IndyCar Laguna Seca start times: There are five drivers still in contention, but the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series championship seems like Alex Palou’s to lose with two races remaining.
The second-year Chip Ganassi Racing driver will take a 25-point lead over Pato O’Ward into Sunday’s race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Josef Newgarden (34 points behind), Scott Dixon (49) and Marcus Ericsson (75) also are in the hunt, but the field will winnow quickly if Palou excels at Laguna Seca.
O’Ward, Newgarden, Dixon and Ericsson need to finish ahead of Palou to have a shot at the title in the Sept. 26 season finale at Long Beach. Only once since 2008 has a driver lost a title lead as large as Palou’s (Dixon made up 48 points on Juan Pablo Montoya over the final two races in 2015).
Any driver 54 points outside of the leader after Laguna Seca will be eliminated, and Palou (who has led the standings after nine of 14 races this season) could knock out some of the competition with a podium finish.
But Laguna Seca will be unfamiliar territory for Palou, who will be making his first IndyCar start on the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course.
Romain Grosjean, Callum Ilott, Jimmie Johnson, Scott McLaughlin Oliver Askew, Dalton Kellett, O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay also will be in their IndyCar debuts on the Monterey Peninsula.
But the rest of the field also is relatively inexperienced as this will mark only the second IndyCar race at Laguna Seca since 2004 (last year was canceled because of the pandemic). After a 15-year absence, Colton Herta won from the pole position in 2019 at the same track where his father, Bryan (now his strategist), was involved in Alex Zanardi’s famous winning pass in the Corkscrew turn on the last lap of the 1996 race.
25 years later, it's simply called "The Pass."
— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) September 16, 2021
Here are the details and IndyCar start times for the weekend at Laguna Seca (all times are ET):
Grand Prix of Monterey
TV: 3 p.m. ET, Sunday, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the announcer with analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Kevin Lee and Kelli Stavast are the pit reporters.
COMMAND TO START ENGINES: 3:23 p.m. ET
GREEN FLAG: 3:30 p.m. ET
DISTANCE: The race is 95 laps (212.61 miles) on an 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course in Monterey, California.
PRACTICE (all on Peacock Premium): Friday, 5:30-6:15 p.m. ET; Saturday, 1:45-2:30 p.m. ET; Sunday, noon-12:30 p.m. ET (warmup)
QUALIFYING: Saturday, 5:05 p.m. ET (Peacock Premium)
TIRE ALLOTMENT: Six sets primary, four sets alternate. Teams must use one set of primary and one new set of alternate tires in the race. (Note: A seventh set of primary tires is available to any car fielding a rookie driver.)
PUSH TO PASS: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation. The push-to-pass is not available on the initial start or any restart unless it occurs in the final two laps or three minutes of a timed race. The feature increases the power of the engine by approximately 60 horsepower.
FORECAST: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 65 degrees with a 6% chance of rain at the green flag.
Weekend schedule for the Grand Prix of Monterey
(All times ET)
12:05-12:25 p.m.: U.S. Touring Car practice
1:10-1:55 p.m.: Indy Lights practice
2:10-2:35 p.m.: U.S. Touring Car practice
3:45-4:15 p.m.: U.S. Touring Car qualifying, Race 1
4:30-5 p.m.: Indy Lights qualifying, Race 1
5:30-6:15 p.m.: IndyCar practice, Peacock Premium
Noon-12:30 p.m.: U.S. Touring Car warmup
12:45-1:15 p.m.: Indy Lights qualifying, Race 2
1:45-2:30 p.m.: IndyCar practice, Peacock Premium
3-3:30 p.m.: U.S. Touring Car qualifying, Race 2
3:45-4:45 p.m.: Indy Lights, Race 1, Peacock Premium
5:05-6:20 p.m.: IndyCar qualifying (three rounds), Peacock Premium
6:45-7:30 p.m.: U.S. Touring Car, Race 1
Noon-12:30 p.m.: IndyCar warmup, Peacock Premium
12:45-1 p.m.: U.S. Touring Car warmup
1:15-2:15 p.m.: Indy Lights, Race 2, Peacock Premium
2:45 p.m.: IndyCar driver introductions
3:23 p.m.: Command to start engines
3:30 p.m.: Grand Prix of Monterey (95 laps/212.61 miles), NBC
6:15-7 p.m.: U.S. Touring Car, Race 2
COVERAGE ON NBCSPORTS.COM:
ROUND 8: Pato O’Ward wins, takes points lead
JIMMIE INDYCAR WATCH, RACE 1: A 19th at Barber Motorsports Park
JIMMIE INDYCAR WATCH, RACE 2: Tough day for the No. 48
JIMMIE INDYCAR WATCH, RACE 3: Making progress in a 24th-place finish
JIMMIE INDYCAR WATCH, RACE 4-5: Challenging weekend in Detroit
JIMMIE INDYCAR WATCH, RACE 6: One mistake at Road America
JIMMIE INDYCAR WATCH, RACE 7: A fun day at Mid-Ohio
JIMMIE INDYCAR WATCH, RACE 8: A bump but still having a blast at Nashville
JIMMIE INDYCAR WATCH, RACE 9: Best race of the season at Indy
JIMMIE INDYCAR WATCH, RACE 10: Solid run, winning assist at Portland