Will Power won a second IndyCar championship with a third place finish at Laguna Seca, as Josef Newgarden’s 25th-to-second drive just fell short and outgoing champion Alex Palou dominated to win.
Power started on pole having broken Mario Andretti’s IndyCar record, but clearly started on the wrong strategy, running the softer tyre, in what was always expected to be a race of high tyre wear even though most drivers took the same approach.
A host of different strategies punctuated the first half of the race and the star was Newgarden who started on the hard tyre, went long and was in the top five when a caution came out for the stopped front row starter Callum Ilott who had a technical issue after his stop having run consistently in the top five.
On the same strategy, Palou used the hard tyre to his advantage and leapfrogged ahead of Power on lap 26 of 95.
As Newgarden had stopped shortly before the caution he could stay out, He had already made up a lot of ground from his 25th starting spot, having passed multiple cars at the Corkscrew in the first stint including four cars on the first lap.
During the caution Palou narrowly avoided Power coming into his pit box and then hit Felix Rosenqvist exiting his box, which looked like a certain penalty but race control didn’t agree.
On the restart Newgarden passed Pato O’Ward with a daring move at the Corkscrew, then passed Rosenqvist and finally Power to take second.
“I’ll be gentle if he’s gentle back!” Newgarden said on team radio as he gained on Power.
He couldn’t haul in Palou who had already built a lead over eight seconds in a handful of laps, but an unexpected revelation occurred with news on team radio that Newgarden needed an extra stop than his rivals. He duly came in on lap 61.
Newgarden drove back up to third in a handful of laps using the tyre advantage to be two and a half seconds a lap quicker than his rivals.
He stopped again and emerged ahead of Power, but 18 seconds behind Palou. With Palou taking the two bonus points for most laps led off the table, Newgarden’s job was harder and Power only needed a top five.
Palou streaked to victory seemingly gapping the field at will and leading by over half a minute at one stage, with Newgarden heading Power home in second and third.
“I’ve driven my heart out today,” said Power, who thanked his team for giving him the opportunity to be in position to win the title, with Penske and manufacturer champion Chevrolet playing a major role.
Rosenqvist made a late move on Romain Grosjean for fourth, with Grosjean flailing late on in a hard stint on the soft tyres which had no business running that long.
He fell behind Christian Lundgaard and Scott McLaughlin in the last five laps.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Lundgaard’s fifth place sealed the rookie of the year championship as he led David Malukas by five points coming in and Malukas had a tough first half of the race despite starting sixth, with Lundgaard 16th on the grid.
Lundgaard started on the hards which allowed him to jump up the order like Newgarden.
McLaughlin made a late dive on Alexander Rossi with two laps to go to take seventh, in a move which guaranteed him fourth in the championship ahead of Palou and Marcus Ericsson, who couldn’t follow McLaughlin past Rossi.
McLaughlin then passed Grosjean on the last lap to take sixth.
Behind Grosjean, Pato O’Ward turned a lap 86 pitstop into eighth with a storming drive back through the field from just ahead of where he pitted.
Ericsson did pass Rossi inside the last five laps for ninth, as Rossi took ninth in his last Andretti start before he joins Arrow McLaren SP next year.
Scott Dixon, the final championship contender, struggled for pace like Ericsson and both drivers needed to stop twice after the mid-race caution hindered their chances.
Dixon made up some places but finished 12th, behind Colton Herta who won and took pole at the last two races here, and will be doing some maths to see where he ends up in terms of superlicence points.
|Pos||Name||Team||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|1||Alex Palou||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||95||67||2h3m31.062s||1m13.862s||3||53|
|2||Josef Newgarden||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||95||5||+30.382s||1m14.645s||4||41|
|3||Will Power||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||95||17||+33.853s||1m14.4s||3||37|
|4||Felix Rosenqvist||Arrow McLaren SP||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||95||5||+35.533s||1m15.132s||3||33|
|5||Christian Lundgaard||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||95||0||+50.89s||1m15.421s||3||30|
|6||Scott McLaughlin||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||95||0||+56.109s||1m15.096s||4||28|
|7||Romain Grosjean||Andretti Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||95||0||+57.986s||1m15.166s||3||26|
|8||Patricio O'Ward||Arrow McLaren SP||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||95||0||+59.952s||1m13.848s||4||24|
|9||Marcus Ericsson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||95||0||+1m02.625s||1m14.79s||4||22|
|10||Alexander Rossi||Andretti Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||95||0||+1m05.323s||1m14.536s||4||20|
|11||Colton Herta||Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian||Dallara DW12-Honda||95||0||+1m07.649s||1m14.295s||4||19|
|12||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||95||0||+1m07.976s||1m14.894s||4||18|
|13||David Malukas||Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsport||Dallara DW12-Honda||94||0||+1 lap||1m15.019s||4||17|
|14||Rinus VeeKay||Ed Carpenter Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||94||0||+1 lap||1m14.374s||4||16|
|15||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||94||0||+1 lap||1m15.673s||3||15|
|16||Jimmie Johnson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||94||0||+1 lap||1m15.137s||5||14|
|17||Simon Pagenaud||Meyer Shank Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||94||0||+1 lap||1m15.338s||4||13|
|18||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||94||0||+1 lap||1m14.764s||4||12|
|19||Hélio Castroneves||Meyer Shank Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||94||0||+1 lap||1m15.384s||4||11|
|20||Jack Harvey||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||94||0||+1 lap||1m15.499s||5||10|
|21||Kyle Kirkwood||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||94||0||+1 lap||1m15.742s||4||9|
|22||Simona De Silvestro||Paretta Autosport||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||94||0||+1 lap||1m15.491s||4||8|
|23||Takuma Sato||Dale Coyne Racing with RWR||Dallara DW12-Honda||94||0||+1 lap||1m16.121s||3||7|
|24||Conor Daly||Ed Carpenter Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||93||0||+2 laps||1m15.782s||6||6|
|25||Dalton Kellett||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||93||0||+2 laps||1m16.206s||3||5|
|Callum Ilott||Juncos Hollinger Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||37||1||DNF||1m14.837s||1||6|