After 16 races, 2,173 laps, and countless caution periods and bruised egos to match the highs of standing on the top step of the podium, the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series comes down to 95 laps at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, Calif. Will Power enters the weekend with a 20-point lead on his nearest challengers, Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden, and Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon. Behind them are Dixon's CGR teammate, Marcus Ericsson, and the third Team Penske driver, Scott McLaughlin.
Power need only finish third or better to win the Astor Challenge Cup for the second time in his career but comes to a track that he finished 26th at last year. Not that any of the final five had a great result at Laguna in 2021, with Ericsson finishing sixth, Newgarden seventh, McLaughlin 12th and Dixon 13th as Colton Herta won the race from pole for the second year in a row.
Still, Power's lack of success last year, combined with the fact that Team Penske made its final test of the season at Portland International Raceway (which obviously worked out pretty well for them) while Chip Ganassi Racing chose to test at Laguna Seca, means the garage door certainly seems open to someone passing Power for the crown -- especially with so many other drivers in the field of 25 needing to impress to either keep their current seat or find another one in 2023.
How to watch the IndyCar Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey
- Date: Sunday, Sept. 11
- Location: 2.238-mile (3.602-kilometer), 11-turn road course; WeatherTech Raceway; Laguna Seca; Salinas, Calif.
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV: NBC
- Stream: fuboTV (try for free)
What to expect
Home to the famous "Corkscrew," Laguna Seca is the classic North American road course. Originally constructed in 1957 around a lake, which had dried up, there are now two water-retaining ponds at the lowest elevation of the track, which sports 300 feet (91 meters) of elevation change.
Springing out of the original Pebble Beach Road Races (1950-56), which were deemed unsafe as the competition speeds were continually climbing, Laguna Seca is classified as a FIA Grade 2 circuit and has hosted a wide variety of series and racing, including Formula 5000, IMSA, Can-Am, American Le Mans Series, CART, Super Bike, and MotoGP, just to name a few.
The 8 and 8A turn complex, known as the "Corkscrew," is one of the most challenging in motorsport, featuring a blind approach to its entrance at the apex of a hill before twisting down the backside of the hill in an 18m drop that takes you left-right, then a short chute to Rainey's Curve (named after motorcycle champion Wayne Rainey) at Turn 9, another short straight to a right-hander at Turn 10, and your stomach usually catching up to you at some point by the time you reach the final hairpin at Turn 11 that delivers you to the start/finish line.
Laguna is not just about the "Corkscrew," though. The Turn 2 hairpin, known as the "Andretti Hairpin," is a difficult and technical turn thanks to a double apex, and it also provides an opportunity for passing.
One more thing to keep in mind is that the pit stall assignments are handed out according to the previous race's starting grid, a big factor for a pit lane that is amongst the smallest the series has on the calendar.
So McLaughlin, the pole-sitter at Portland, will have an unencumbered return to the track at the pit box just at the exit of pit lane.