank Racing – 1 lap
16 20 Conor Daly USA Ed Carpenter Racing – 1 lap
17 48 Jimmie Johnson (R) USA Chip Ganassi Racing – 1 lap
18 21 Rinus VeeKay NED Ed Carpenter Racing – 1 lap
19 7 Felix Rosenqvist SWE Arrow McLaren SP – 1 lap
20 29 James Hinchcliffe CAN Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport – 1 lap
21 59 Max Chilton GBR Carlin – 1 lap
22 77 Callum Ilott (R) GBR Juncos Hollinger Racing – 1 lap
23 4 Dalton Kellett CAN A.J. Foyt Enterprises – 1 lap
24 06 Helio Castroneves BRA Meyer Shank Racing – 1 lap
25 27 Alexander Rossi USA Andretti Autosport – 2 laps
26 12 Will Power AUS Team Penske – 2 laps
27 30 Takuma Sato JPN Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Mechanical
(R) = Rookie

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