Colton Herta dominates again in Laguna Seca victory as Alex Palou closes on IndyCar title

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Colton Herta cruised to his second consecutive IndyCar victory from the pole position at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, while runner-up Alex Palou put a hammerlock on the championship race.

Romain Grosjean made a spirited charge from 13th to finish third, overcoming a wild collision with Jimmie Johnson in the Corkscrew for the third podium of his rookie season.

Heading into the Sept. 26 season finale at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Palou has a 35-point lead over Pato O’Ward (who finished fifth)

“It was amazing,” Palou, who started third, told NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast. “I was surprised that we were really competitive in comparison to qualifying. We did the most we could. It was a bit exciting with (Romain) Grosjean catching us at the end.

“It was Herta’s day and Andretti’s day today, so I’m happy with a P2 today.”

Palou can clinch with the championship with an 11th or better in the season finale with only O’Ward and Josef Newgarden (seventh Sunday) remaining mathematically eligible to challenge for the title.

“All weekend we didn’t have it,” said O’Ward, who started sixth Sunday. “I truly feel like we absolutely juiced every single ounce of pace and energy this car had. We pulled off a near miracle in qualifying to start in the first three rows. Then in the race, that was as much as I had. I fought for life for those last few positions.

“I’m disappointed, but I’m happy that we honestly maximized what we had. Obviously disappointed the guy we’re trying to catch outscored us again. All we can do at Long Beach is win and let everything else fall. I’ve got faith in myself, I know I’m pretty handy around a street course. Let’s see what we can pull off next week.”

As Palou made a championship in his first year at Chip Ganassi Racing seem even more of a certainty, Herta removed virtually all doubt about Sunday’s race from the drop of the green flag.

With his second victory of the season and fifth of his career, Herta matched the Indy victory total by his father, Bryan (who calls strategy on the No. 26 Dallara-Honda), at the 11-turn, 2.38-mile road course.

“I enjoy racing here so much,” Herta told NBC Sports reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s an amazing track for me and my family. It’s been so good to us. We were fast all weekend, and I was happy we could pull it off and win the race.

“I’m just happy to have done it. This place is so awesome. It’s my favorite track in North America by far and to win here means so much.”

The lone caution flag flew early for an Alexander Rossi spin in Turn 5 on Lap 2. After starting second, Rossi was challenging Herta, his Andretti Autosport teammate, for the lead when their cars made contact.

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Colton Herta dominates again in Laguna Seca victory as Alex Palou closes on IndyCar title originally appeared on NBCSports.com