LAGUNA SECA - INDYCAR SEASON FINALE
RACE: FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF MONTEREY
DATE: SEPTEMBER 10, 2023
NO. 2 HITACHI DALLARA/CHEVROLET
START - 4TH
FINISH - 21ST
POINTS - 5TH (-177)
RACE RUNDOWN: An eventful start to the finale race at Laguna Seca led to a challenging day for Josef Newgarden and the No. 2 Hitachi team that ultimately resulted in a 21st-place finish. Newgarden earned himself an advantageous starting position for Sunday’s race, lined up in the second row behind teammate Scott McLaughlin. The melee immediately ensued when the green flag dropped, with Newgarden part of a multi-car incident in turn two that resulted in a full course yellow. The No. 2 sustained substantial left-side damage from the impact that sent him off course and eventually to the pits for left-side tires and repairs once the Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet refired. Still, suspension issues plagued the No. 2, and Newgarden was sent off course just as quickly as he returned to track, drawing the second yellow flag of the afternoon. Additional service put the Hitachi team multiple laps down, forcing them to rally for the remainder of the event to gain position. A dedicated drive and field attrition allowed Newgarden to gain two spots before the checkered flag flew on the 2023 INDYCAR season.
NEWGARDEN'S THOUGHTS: "We had a really good Hitachi Chevrolet today. The team did a phenomenal job, and it’s sad that we have to end the season like that with a car that was capable of so much more. It’s been a tough end to the year, but I’m really proud of this team and the job they did this year. As far as race car preparation and execution, I felt it was a strong year; it just wasn’t our year. Still, to win four races - including the Indianapolis 500 - is a great season. We’ll build on that over the offseason and be ready for 2024."
NO. 3 XPEL DALLARA/CHEVROLET
START - 2ND
FINISH - 2ND
POINTS - 3RD (-168)
RACE RUNDOWN: Scott McLaughlin and the No. 3 XPEL Chevrolet team overcame a tumultuous day to finish second in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (WRLS), the team’s 11th consecutive top-10 finish to close out the 2023 NNT INDYCAR SERIES season. With the finish, McLaughlin and team finish third in the season championship point standings, their best season finish since McLaughlin made the move from Australian Supercars in 2021. The day started with McLaughlin getting sent off course by competitor Christian Lundgaard in the second corner of the first lap. He was able to keep his Chevrolet running and rejoined the field in the 19th position, staying on the lead lap. From there, he made a strong push through the field, eventually making his way back to the fifth position. Unfortunately, just before a caution flag on lap 38, McLaughlin made rear contact with the No. 14 of Santino Ferrucci along the frontstretch as Ferrucci and others slowed considerably. It was determined to be avoidable contact on the part of McLaughlin, so the New Zealander was sent to the rear of the field on the ensuing restart. After immediately pitting for fuel as their race strategy changed, McLaughlin restarted from the 18th position, but was called to pit road for a pass-through penalty with teammate Will Power that they both served as a result of making pit stops following a lineup reorder. From there, McLaughlin used the Firestone primary tire - and an advantageous caution flag for their strategy - to eventually move to the rear of the No. 9 of Scott Dixon. Despite being released from his fuel conservation, McLaughlin was not able to maneuver around his fellow countryman, but scored his career-best finish at WRLS.
MCLAUGHLIN'S THOUGHTS: "We had a fast car today and knew we just needed to keep our heads down. The guys and girls on this team are great, and today they served up great pit stops and fixed things straightaway to keep us going. Just really proud overall. You know, we didn’t win as many races as we did in 2022, but I think it was a better season overall. We were solid when we needed to be, and we haven’t been out of the top-10 since the Indianapolis 500. I said to the team today that next season starts today. Really proud of where we’ll be starting for 2024."
NO. 12 VERIZON 5G DALLARA/CHEVROLET
START - 7TH
FINISH - 4TH
POINTS - 7TH (-231)
RACE RUNDOWN: Will Power and the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet team looked to be in a good position to extend their streak of seasons with at least one win early in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey before consecutive penalties at the mid-point of the race resulted in a heavy loss of track position that ended with a fourth-place finish. Power started the 95-lap race from the seventh position, but quickly drove up to second by lap 11. After making his first trip to pit lane on lap 33, Power was penalized for previously avoidable contact and was forced to drop to the rear of the field on the restart. In a similar situation to his teammate Scott McLaughlin, Power was also called to pit lane for a pass-through penalty after the race resumed for pitting after a lineup reorder. It did not result in a loss of position, but the loss of track position made his push to the front more difficult. The Verizon 5G Chevy team played a near-perfect fuel strategy the rest of the way and received a beneficial caution flag that boosted Power to the front of the field as the laps wound down. While not able to advance past the fourth position by the checkered flag, Power’s fourth-place finish is the team’s sixth top-five finish of the year.
POWER'S THOUGHTS: "What an unbelievable race today. It was almost like an old school INDYCAR SERIES race with so many different scenarios going on. I’m pretty happy to get the Verizon 5G Chevrolet back to the fourth position. I really wanted to get a win. I hate seeing that streak end because it is something I’m very proud of, to do that in a tough series like this. It just didn’t seem like it was our year. We'll be back for more in 2024."
WHAT'S NEXT: The NTT INDYCAR SERIES will return to action in 2024 with Team Penske drivers Scott McLaughlin, Josef Newgarden and Will Power returning to compete for the coveted Astor Challenge Cup. The schedule for the 2024 season will be available in the coming weeks.