NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race Report - Laguna Seca

September 20, 2021

Track:     WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
Race:       Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey
Date:        September 19, 2021

No. 2 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden
Start: 17th
Finish: 7th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 95/95
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: 3rd (-48 pts)

  • Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet team put forth a valiant effort at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday afternoon, bringing home a solid seventh-place finish and keeping his Championship hopes alive with one race remaining in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
  • An unfortunate qualifying attempt left the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet starting from the 17th position and thus forcing Newgarden to battle his way through traffic for the majority of the 95-lap event.
  • Newgarden and race strategist Tim Cindric elected to stop early to switch up the fuel strategy on the rest of the field. Slowly but surely, the alternative strategy paid off as the No. 2 Chevrolet advanced their way to the top 10 by lap 45.
  • Long green-flag runs helped push the Hitachi machine as high as fourth by lap 71. The call came for the last stop of the afternoon on lap 73 with a change to the red Firestone tires and the opportunity for Newgarden to secure a solid top-10 finish. The solid pit strategy, along with consistent driving from Newgarden, kept the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet in contention throughout the remaining laps while crossing the line in seventh.
  • The finish allowed Newgarden to head into the Long Beach Grand Prix next weekend mathematically still eligible in the points championship, 48 points behind leader Alex Palou.

Quote: "Tough day. Finished seventh so definitely made a climb, 10 positions forward from the start of the race. We just started too far back. It's a simple as that. You can't qualify 17th here, and without having some help from the yellows, it was going to be harder to climb much more.  It was a big fight from the guys. I'm so proud of the No. 2 car team and everyone with Chevy and Hitach -  just a little short here. Feels like we've been a little short all year. Little bit tough, but we'll go to Long Beach now and try to get another win before the offseason."

No. 3 PPG Dallara/Chevrolet – Scott McLaughlin
Start: 16th
Finish: 12th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 95/95
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: 13th (-231 pts)

  • Scott McLaughlin had a weekend full of "learning experiences" at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, including a pit mistake during the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday afternoon that unfortunately cost the rookie yet another INDYCAR SERIES top-10 finish.  The New Zealand-native finished 12th.
  • McLaughlin started the weekend with one of the fastest cars in the field, leading practice on Saturday before having a problem in qualifying which would result in a starting position of 16th.   However, once the green flag flew, McLaughlin made the most of a chaotic first lap, jumping six positions on the first lap of the race and finding himself in the 10th position with the No. 3 PPG Chevrolet.
  • As the race wore on, McLaughlin showed his car had plenty of speed despite complaining of a lack of rear grip. Through a couple of pit cycles, McLaughlin continued to run in the back half of the top-10 on the track while he figured out the legendary track.
  • On lap 67, McLaughlin came in for what would be his final stop of the race.  As he came into his pit stall, McLaughlin slid to far and too close to the wall, causing his stop to be slower than normal.  The slow stop resulted in a loss of three positions on the track, dropping him from 10th to 13th.
  • Over the final stint, McLaughlin was able to gain one spot on the track and finished the event in the 12th position. Despite the issues, McLaughlin passed 21 cars on the day, third most of anyone in the race. 

Quote: "For me in the broad scheme of things, this has probably been a really big character-building weekend for me. I passed probably the most cars I ever have in a race, I gained about seven spots on the start and was having a lot of fun. Then a couple strategy calls didn't go our way and then I made a mistake and slid through the pit box, which cost us three or four spots. Realistically we were eighth or ninth today and finished 12th. Onwards and upwards."

No. 12 Verizon 5G Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power
Start: 3rd
Finish: 26th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 93/95
Laps Led:  0
Points Position:  9th (-180)

  • Will Power fell out of contention early in Sunday's Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey when the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet experienced mechanical problems that would cause him to lose multiple laps, resulting in a 26th-place finish.
  • Power qualified third and found himself running second early in the race when the two leaders made contact, resulting in a spin by Alexander Rossi.  As the race resumed green, Power slotted into second and began to settle into his race pace.
  • However, on lap 10, the former INDYCAR SERIES Champion radioed to his Verizon 5G team that he was beginning to experience engine issues.  Race strategist Ron Ruzewski called Power into the pits to diagnose the problem.  Quick work by the team allowed Power to lose just a handful of laps before rejoining the race. 
  • A lack of yellows for the remainder of the 95-lap event made it nearly impossible for Power to make up any of the lost ground caused by the mechanical problems.  He soldiered around for the rest of the race, learning whatever they could in what ended up being an extended test session.  The Verizon 5G Chevrolet finished 26th. 

Quote: "Just an unfortunate problem early in the race – there is nothing you can do about that.  After we experienced our issues and lost our laps, we just wanted to use the rest of the race as a test session to learn things.  The Verizon 5G Chevrolet was fast and its too bad, as I think we could have maybe challenged for the podium.  Onto Long Beach to wrap up the season."

No. 22 Menards Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud
Start: 9th
Finish: 8th
Status: Running
Laps Completed: 95/95
Laps Led: 0
Points Position: 8th (-164 pts)

  • Simon Pagenaud and the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet ran in the top 10 throughout most the 95-lap event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, securing an eighth-place finish in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
  • The Frenchman accelerated early in the race, gaining two positions within the first two laps of the race and showing signs of having a fast Menards Chevrolet.
  • Pagenaud pitted at lap 12 and got shuffled back to 11th by lap 18. However, it didn't take long for the No. 22 Chevrolet to regain its momentum, as Pagenaud soared through the field and back up to fifth place by lap 27.
  • With 19-laps remaining in the race, Pagenaud relinquished a position to his Team Penske teammate (and Championship contender) Josef Newgarden and would go on to finish the race in a respectable eighth position.
  • The No. 22 Menards Chevrolet team will make their way to the Long Beach Grand Prix next weekend for the final race of the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

Quote: "P8 today, great race. It was fun, I enjoyed it. There was a lot of tire degradation in this race, it was all about managing. We had one pit stop at the beginning of the race that cost us maybe fifth place overall. But it was a good fight, it was a good fight. Happy I could help Josef a little bit in the championship and it's exciting to go to Long Beach, my favorite track, for the last one of the year. So thanks to Menards, thanks to Chevy for a great weekend."