MONTEREY, Calif. — Colton Herta joined his father, Bryan Herta, in like-company in winning the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on Sunday.
It was Herta who won the last time the NTT IndyCar Series visiting WeatherTeach Raceway at Laguna Seca in 2019. It was his father who last won back-to-back races at the legendary road course in 1998 and 1999.
The series did not run at Laguna Seca last season because of COVID-19 restrictions in California.
“I enjoy racing here so much,” Herta said in Victory Lane. “It’s an amazing track for me and my family. We were fast all weekend and I’m so glad we could pull it off in the race. It’s my favorite track in North America. To win here means so much.”
It’s Herta’s second win of the 2021 season and is his fifth career win. Alex Palou scored a second-place finish and successfully protected his championship lead.
“It was amazing,” Palou said of the day, “I’m surprised we were competitive in qualifying with Herta, but it turned out great. It was Herta’s day, but I’m happy with a P2 today.”
Both Herta and Palou outlasted a furious push by Romain Grosjean in the last ten laps. Grosjean started 13th and was able to claw his way up to a third-place finish, securing his third podium in his rookie season IndyCar.
“The last stint was very fun because we were on new tires,” Grosjean said “It’s been a great day. P13 to P3 today though it was a great day.”
Grosjean is also within 20-points of Scott McLaughlin for IndyCar season Rookie of the Year honors.
Graham Rahal finished fourth, his best finish since his podium at Texas.
Grosjean’s push, which was two-second quicker than the leaders at one point, cost Pato O’Ward critical points down the stretch as O’Ward was one of the drivers Grosjean got by en route to his podium finish.
“All weekend we didn’t have it,” said O’Ward begrudgingly. “I feel like we juiced every once of energy this car had. We pulled off a miracle to qualify as high as we did. We fought for positions, but I’m disappointed but I’m happy. Disappointed that the guy we’re trying to catch outscored us again, now we just try to go to Long Beach and win.”
O’Ward finished fifth, but last ten points to Palou for the season championship.
“All weekend we didn’t have it.” “I feel like we juiced every once of energy this car had.” We pulled off a miracle to qualify has high as we did. We fought for positions, but I’m disappointed by I’m happy. Disappointed that the guy we’re trying to catch outscored us again, now we just try to go to Long Beach and win.”
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson had his best result ever in an Indy car finishing 17th.
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is up next for the drivers next Sunday. It is the final race of the NTT IndyCar Series season. Josef Newgarden is still mathematically in the championship hunt with Palou and O’Ward but will need lots of help in order to overtake either of them for the title.