HERTA OUTSHINES IN LAGUNA SECA; TITLE CLAIM WILL BE DECIDED AMONG THREE DRIVERS
Calton Herta continues his family’s success at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
After winning the NTT P1 Award on Saturday, Colton Herta (NO.26 Gainbridge Honda) dominates back-to-back wins at significant WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, claiming his second victory of the season, finishing 1.9747 seconds ahead of Alex Palou (NO.10 NTT Data Honda). Palou steadily finished second and maintained his lead in the series standings, while Romain Grosjean (NO.51 Nurtec ODT Honda) went up from P13 to P3 with a fantastic drive at the thrilling track of Laguna Seca.
“I enjoy racing here so much,” Herta said. “It’s an amazing track for me and my family. It’s been so good to us. To go two-for-two so far at Laguna Seca is great. We were fast all weekend, and I’m glad we could pull it off in the race.”
Palou leads Pato O’Ward (NO.5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet), who is second in the standings, by 35 points, with Josef Newgarden (NO.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) in third, 48 points back. They are the only drivers still in contention to win the Astor Challenge Cup, which will be awarded at the season finale in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach next weekend.
“We didn’t have it today for the win, but we did the most we could,” Palau said. “I was trying, but it was tough. It was Herta’s day today. I’m happy with P2.”
Palou’s teammate, the reigning series champion, Scott Dixon, and Chip Ganassi’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson were both eliminated from title contention after finishing in 13th and sixth, respectively, at this race.
Grosjean earned his third podium of the season by finishing third after a late charge past rivals and lapped traffic, cutting one to two seconds per lap in chasing Palou and Herta with ten laps remaining. His third podium finish of the season kept him trailing Scott McLaughlin within 20 points for the Rookie of the Year honours.
A thrilling race for Grosjean and the fans witnessed some of his racing manoeuvres, including a wheel-banging, side-by-side duel to lap Jimmie Johnson in the famous “Corkscrew” turn in order to close the gap to 3.7087 seconds behind Herta.
“The last stint was very fun because we were on new tires and fresher than everyone else,” Grosjean said. “So, that was exciting. It’s been a great day. Sorry to Jimmie for the contact out there. He was trying to protect Alex Palou, (teammate), and I wanted to go chase Alex.”
“P13 to P3 today, it’s a pretty good day. Laguna Seca, I love you. That’s all I can say.”
Graham Rahal (NO.15 United Rentals Honda) finishing in fourth, with O’Ward, managed to finished in fifth.
“All weekend we didn’t have it,” O’Ward said. “ I truly feel like we used every single ounce of energy and pace that this car had. We pulled off a near-miracle in qualifying to start in the first three rows. In the race, honestly, that was as much as I had.”
“All we can do at Long Beach is win, and then let everything else fall. I’ve got faith in myself. I know I’m pretty handy around a street course, so let’s see what we can pull off next week.”
Alexander Rossi (NO.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda) was sent off the track and stalled in the early stages of the race after banged his right front wheel with Herta’s left rear wheel while side-by-side at Turn 5. Rossi’s car refired and was able to finish in 25th, two laps down.
Palou did everything he could to close the gap with Herta, with one to two seconds behind, but Herta’s speed and consistency were too much for Palou to overcome.
“There was always pressure there from Alex behind me,” Herta said. “Even at the beginning of the stints when I was a little bit better, he was still there and he closed it back up at the end of the stints. I think he was a little better that time.”
“I’m just happy to have done it. This place is so awesome, it’s my favourite track in North America by far. To win here means so much.”
While the Drivers’ Championship will be decided at Long Beach, this weekend, Honda clinched the Manufacturers Award for the fourth consecutive season. Nonetheless for Palou, in order to earn his first series title in his second season, he has to finish 11th or better at Long Beach. Stay tuned for the season finale in the Acura Long Beach Grand Prix next weekend (Sept. 24 - 26).