After 16 races, 2,173 laps, and countless periods of caution and hurt feelings to match the top step of the podium, the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series comes down to 95 laps at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, California. Will Power starts the weekend with a 20-point lead over his closest rivals, Team Penske teammate Joseph Newgarden and Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing. Behind them was Dixon’s CGR teammate Marcus Eriksson and Penske third pilot Scott McLaughlin.
Power only needs to finish third or better to win the Astor Challenge Cup for the second time in his career, but he comes to a track where he finished 26th last year. It’s not like any of the five finalists had a great run at Laguna in 2021, with Eriksson finishing sixth, Newgarden seventh, McLaughlin 12th and Dixon 13th as Colton Herta won the race from pole for the second straight year.
However, Power’s lack of success last year combined with the fact that Team Penske did their last test of the season at Portland International Raceway (which obviously worked out pretty well for them), while Chip Ganassi Racing opted for testing at Laguna Seca means the Garage Door certainly seems open for someone to miss Power for the crown, especially with so many other 25 riders having to impress to either keep their current spot , or find another in 2023.
How to watch the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix in Monterey
- Date: Sunday, September 11
- Location: 2.238 miles (3.602 km), road course with 11 turns; WeatherTech race track; Seca Lagoon; Salinas, California.
- Time: 15:00 ET
- TELEVISION: NBC
- Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
What to expect
Seca Lagoon, home to the famous Corkscrew, is a classic North American circuit. Originally built in 1957 around a dry lake, the trail’s lowest elevation now features two water-retaining ponds with a 300-foot (91-meter) drop in elevation.
Seca Lagoon, which originated from the first races at Pebble Beach Road (1950-56), which were considered unsafe as the speed of the competition grew steadily, is classified as an FIA Grade 2 circuit and hosted many series and races, including Formula One. 5000, IMSA, Can-Am, American Le Mans Series, CART, Super Bike and MotoGP just to name a few.
The complex of corners 8 and 8A, known as “Corkscrew”, is one of the most difficult in motorsport. It involves a blind approach to the hilltop entrance and then twisting down the back of the hill in an 18m drop that takes you left and right, then a short descent to the Rainey Curve (named after motorcycle champion Wayne Rainey) at 9 turn 10, another short straight ahead to a right hand turn at turn 10 and your stomach usually catches up to you at some point by the time you reach the last hairpin on turn 11 which will take you to the start/finish line.
However, Laguna is not only Corkscrew. Hairpin Turn 2, known as the “Andretti Hairpin”, is a difficult and technical turn thanks to the double top, and also provides a pass.
Another thing to keep in mind is that pit appointments are allocated according to the starting grid of the previous race, which is a big factor in what is one of the smallest pit lanes on the series calendar.
Thus, McLaughlin, sitting on pole in Portland, will be able to freely return to the track in the pit box right at the exit from the pit lane.