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For the second week in a row, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is back on a track it missed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this time at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

The 27 teams competing in today’s race are eager to tackle the 11-turn, 2,238-mile circuit which is one of America’s most famous road courses. However, the excitement will be matched by the many challenges offered by the Monterey Firestone Grand Prix.

From the 300-foot drop of the hilly race track to the famous “Corkscrew” bend and the stress of the end-of-season battle for the Astor Challenge Cup, this racing day is sure to be unforgettable.

Championship leader Alex Palou and his closest rival Pato O’Ward have never raced on this circuit. This was not a problem for Palou last weekend in Portland, as he won his first race on this circuit, and he seems to be adjusting well to this track as he finished third of the two sessions. weekend practice and ranks fourth.

O’Ward, who is 25 points behind Palou, started the weekend struggling to adapt his aggressive riding style to the track that rewards precision and smoothness. But he has improved this weekend, and he lines up on the grid in sixth.

Firestone is supplying over 1,600 race tires for this weekend’s race, which will have a similar construction and compound to the tires used in the last NTT INDYCAR SERIES race here in 2019. Each participant received six sets of primary tires (black), four sets of alternative tires (red) and five sets of wet tires (gray).

It’s a perfect day just 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Temperatures are expected to be around 65 degrees by the time the green flag falls, with only a 6% chance of rain. The clear sky day is expected to have 74% humidity and winds near 10 mph.

You can follow the action live on NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network starting at 3 p.m. ET. You can listen to the radio broadcast live on Affiliate Networks, SiriusXM 205 and 211, INDYCAR.com and INDYCAR Mobile App powered by NTT DATA.

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for today’s action:

The corkscrew

WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca isn’t famous just because it’s a fun race track in a beautiful part of the country. It features one of the most iconic sections of a racing circuit in the world with the Corkscrew corner at turns 8 and 8A.

This is a blind left turn at the top of a hill, followed by a quick right turn in a six-story drop. He’s challenged the best pilots in the world for decades, and to win this race, pilots have to skillfully navigate this corner.

These athletes will try to make this turn 95 times today. But the challenge of getting through the corkscrew is both stressful and fun. These NTT INDYCAR SERIES riders are competitors, and they love the challenge this track presents them.

“It’s amazing,” said Colton Herta, reigning WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca winner. “The track is a lot of fun, has all kinds of challenges. It is a track with a good flow of high speed and low speed turns. A bit of whatever you want.

The corkscrew is the place to watch today, as most riders in the field will experience issues on this turn and go off course. It’s also home to iconic moments, including Alex Zanardi’s pass against Bryan Herta in 1996.

it will get dirty

The 2,238 miles of asphalt that makes up the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca are carpeted with dirt on either side of the racing surface.

Because this track is so difficult to ride perfectly, many riders will come off the course throughout the day and spray dirt on the racing surface. The potentially dirty surface will make this circuit slippery as drivers will have a hard time matching their rubber to the road and finding grip.

A dirty running surface also means the track can always change, which means cars will change as well. Succeeding at the Firestone Grand Prix in Monterey might be more about adapting to different conditions than having the fastest car.

“It’s just incredibly hard to figure out what the car is doing or if you want to improve it, what happened to run to run, so dust rises a lot on the track when you have 27 cars,” said two-time champion Josef Newgarden. . “But I think that’s part of the challenge on these types of tracks. You have to be really good to do it. Whenever you get a really good run you have to rate the car with it. “

Already this weekend, the riders who have deviated in one way or another include Herta, Helio Castroneves, Dalton Kellett, Rinus VeeKay, Takuma Sato, Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi and more.

Mojo in the front row

Only four times in the 23 INDYCAR SERIES races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has the race winner not started in first place.

Max Papis has the lowest start of all previous winners, dropping from 25th to victory here in 2001. Jimmy Vasser started sixth in 1997, while Gil de Ferran started third in 1995 and Bobby Rahal started third in 1987.

The Firestone Grand Prix poleman from Monterey has won the race 15 times – more than half of the INDYCAR SERIES races have been contested here. Most recently, Herta won this race from pole in 2019.

This means that NTT P1 Award winner Herta has the best chance of winning today’s race. But when you build your INDYCAR Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone pickaxes, don’t count the pilot who will line up next to him in the front row, Alexander Rossi.

Based on history, it stands to reason that third place is due to a win here with Will Power lined up in the second row.