Herta wins, Grosjean stars, Palou close to IndyCar title - The Race
IndyCar

Herta wins, Grosjean stars, Palou close to IndyCar title

Sep 19 2021
By Jack Benyon

Colton Herta took a second win of the year at Laguna Seca as Romain Grosjean starred, while Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward and Josef Newgarden emerged as the drivers in contention to fight for the IndyCar championship in the Long Beach finale next week.

During the race, Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon and Marcus Ericsson were eliminated from championship contention, and Palou takes a 35-point lead into the last round with 54 on offer.

There was almost immediate drama as polesitter Herta got in the gravel at the exit of Turn 4 on the second lap, opening the door for his Andretti Autosport team-mate and front row partner Alexander Rossi to dive down the inside at Turn 5.

However, when he got back on the power, Rossi edged up the track and clipped Herta’s rear left, sending Rossi off and to the back of the grid.

Will Power soon pitted from second with an engine issue which promoted Palou to that position and as a vast array of pit strategies played out behind amid high tyre wear, the two constants of the race were Herta and Palou at the front.

Palou pitted earlier in the first two stops of the race and after the second he reeled in Herta, who caught traffic.

Not long before the final stops though, Herta put backmarker and early double spinner Felix Rosenqvist between himself and Palou, giving him the cushion he needed.

Following race-long pressure from Palou, Herta emerged from the final stops over four seconds clear after the gap had been as low as six tenths in the traffic.

Despite also hitting a rabbit in the closing stages, 2019 Laguna winner Herta repeated the feat of winning two consecutive race wins at the track that his father Bryan managed in 1998/99, and the 21-year-old also passed Bryan’s win total with today’s result – his fifth IndyCar triumph.

The result also secured Honda its 10th IndyCar manufacturers’ title.

While in traffic before the last round of stops, O’Ward eroded the margin to Palou from over 22s to just over 14s, but in the last round of stops O’Ward was crucially jumped by Graham Rahal.

However, the action wasn’t done there as a spectacular Grosjean charged with inventive and bold overtaking moves to put himself in contention from 13th on the grid.

The Dale Coyne Racing driver scythed through the field early on and made two significant passes at the Corkscrew, one that might be the overtake of the season in a late dive past six-time champion Dixon.

He stayed out five or six laps later than the majority of his rivals in the final round of stops and absolutely flew in the last stint on the softer red tyres.

He passed Simon Pagenaud, Ericsson, O’Ward and Rahal to storm to a podium.

The standout move was on O’Ward around the outside of Turn 4.

Grosjean wasn’t done there though as he proceeded to reduce an 11s gap to Palou to under four, but with three laps to go Palou stepped up his pace and Grosjean’s tailed off after moving through traffic and smashing into the side of Jimmie Johnson’s car at the Corkscrew trying to overtake him.

So Grosjean took the final podium spot ahead of Rahal and O’Ward rounded out the top five.

Ericsson held on to sixth, with a dip into the gravel on pit exit on the last stop proving crucial, ahead of Newgarden.

After qualifying only 17th Newgarden pitted extremely early and tried to use an undercut strategy to put himself in with a chance of keeping his title hopes alive, but the lack of a caution and a struggle to keep the rapidly-degrading tyres alive meant seventh place after late overtakes on Simon Pagenaud and Oliver Askew. That at least kept Newgarden in long-shot contention, 48 points down on Palou with 54 available.

Ed Jones rounded out the top 10. He had followed Grosjean’s strategy until the last stop but pitted earlier.

Dixon finished 12th in an eventful race. He fell down the order around the first stops and struggled on the harder tyre, and then later in the race he was hit in an amateurish move from Takuma Sato.

Sato spun at the Corkscrew then despite Dixon being in sight managed to reverse into Dixon as the Ganassi car tried to dodge around him.

Johnson was another star of the race as for the second week in a row he delivered his most competitive IndyCar performance yet, passing the likes of Max Chilton on track and delivered a best finish of 17th.

It feels like a truly symbolic race for Johnson on the weekend he turned 46.

Race Results

Pos Name Team Car Laps Laps Led Total Time Fastest Lap Pitstops Pts
1 Colton Herta Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 95 91 2h2m31.544s 1m13.592s 3 54
2 Alex Palou Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 95 0 +1.975s 1m13.104s 3 40
3 Romain Grosjean Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Dallara DW12-Honda 95 4 +3.709s 1m13.536s 3 36
4 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 95 0 +13.862s 1m14.14s 3 32
5 Patricio O'Ward Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 95 0 +24.697s 1m13.936s 3 30
6 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 95 0 +28.503s 1m13.966s 3 28
7 Josef Newgarden Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 95 0 +29.727s 1m13.082s 4 26
8 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 95 0 +30.421s 1m14.158s 3 24
9 Oliver Askew Arrow McLaren SP, Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 95 0 +32.467s 1m14.419s 3 22
10 Ed Jones Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Dallara DW12-Honda 95 0 +47.994s 1m14.742s 3 20
11 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 95 0 +1m07.184s 1m13.877s 3 19
12 Scott McLaughlin Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 95 0 +1m13.494s 1m13.83s 3 18
13 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 95 0 +1m16.359s 1m14.145s 3 17
14 Sébastien Bourdais A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 94 0 +1 lap 1m15.218s 3 16
15 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 94 0 +1 lap 1m14.673s 3 15
16 Conor Daly Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 94 0 +1 lap 1m14.362s 3 14
17 Jimmie Johnson Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 94 0 +1 lap 1m14.263s 4 13
18 Rinus VeeKay Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 94 0 +1 lap 1m13.489s 5 12
19 Felix Rosenqvist Arrow McLaren SP Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 94 0 +1 lap 1m14.157s 4 11
20 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 94 0 +1 lap 1m14.341s 4 10
21 Max Chilton Carlin Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 94 0 +1 lap 1m14.462s 4 9
22 Callum Ilott Juncos Hollinger Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 94 0 +1 lap 1m14.266s 5 8
23 Dalton Kellett A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 94 0 +1 lap 1m14.206s 3 7
24 Helio Castroneves Meyer Shank Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 94 0 +1 lap 1m13.878s 4 6
25 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda 93 0 +2 laps 1m15.151s 3 5
26 Will Power Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet 93 0 +2 laps 1m13.855s 3 5
Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda 83 0 DNF 1m14.526s 4 5

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