Colton Herta has been in a class to himself at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. He’s not only won the last two poles there, but also has taken the win in both events as well. Herta has led an astounding 95% (175-for-185) of the laps in those 2 races as well.
So, can he three peat Monterey on Sunday?
Same for Josef Newgarden. He’s won the last 2 season finales at 2 different tracks. Can he three peat?
Will Championship Actually Be Won On Saturday?
I know it seems like an anticlimactic end to a season but there’s a very real chance that the race for the championship is actually decided on Saturday afternoon instead of Sunday’s race. Qualifying is just so important on natural road courses, especially here.
43 of the last 45 races (95%) on these tracks were won from a top 10 starter. Furthermore, 90% (9-for-10) of the last 10 of them were won from the front row. 17 of the last 18 (94%) from the top 7.
For Monterey specifically, the last 4 winners here at Laguna Seca all came from the front row with three of which coming from the pole at that. 21 of the last 23 (91%) visits won from a top 3 starter (15 from the pole, 4 from 2nd)
22 of the 23 (96%) were won from a top 6 starter in general.
“It’s like every weekend,” said Will Power. “First thing it does is keep you out of trouble in turn one. Obviously, the second thing it does is put you at the front. It’s a tough track, man. Like, it’s a hard track to get the car right. You’ve got to understand what you need.
Which is why if you’re not qualifying in the Fast 6, you really have no shot at a win. Which is also why this title could be dictated by qualifying on Saturday as well.
“I don’t think I’ve started out front too much this year,” Scott Dixon said. “It will definitely make our day a lot easier. There’s alternate lines there, and it’s pretty high. I think the tire, the red tire, especially that they’re bringing this year is a higher tire than what we had previous years. That could definitely change the red. It could be a five-stopper, who knows, if the temperature is high.
“The day of the test was through the roof. Yeah, it’s going to be, as Will said, qualifying out front keeps you out of trouble where we’ll have to see. The caution can flip the field at any point. Especially if you qualify up front, you don’t have a whole lot of options. We’ll have too see how that comes once we get that.”
Is This The Best Track For The Season Finale Or Should It Be Moved Around?
For the 2nd time in the last 3 years, Laguna Seca will host the season finale. However, in a day and age of competitiveness in the NTT INDYCAR Series and the championship seemingly every year coming down to the final race among multiple drivers, is this track the best suited to host a clinching race?
It’s one that you don’t tend to get a lot of passing on. We’ve seen some dominating performances. So does it move the needle in such an importance race?
You don’t tend to see packed grandstands at this place because well, there aren’t many. The atmosphere from the outside is lackluster. While it’s a fun track and a drivers track, I don’t know that it suits the common fan.
I mean when you think championship you think a big event. Super Bowl. Final Four’s. World Series. NBA Finals. Each venue is always packed. It’s a huge marquee event that lands more eye balls than normal on it.
This one unfortunately doesn’t do it. In the early portion of the NFL schedule, I don’t see this race other than a get the year over with event. Which is why I hope INDYCAR is open to at the very least rotating season finale venues.
This is actually the fifth straight year that a different track has hosted the season finale and brings up a legitimate question, should the last race of the season get moved around each year anyways. I mean we’ve already done it every year since 2018.
In 2018 we ended the year in Sonoma. A year later, Sonoma was replaced by Laguna Seca. For 2020, since we couldn’t go west due to COVID, the last race was held on the streets of St. Pete. Last year, COVID moved Long Beach back to the final race. It’s not back to Monterey. Where should 2023’s be?
Should INDYCAR start allowing tracks to bid on the final race? Could that be an extra stream of revenue coming in?
I mean NASCAR has discussed this the last few years but haven’t ever actually done it. They ended the year in the playoff format from 2004 through 2019 in Homestead. In 2020 they moved it to Phoenix as they’ll end the year out west for this year and next too. Which brought the question up as why aren’t they moving it around like they initially discussed?
