Instant Recall: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

  • Racing News
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

What happened in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey wasn’t a surprise because outstanding performances at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca have been Alex Palou’s norm since joining Chip Ganassi Racing since 2021.

This race was Palou’s fourth at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile natural terrain road course, and he has a pair of wins, a second-place finish and a third-place finish, the latter of which came on the day last year when he already had the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship in hand.

Now we’ll see where this season goes for Palou, the reigning series champion, and those trying to catch him for the title. In less than two weeks, a new era for the series begins with the introduction of hybrid technology, with the first official usage coming in The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid on July 9. Some teams figure to transition better than others. It’s anyone’s guess how it will impact the competition and the standings.

The season also reaches its halfway point in the days ahead. Eight races have been held, nine remain. Palou has a 23-point lead over Team Penske’s Will Power with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon another nine points in arrears.

But before we look too far ahead, let’s recall how the Laguna Seca event played out.

Palou Again the Best

He won the pole; he won the race. That’s the sign of a fast car.

But it’s how Palou drove in the middle segment of the 95-lap that earned him his second race win of the season. When other frontrunners headed to pit road on Lap 37 for their second stop, the No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda stayed on the track and used clean air to build a gap. Palou wasn’t able to completely get enough distance on Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi and others, but he did well to exit his second stop on Lap 55 in third place.

Within nine laps, Palou had the lead again, eventually pushing the advantage to about 10 seconds before a caution bunched the field. All Palou had to do thereafter was hold off Herta in a pair of late-race restarts.

Palou now has 11 career wins, which earns him a tie for 38th place on the sport’s all-time list. Most recently, Adrian Fernandez also had 11 wins. Among those with 12 are Gil de Ferran and Cristiano da Matta, then comes Tom Sneva with 13.

No Surprise: Herta in Contention

Herta has won a pair of series races at this track, in 2019 and 2021. He also is a two-time pole winner here in his five events. This continues to be his best circuit on the calendar.

Herta led the charge to pit road on Lap 37 when the caution came out for Dale Coyne Racing rookie Luca Ghiotto’s crash in Turn 4. An argument could have been made for that being a winning decision, as that group of cars could go the rest of the way on just one more stop as Palou and others who stayed out needed to make two more stops. But fuel mileage dramatically came into play. Even with 10 laps of caution the rest of the way, Herta, Rossi and that group had to race conservatively while Palou did not.

Predictably, Herta and Rossi had mixed post-race reactions. Yes, they were grateful for their spots on the podium – it was Rossi’s first such honor in 21 races dating back to May 2023 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – but they both sought more.

Herta and Rossi moved up to fourth and seventh in the point standings, respectively, and have momentum.

Strong Debuts for Siegel, Malukas

For some time, rookie Nolan Siegel and David Malukas figure to be linked due to their associations with Arrow McLaren. Siegel has the ride in the No. 6 that Malukas expected to have.

Continuing the narrative, both had debuts in Sunday’s race. Siegel made his first start for his new team; Malukas got his first opportunity to compete since injuring his left wrist in a mountain bike accident in February. And, both fared well.

Siegel overcame a spin in Turn 2 on Lap 41 to gain 11 positions and finish 12th in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Malukas finished 16th in the No. 66 AutoNation/Arctic Wolf Honda of Meyer Shank Racing. Siegel scored his best finish in three series races – he finished 20th at Long Beach for Dale Coyne Racing and 23rd at Road America for Juncos Hollinger Racing – while Malukas earned his best result since finishing eighth last year at Portland International Raceway for Dale Coyne’s team.

Others with Highlights

Romain Grosjean (fourth place) and Kyle Kirkwood (fifth) also had strong weekends.

Grosjean scored the best finish by a Juncos Hollinger Racing driver in 81 entries with his best weekend in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet. Twice last year, Callum Ilott finished fifth for the team (St. Petersburg and Laguna Seca).

Kirkwood qualified second for Andretti Global, then jumped Palou for the lead coming to the first corner of the race. Kirkwood led 24 laps as part of his quietly strong season.

Kirkwood and his No. 27 AutoNation Honda have finished in the top 11 of all eight races this season, including top-five finishes in the past three races. He stands fifth in points, 75 out of the lead.

On the engine manufacturer side, Honda won its fifth consecutive race at Laguna Seca.

Difficult Day for Team Penske

Power entered the weekend with the series lead, but a seventh-place finish coupled with Palou’s sweep of event points created a 28-point turnaround.

Teammates Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin didn’t fare as well. Both lost considerable ground to other championship contenders by finishing 19th and 21st, respectively.

Like Power, neither had earned a spot in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying round – McLaughlin started seventh, Newgarden 14th – and both had an off-track excursion. McLaughlin spun after what appeared to be light contact with Power exiting Turn 5 with 17 laps to go. Newgarden spun into the Turn 6 gravel with less than two laps left, the reason he finished as the last car on the lead lap. McLaughlin finished two laps off the winner’s pace.

McLaughlin and Newgarden head to Mid-Ohio eighth and ninth in the standings. McLaughlin is 97 points out of the lead, Newgarden 104.