Race Preview: Laguna SecaINDYCAR
Chip Ganassi Racing clinched the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship last week, their 15th in team history, and will now look to secure a ninth race win on the year and close on a high note at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The team additionally locked up their third-ever one-two finish in the points standings thanks to Scott Dixon’s podium drive in Portland. The team previously accomplished the feat in 2009 (Franchitti and Dixon) and 1998 (Zanardi and Vasser).
With Marcus Armstrong holding a 20-point advantage over his rookie class, the team will now seek to become the first team in INDYCAR SERIES history to ever boast the series champion, the second-place finisher, and the Rookie of the Year in the same season.
It has been a phenomenal year of success for Chip Ganassi Racing, as they have claimed exactly half of the race wins (8) this season and have been on the podium in 14 of the 16 races (17 total podiums). The team has boasted three-or-more drivers in the top-10 in every single race this season.
Two-time series champion Alex Palou enters Laguna Seca as the defending race winner after smashing the track record with a margin of victory of 30.3812 seconds in 2022.
Be sure to tune into the final weekend of 2023 INDYCAR action from September 8-10 with the green flag waving at 3:26 p.m. ET on Sunday for 95 laps of action on NBC.
Alex Palou - No. 10 American Legion Honda
“It was an amazing weekend in Portland, getting the win and getting the championship wrapped up early. I’m very happy to have another race weekend to finish up this great season that we are having, especially at a place like Laguna Seca where we won last year. I think we have a good chance to finish up high again and I can’t wait to drive the chrome American Legion livery. It is going to look amazing out there.”
Palou arrives to the season finale as the to-be-crowned champion – and in style – driving the chrome livery of the No. 10 American Legion Honda. Last week, Palou became the first driver to clinch the championship ahead of the season finale since Sebastien Bourdais in 2007.
The champion boasts an impressive 3.75 average finishing position with one race to go. Since 1990, only five drivers (Franchitti: 2007; Bourdais: 2006; Kanaan: 2004; Hornish Jr.: 2001; Zanardi: 1998) have ever finished the season with an average finishing position below 4.0, and no one has accomplished the feat since the series reunified in 2008.
The season finale will be Palou’s 50th career start with Chip Ganassi Racing. Through 49 races with the team, he has earned nine wins and 23 podiums (46.9% of starts).
Scott Dixon - No. 9 PNC Bank Honda
"It’s a bit of a strange one; can’t be first, can’t be third. Obviously, it was a great result for the team in Portland locking up first and second in the championship. I’m looking forward to the repaving and it should be very high grip. I’m not sure how that will play out for the race but looking forward to finish the season strong. We’ve had three podiums in a row and will try to complete things with another one.”
Dixon locked down the second-place finish in the championship standings with a podium performance last weekend in Portland. While he has won six championships in his career, he has also finished in second two previous times (2009; 2007).
His 5.6 average finishing position this season ranks second in the series behind only his teammate and now two-time champion Alex Palou. He has finished with a better mark in only six other previous seasons throughout his career, winning the title in three of those seasons.
Dixon, who has led laps in nine of the 16 races this season, will look to continue his recent streak of podium success and achieve his second such result at the track (P3 in 2019).
Marcus Ericsson - No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz Honda
“Laguna Seca is a classic track, and it is always fun to go there. Looking ahead to the weekend, it will be very interesting to see what the new surface will do. It’s been quite low grip there in previous years and this new asphalt is supposed to be a lot faster. That will be a curveball for all teams and drivers. For me, this will be my last race with Chip Ganassi Racing after four fantastic years. It is very, very important to me to finish strong and have a good race weekend. I’m very focused and looking forward finishing strong for all of us.”
Ericsson and the No. 8 Huski Ice Spritz team rank third in the series with 14 top-10 finishes behind only teammates Alex Palou and the No. 10 American Legion team (16) and Scott Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank crew (15).
Ericsson enters the season finale just 25 points away from producing a top-five finish in the points standings for the first time in his career.
Marcus Armstrong - No. 11 Ridgeline Lubricants Honda
“This looks like a track that I will enjoy, and it should be quite grippy with the new asphalt. It has quite the European track layout and I’m looking forward to it. We also get an extra test day at the beginning of the week, which is very good for me because I have never been there before. I expect to build on the momentum of last week.”
Armstrong remains the Rookie of the Year frontrunner with 190 total points (20-point advantage), despite only racing in road and street course races.
He is aiming to become the fifth Chip Ganassi Racing driver to win the Rookie of the Year award (Rosenqvist – 2019; Montoya – 1999; Zanardi – 1996; Cheever Jr. – 1990).
Source: Chip Ganassi Racing