Race Day at Laguna Seca-Tires and Title Hopes

Alex Palou can move closer to the Astor Cup today. Indycar photo by Joe Skibinski

Today’s schedule: All Times Pacific

Today’s race will determine how many are still left to fight for the championship next weekend in Long Beach. Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon are on the brink of elimination given their starting spots. Pato O’Ward should still be in the hunt after today, and points leader Alex Palou has things pretty much in his control. Anyone who leaves the track 50 or more points behind is out of contention.

The winner has started on pole here 15 times in the 23 previous races, and every winner has started in the top six. As unpredictable as 2021 has been, that tradition might get a bit of a shakeup today.

Tire degradation and grip are going to be crucial for success in the race. In the post qualifying media conference, Herta said about tires,

“My initial feeling is that it’s going to be a black race. You’re
going to want to get off those red tires. I guess the
important thing we’ll try to learn about is how long can we
make those tires last before the huge dropoff comes in.”

The race is 95 laps, five laps longer than the 2019 distance. Teams will likely make three stops. A two stop strategy would be very iffy.

Alexander Rossi added, “The tire deg is pretty aggressive. I don’t know what that
means (smiling). A lot of people are wanting to pit for new
tires, like in practice after 12 laps, and we got to go 25.
There’s going to be a lot of screaming on the radio from people.”

Rossi also talked about the tendency tooverdrive the track, which has resulted in numerous off course incidents so far this weekend.

“But also you can’t
underdrive. It’s one of those places, it’s a pretty fine line. I
think on street courses you’re rewarded for trying as hard
as possible most of the time. Some of the road courses,
it’s a little better. Like Indy GP, I feel it’s better to almost
underdrive. Here you have to be on the 100%, not 101%,
not 99%. ”

Indy Lights

Kyle Kirkwood led flag to flag in yesterday’s race and now leads David Malukas by eight points. He is on the pole again for Race 2 today. The Indy Lights season concludes at Mid Ohio October 1-3.

I’ll have a warmup summary and of course post race comments later today.