By Dylan Reynolds, The Open Wheel
The INDYCAR season continues this weekend with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES 2021 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, California. The Open Wheel will be covering the action all weekend so stay tuned to this site and our Twitter page @openwh33l for all of the latest news.
Photo by Riley Bridges/The Open Wheel
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Preview: Indy Lights Grand Prix of Monterey Presented by Cooper Tires – Race 1: Saturday, September 18, 2021 3:45PM (ET) Peacock & Race 2: Sunday, September 19, 2021 1:15PM (ET) Peacock – David Malukas and Kyle Kirkwood shared the wins last weekend in Portland to solidify themselves as the two drivers to settle the championship with just four races to go. Malukas leads Kirkwood by just 5 points heading into the weekend, but Kyle Kirkwood swept both races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course earlier this season and that’s where the final two races of the championship will be decided so this is a huge weekend for Malukas.
NTT INDYCAR SERIES Preview: Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey – Sunday, September 19, 2021 3:00PM (ET) NBC – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend after not making it to the circuit in 2020 due to COVID. The championship five still realistically in contention as we enter the final two race weekends of the season are Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward (-25), Josef Newgarden (-34), Scott Dixon (-49), and Marcus Ericsson (-75). There are once again 27 entries this weekend with the same car and driver combination seen last week in Portland.
Previous driver experience at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca shows just two former winners in the field in Helio Castroneves (1) and Colton Herta (1). Herta won the last NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at the circuit back in 2019 but the previous event goes all the way back to 2004. Here is the box score from the only recent NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Laguna Seca in 2019 as Herta won over Will Power, Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, and Felix Rosenqvist. The active Top 5 in laps led at the circuit are Herta (83), Power (6), Dixon (2), Sebastien Bourdais (1), and Pagenaud (1).
My pick to win: Race: Alex Palou – I see no reason to pick against Palou this weekend after perhaps his best race of the year winning from pole despite adversity last weekend in Portland. Ganassi has done plenty of testing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, which was already a strong Honda track in 2019, and I expect the team to be the class of the field this weekend.
My fantasy.indycar.com picks: Alex Palou, Graham Rahal, Jack Harvey, & Oliver Askew – You know my thoughts on Palou. Rahal is coming off his best qualifying performance of the year and drove another great race. He qualified well at Laguna Seca in 2019 and I expect him to be up front again. I still want to believe Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing can leverage the speed they’ve consistently shown the last two years into a great race result for the No. 60. They’re well past due and a win or podium for Harvey would be a validating and deserved story. Askew should be an excellent choice as a budget selection this weekend at just $21.