until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Title fight twist + Grosjean stars: Laguna Seca winners and losers

by Jack Benyon
8 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

So many things worked against Alex Palou in IndyCar's Laguna Seca race but such was his almighty, tactic-shattering pace that he won in spite of his strategy looking like the wrong one.

At times, Palou was almost two seconds faster per lap than his rivals and a third win of the year certainly looks ominous as he appears a better challenger to Will Power (the previous points leader and Palou's apparent closest rival again this year) than he was in 2022, the last time the pair did battle.

But there's far more to get into from a race that featured a star team struggling, Romain Grosjean’s historic result, a driver with a broken wrist impressing and a lost win that was actually a great achievement.

The Race has picked out the winners and losers from a wild Laguna Seca race.


Alex Palou

Palou’s pace was so good that even what looked like a strategy that would condemn him to mediocrity was saved from oblivion.

He built a gap of well over 20 seconds to a group of cars that elected to stop for a second time on lap 37 of 95 - led by Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi - pitted, rejoined in third but then drove past the leading duo in another handful of laps because they were saving fuel and Palou’s later stop meant he didn’t have to.

Even three late cautions inside the final 20 laps couldn’t stop him from winning and taking a decent points lead.

It’s his third win of the year, and his results at Laguna Seca in IndyCar read: second, first, third and first.

Frankly, he and his Ganassi team were just a cut above their rivals both on strategy and how they used that awe-inspiring pace to maximise clean air and a tyre deficit, after using two sets in the fast six qualifying group.

A third title in four years looks increasingly likely, unless his short oval form isn’t up to scratch or the hybrid mixes things up when it's introduced next week.


It might have felt like a second gained and a first lost for Colton Herta, but the whole Andretti team had the kind of result it arguably really needed.

Team-mate Kyle Kirkwood was the better qualifier of the two and passed Palou not once but twice, with a move down the outside of Turn 1 at the start and then again at the same corner after the first pitstops.

But Herta got ahead in the crucial next pitstop window, and was ultimately only beaten by Palou on another strategy. While Herta went for a different strategy to Palou, you felt like any strategy would have won Palou the race given his pace.

But after three races with crashes, Herta didn’t do anything silly and scored good points.

Kirkwood continues to answer those who questioned whether he could pair consistency and his prodigious pace. He has the best 'worst' finish in the series so far this year (11th on the Indy road course) and took another top five - only two ahead were on the same strategy - his third in a row.

Herta and Kirkwood are now fourth and fifth in the standings respectively.

Marcus Ericsson had a rough weekend as he lacked pace in qualifying - not for the first time this year - but turned his 18th-place start into a fourth top 10 of the year. It wasn’t his cleanest race with two offs, but plenty of drivers failed to avoid the chaos racing that deep in the pack, and he did.

David Malukas

A 16th-place finish might not be something to celebrate normally, but just getting to the end was a win for Malukas. And besides, he’d have finished a lot higher without a puncture.

He qualified a brilliant 12th for his first race since he fractured his wrist, was dropped by McLaren, and then was handed a lifeline at Shank by taking over Tom Blomqvist’s seat for the rest of the year.

Despite struggling with his wrist still, he completed all 95 laps and would likely have been in the top 10 and ahead of his team-mate Felix Rosenqvist, who started third. That was in part down to being on the ‘Palou strategy’, although Malukas had the pace to make it work.

More races like that will raise more questions about McLaren’s driver choices and push Malukas up higher still in people’s estimations.

Rosenqvist struggled to match those on his strategy and fell behind some of the drivers on the other main strategy in the process. Some brake locking also contributed to his eventual 11th-place finish.

Romain Grosjean

Despite being angry at the driving standards of his rivals in qualifying - he said he had a car quick enough for pole but wound up eighth - Grosjean drove a sensible and measured race.

He was boosted partly by following the 'Palou strategy', but some epic pace after his final stop really helped cement his position at the front.

He finished fourth, the best race result in Juncos Hollinger’s IndyCar history. After such a tough year for Grosjean and the team, it was a welcome tonic that goes one better than Callum Ilott managed at this track last year.

Santino Ferrucci

Ferrucci’s Laguna Seca race was a good reflection of his 2024; he got a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct in the pre-race warm-up for weaving towards Romain Grosjean, and then turned a 17th-place start into a ninth-place finish that puts him a solid 12th in the points standings.

Whatever your opinion on Ferrucci, he has five top-10 finishes in eight races this year at a team deemed inferior by many people. Foyt is obviously doing something right!


A fifth Laguna win in a row cements Honda's position as top of the manufacturer dogs after Chevrolet looked like it could steal a march this year.

A 1-2, five cars in the top 10, and a lockout of the first two rows after qualifying are just some of the highlights, and while early-season unreliability combined with the introduction of the hybrid at the next race could shake things up, Honda has had a good run outside of the Indianapolis 500 win.



It qualified seventh, 14th and 15th and finished seventh, 19th and 21st. Any day like that for Penske is a loss.

Will Power was the shining light. He was its worst qualifier in 15th and dropped places in a congested start, but then made use of an early undercut to make up spots before getting his elbows out late on - including being hit by team-mate Scott McLaughlin via a late dive at Turn 6, which effectively ended McLaughlin’s run in the top 10 all day long.

Josef Newgarden had a wild day where a pit exit infraction at his first stop earned him a drivethrough penalty, but he then used Palou’s strategy and was incredibly lucky as he pitted when a caution came out on his last stop - meaning instead of going to the back end of the top 10 after pitting from the lead, he dropped only to second. But then he undid all that and spun at Turn 6 late on, finishing 19th.

It leaves McLaughlin eighth in the points, and Newgarden in ninth. Power meanwhile remains in the hunt at the front, but his lead is now a 23-point deficit to Palou.

Agustin Canapino

Canapino was a career-best 13th in qualifying at a track he ran confidently in the top 10 at last year, so usurping his best series result of 12th looked possible.

In the race he worked his way back the order after falling back early on, but received a drivethrough for clipping Kyffin Simpson into a spin that ended his and Graham Rahal’s races - Rahal was collected in the ensuing crash - and Canapino finished 18th.

Considering Juncos team-mate Grosjean finished fourth, a better result should've been possible - and would've lifted Canapino further clear of an intense Leader’s Circle fight.

Christian Lundgaard

Lundgaard started sixth and finished 15th and honestly that was a pretty good result given how his race played out.

The flashpoints were going off at the Rainey Curve battling McLaughlin early on and collecting a brake-marker board that stuck to his front wing, and getting a drivethrough for avoidable contact late on.

He also went wide at the Corkscrew and got fully airborne, which was certainly very impressive to watch but not great for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run car.

Having looked like a comfortable top-10 championship pick for this year, this result was his fourth of the year outside of the top 10.

With five of the last nine races of the season being on ovals where the team has struggled, it could be a tough end to the year. These road course races are crucial for the whole squad.

Dale Coyne

With an engine issue for Jack Harvey and a crash for Luca Ghiotto, Coyne suffered a double DNF at Laguna Seca.

It’s currently without one driver for the Mid-Ohio race as Ghiotto is unavailable, and whoever it puts in is likely to be someone without experience of the hybrid unit that makes its debut next time out.

It’s been a tough year for the David vs Goliath team and it’s hard to see how much it can improve. At this rate, it will be very lucky to get either car in the Leader’s Circle without some good fortune.

Rinus VeeKay

VeeKay, who's never finished lower than 14th in the championship in his career, is 17th with only two top 10s this year.

His Ed Carpenter team struggled with balance in the build-up to qualifying, where VeeKay was 20th, and he ended up not finishing with a mechanical issue.

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