Alex Palou dominated proceedings at Laguna Seca in IndyCar win over Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi.

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. 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. 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 Kyle 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. 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.

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.


[Note: The story is as per press release]