INDYCAR due to some unforeseen circumstances has. I mean, look at the Super Bowl. It’s moved around each year. So is the NCAA Tournament. Big championship deciding events are shuffled around each year. INDYCAR has indirectly done that the last five years and makes you wonder if that should stay.
Some current drivers are open to it.
Part of the argument though would be that it makes it an even bigger event. It’s not just another race on the schedule that so happens to crown a champion. The track and the series would build it up. Plus, it doesn’t give a distinct advantage to any one driver each year if a certain track remains as the last race and that driver may or may not be good there.
Indianapolis on the road course makes the most sense of all. It’s your home market. A lot of teams are based here and I can already visualize a week long events in the Circle City including Georgia Street being utilized downtown.
Every 5 years we see “The Road Ends Here” slogan painted all over town for the Final Four. Why can that be the same for the NTT INDYCAR Series. I think you’d get far more people here than you would anywhere else.
Another year maybe mix in an oval like Gateway. Maybe throw in a street course too so you get all the disciplines recognized every three years on a championship hosting level.
Should Finale Remain Single Points Event?
Without double points for a second consecutive year, it does narrow down the list of drivers who can realistically win this year’s championship on Sunday in Long Beach. Is that a good or bad thing? While I get one notion says that you can make it more viable to see more drivers contending for a title, I also get the side that says that it’s a gimmick.
But, NASCAR does it. They take four drivers and place them on equal footing for the Championship round. INDYCAR the last 3 years will award the champion on a seasons worth of points and not add double the value of the finale in hopes of someone catching the leader even easier.
So, do we just hand the title to Will Power then?
I don’t necessarily think so, but I also think this is more of a pure way to crown a champion as other than the Indy 500, every race is equal. In saying that, there’s a lot of drivers that say they need to do away with double points for Indy too.
I mean one bad Indy 500 can haunt your entire season. One good Indy 500 and mediocre results elsewhere can keep someone who doesn’t belong to be in the title hunt around longer too. But, others say double points for Indy should stay as that race is the biggest one of the season and holds more weight too.
Take a look at this season. 4 of the 5 drivers left in contention to win the championship this weekend each finished outside the top 10 in the Indy 500. It all kind of took care of itself. The last time a driver won both the Indy 500 and championship in the same season?
Which bodes the question, should the season finale or any race for that matter award double points?
“I think it’s good we’ve dropped the double points in the finale,” Newgarden said. “I was never a fan of that, and I’m still not quite a fan of the double points at Indy. But like I said, we know the rules, we know the landscape going in, so I don’t think we can fall back on that. It would be an endless discussion of saying if this went different or that went different, I could go down the road and cite a lot of examples, but we always end up where we are, and unfortunately we’re a little bit short this year.”
How Many Andretti Drivers Will BE Back In 2023?
We know Romain Grosjean is on the first year of a multi-year deal with Andretti Autosport. We also know Devlin DeFrancesco is too. However, Sunday’s race will be the final one for Alexander Rossi with the organization. He moves to Arrow McLaren SP next season. What about Colton Herta?
He’s been mentioned for F1 rides again with Alpha Tauri saying they’ve reached a deal to have him come over to their team so long as the FIA relaxes their rule on the super license. Herta doesn’t have the minimum amount of 40. In saying that, there’s a chance they could look the other way and make an exception to allow Herta to race. If so, this would be his final race with Andretti as well leaving them with significant turnover the last couple of seasons.
For 2020, they had a driver lineup of Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach, Herta and Rossi. By the end of the year, Veach was replaced by James Hinchcliffe.
In 2021, Andretti was Indy only. Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Rossi and Herta were the full-time drivers. This season, Grosjean replaced Hunter-Reay and DeFrancesco replacing Hinchcliffe. Next year, you’ll have Kyle Kirkwood replacing the departing Rossi.
Could we get to the point that Herta needs replacing too leaving Andretti without a single driver on the team that drove for them in 2021?