The IndyCar Series heads to Laguna Seca Raceway in California on Sunday for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. While five drivers are still alive in the battle for the series championship with two races to go, it looks like Alex Palou's title to lose.
How to Watch Indycar Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey:
Race Date: Sept. 19, 2021
Race Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
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Palou enters Sunday's race with a 25-point lead over second-place Pato O'Ward. Josef Newgarden sits in third, 34 points back of Palou.
If Palou can extend that lead to 49 points or more on Sunday, he would clinch the championship as long as he races in the series finale.
O'Ward has run at Laguna Seca five times in the minor leagues of IndyCar, while Palou has never races at the track. So Sunday's race offers O'Ward a major opportunity to make up ground on Palou and create drama for the season finale at Long Beach.
Colton Herta is not part of the championship battle but is in pole position for Sunday's race. Herta won the race in 2019 from the pole. Palou will roll off in fourth place while O'Ward starts sixth.
Newgarden's title hopes took a hit with a 17th-place finish in qualifying. He will have to make a lot of positive moves on Sunday to better his position in the championship battle.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will start 25th out of 27 drivers. In his rookie season in open-wheel racing, he has an average finish of 21.9 and just two lead-lap finishes.