June 23, 2024 | By IndyCar PR

Palou Extends Mastery of Monterey, Takes Points Lead

Photo by IndyCar photo

MONTEREY, Calif. — Amid varying fuel and tire strategies and numerous restarts, one truth emerged again Sunday in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey: Alex Palou is almost untouchable lately at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Palou earned his second victory in the last three years at the Northern California circuit, taking the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship lead with his second victory of the season in the No. 10 DHL Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Two-time and reigning series champion Palou, who started from the pole, beat Colton Herta’s No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Global with Curb-Agajanian to the finish by 1.9780 seconds.

“It was a chaotic race, man,” Palou said. “We didn’t do a very good job on the starts and those restarts at the beginning. The strategy was a bit risky for the position we were in, but we knew we had the pace, and we just had to execute.”

Palou’s victory continued an impressive string of results at this track. Besides the victory today and in 2022, Palou finished second here in 2021 and third in 2023.

Alexander Rossi finished a season-best third in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Romain Grosjean placed fourth in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, the best NTT INDYCAR SERIES finish ever for that team. Kyle Kirkwood rounded out the top five in the No. 27 AutoNation Honda of Andretti Global.

Palou jumped to a 23-point lead in the series standings over Will Power, who finished seventh in the No. 12 Verizon Business Team Penske Chevrolet. Power led Palou by five points entering this race, the eighth of 17 on the 2024 schedule.

Two distinct tire strategies emerged early in the 95-lap race, as there was no clear consensus up and down pit lane about whether primary or alternate Firestone Firehawk tires were the fastest and preferred rubber over the length of a fuel stint.

Fuel and tire strategies first diverged in stark fashion on Lap 36. The first of five caution periods was triggered when rookie Luca Ghiotto went off track into the tire barrier in Turn 4 in the No. 51 GAV Air Technology Honda of Dale Coyne Racing.

Rossi was leading during that incident and pulled a train of leading cars down pit lane under yellow on Lap 37, that pack of early-pitting cars including Herta, early leader Kirkwood, Scott Dixon and Power. But 13 drivers, including Palou, decided to stay out.

Palou discussed that call over the radio with strategist Barry Wanser during the caution period, wondering if it was the right move.

“At that time, I doubted (the strategy) a little bit,” Palou said. “I didn’t know if my radio was working or not. But everything was fine. I’m sorry I didn’t have that trust, that belief in his call during those 10 or 20 seconds, but overall an amazing job for the Ganassi team.”

Palou stayed out front from that point until he made his second pit stop on Lap 56, handing the lead to Herta and taking Firestone’s alternate, red-sidewall tires for the first time, deeper into the race than any other driver.

Herta made his final stop on Lap 67, along with Rossi. Once again, Wanser instructed Palou to stay on track on the fast Firestone alternate tires, trying to build upon his lead of nearly three seconds.

Palou made his last stop on Lap 70, along with Grosjean, and took on used Firestone primary tires. Josef Newgarden cycled to the lead at that point in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

But Palou took the lead for good when Newgarden made his final stop on Lap 75.

Still, the last 20 laps were not a stroll through the picturesque, 11-turn, 2.238-mile circuit, as Palou had to endure restarts after three caution periods during that span.

“Too intense there at the end with those restarts, but an amazing win for the No. 10 DHL car,” Palou said.

Palou pulled away cleanly on each restart, building a lead as large as four seconds over Herta when Jack Harvey pulled his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda off track near the start-finish line with a mechanical problem, triggering the penultimate caution.

On the ensuing restart on Lap 85, Palou built a gap of 1.6 seconds by Lap 87 when Agustin Canapino’s contact with Kyffin Simpson’s No. 4 Journie Rewards Chip Ganassi Racing Honda cut Simpson’s rear tire exiting Turn 5, forcing him into a spin. The trailing No. 15 Mobil 1 Honda driven by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal had nowhere to go in thick traffic and made contact with Simpson. Both cars ended up in the gravel, with Rahal making contact with the wall. Both drivers were unhurt, and Canapino was penalized for avoidable contact.

Herta had one final shot at Palou on the restart on Lap 91, but once again Palou pulled away, building a gap of 1.1 seconds after one lap.

“It’s a good result,” California native Herta said. “We chose the strategy that we did, and we did a really good job with what we chose. It hurts not to win here, but we have to be happy with second place here.”

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid on Sunday, July 7 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. That event marks the dawn of a new era for the series, as the hybrid power unit will make its race debut after months of extensive, successful testing.



FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF MONTEREY RACE RESULTS

MONTEREY, Calif. (Sunday, June 23, 2024) - Results Sunday of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey NTT INDYCAR SERIES event on the 2.238-mile WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 95, Running
2. (4) Colton Herta, Honda, 95, Running
3. (5) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 95, Running
4. (8) Romain Grosjean, Chevrolet, 95, Running
5. (2) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 95, Running
6. (10) Scott Dixon, Honda, 95, Running
7. (15) Will Power, Chevrolet, 95, Running
8. (9) Pato O'Ward, Chevrolet, 95, Running
9. (17) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 95, Running
10. (18) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 95, Running
11. (3) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 95, Running
12. (23) Nolan Siegel, Chevrolet, 95, Running
13. (21) Christian Rasmussen, Chevrolet, 95, Running
14. (24) Pietro Fittipaldi, Honda, 95, Running
15. (6) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 95, Running
16. (12) David Malukas, Honda, 95, Running
17. (16) Linus Lundqvist, Honda, 95, Running
18. (13) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 95, Running
19. (14) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 95, Running
20. (25) Sting Ray Robb, Chevrolet, 94, Running
21. (7) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 93, Running
22. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 93, Running
23. (22) Kyffin Simpson, Honda, 86, Contact
24. (19) Graham Rahal, Honda, 86, Contact
25. (26) Jack Harvey, Honda, 82, Mechanical
26. (20) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 71, Mechanical
27. (27) Luca Ghiotto, Honda, 34, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner's average speed: 102.740 mph
Time of Race: 02:04:09.8545
Margin of victory: 1.9780 seconds
Cautions: 14
Lead changes: 7 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Kirkwood, Kyle 1 - 24
Palou, Alex 25 - 26
Rossi, Alexander 27 - 36
Palou, Alex 37 - 55
Herta, Colton 56 - 63
Palou, Alex 64 - 69
Newgarden, Josef 70 - 74
Palou, Alex 75 - 95

NTT INDYCAR SERIES Point Standings:
Palou 285, Power 262, Dixon 253, Herta 217, Kirkwood 210, O'Ward 208, Rossi 198, McLaughlin 188, Newgarden 181, Rosenqvist 176, Lundgaard 156, Ferrucci 154, Ericsson 150, Grosjean 144, Armstrong 129, Rahal 127, VeeKay 114, Lundqvist 113, Fittipaldi 97, Simpson 88, Canapino 86, Rasmussen 82, Robb 78, Pourchaire 75, Harvey 70, Blomqvist 46, Ilott 39, Siegel 35, Ghiotto 27, Castroneves 26, Daly 21, Larson 21, Sato 19, Malukas 14, Carpenter 14, Vautier 12, Braun 10, Hunter-Reay 6, Andretti 5, Legge 5, Siegel 5

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