It has been two years since the NTT IndyCar Series hit the pavement at Laguna Seca, but not much has changed for Colton Herta. The young phenom qualified on pole and won the season-ending race, leading 83 of the 90 laps. It was a dominant performance and he aims for a repeat of that this weekend. Herta will start at the front for tomorrow’s race in his No. 26 Honda.
It will be an Andretti Autosport front row as teammate Alexander Rossi joins him up front. The driver of the No. 27 machine will start 2nd for the second consecutive weekend. He will look to improve on his runner-up finish from last weekend at Portland, still searching for his first win since Road America in 2019. The good news for these two is that 19 of the 23 races here have been won by a driver starting on the front row.
Qualification Results for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey
Will Power starts from the inside of Row 2 tomorrow after he was penalized in the Firestone Fast Six. Championship points leader Alex Palou will start 4th, ahead of all of his challengers. Oliver Askew had another impressive outing and will start 5th tomorrow while Pato O’Ward will start 6th, as he goes into the race 25 points behind Palou in the standings.
Marcus Ericsson just missed the Fast Six but has a solid starting position in 7th, alongside his teammate Scott Dixon. The two are still mathematically eligible for the championship but they will need some help for it to become a reality. Simon Pagenaud starts 9th in what could be his penultimate race with Team Penske and Max Chilton rounded out the top ten qualifiers on Saturday, in what was another incredible performance for the Carlin Racing driver.
This is the third pole of the season for Herta and the seventh of his career. His lap of 1 minute, 10.7994 seconds was not quicker than his best lap from two years ago but the young driver feels confident heading into Sunday. “I’m glad we ended up doing three laps in the final stint of qualifying because I guess two wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “I really got to nail that third lap. The Gainbridge car was awesome, awesome being powered by Honda. What an amazing track. I love this place so much. Two for two for poles here.”
The real story during qualifying was Josef Newgarden. After leading the opening practice session on Friday, the two-time series champion failed to advance out of the first round and will start the race from the 17th position. At some venues, that is not a death sentence but consider this: only twice has a driver won this race by starting worse than third. The Penske driver sits 34 points out of the lead entering these final two races.
Several drivers had close calls on Saturday and there will surely be more off-course excursions to come. Scott McLaughlin led the first practice session ahead of qualifying where multiple drivers found the tire barriers, including Dalton Kellett and Rinus VeeKay. They will have another opportunity to dial in their cars ahead of tomorrow’s race.
The race distance is 95 laps, which is 214.51 miles around the 2.258-mile 11-turn road course. Herta is the defending race winner, having won the 2019 race from pole position.
Coverage for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey begins at 3 PM ET on NBC.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar