Thursday, June 8, 2023

DEHARDE: Five Takeaways from the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

Will Power at Monterey.
Will Power was a master of consistency throughout the 2022 IndyCar season. Image courtesy James Black / Penske Entertainment

With Will Power claiming his second IndyCar title and Alex Palou claiming a dominating win, here’s five takeaways from the weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

  1. Power-ful Consistency

When Will Power said in the post-race press conference that earlier this year he aimed to play the long game for 2022, he meant it with how he drove on track. Instead of trying everything for wins, Power became the Australian version of Alain Prost, adding points to his total without sacrificing his car.

That showed up again Sunday as the Australian finished third in the season finale, ending the season 16 points clear of Josef Newgarden to win his second IndyCar title. Power didn’t need to win the race, and he knew it. All that was required was a podium, and that happened.

2. Palou on a Pa-high

Honda noticed something that they didn’t like on Alex Palou’s engine and decided to change it on Saturday, giving the defending IndyCar Series champion a fresh motor with a six-position grid penalty.

While in a court battle with Chip Ganassi Racing over his future contract, Palou won Sunday’s race by over 30 seconds, a margin that just doesn’t happen that often any more. It would be wise to assume that with no more racing this year that the engine got pushed to the maximum and a good strategy allowed Palou to have a pit stop margin in hand over Newgarden as the race wound down.

3. Newgarden’s Spin Ultimately Didn’t Matter

Josef Newgarden did himself no favors by spinning in the Corkscrew during Saturday’s qualifying session. Newgarden needed a win and a partial collapse by Power in order to take the IndyCar title away from the 2018 Indianapolis 500 winner.

However, with Power’s measured drive during the race, Newgarden was still not going to claim the championship even if he had won the race, as Power still would have been a few points ahead depending on who got the bonus points for leading the most laps.

Sure, Newgarden didn’t help himself with the spin, but the idea that it cost him the championship might not be the best.

4. Charging Christian

Christian Lundgaard’s drive to fifth place wasn’t really tracked by the NBC cameras, but a quiet drive enabled the Danish racer to get the Rookie of the Year crown. It was a measured drive to cap off what had been a season of ups and downs for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team and this award gives the former Formula 2 driver something to use as a baseline going to 2023.

5. Lights Out for Linus Lundqvist

Linus Lundqvist just had to show up at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to win the Indy Lights title and show up he did. Sure, sixth and fourth weren’t the results that Lundqvist had in mind coming to the final race weekend, but with five wins in the first 12 races, nobody else was even close to overtaking him for the series points lead heading to the doubleheader weekend.

Now comes the hard part of figuring out where Lundqvist will race in 2023.

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