By: Tanner Watkins
September 18, 2019 | 8:00 AM
Well folks, we have arrived at the final race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season. Six months ago, a fresh new slate of open-wheel racing in America was being christened at St. Petersburg – with the finale at Laguna Seca seemingly ages away.
We enter this championship weekend with four drivers still eligible to take home the 2019 title. This group is led by Josef Newgarden, the 2017 series champion with a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi, who is searching for his first championship after coming up short last season.
Then there is 2016 champion Simon Pagenaud, just a point behind Rossi in third place and hoping to add to an already-successful season which included May’s Indianapolis 500 victory. And finally, the five-time series champion Scott Dixon rounds out the final four as his title hopes hang by a thread.
Rossi, despite being the only one of the four drivers not to have a championship under his belt already, is eager to make his Laguna Seca IndyCar debut and make his own fairytale ending with a triumphant comeback.
“It’s a blank slate for everyone (at Laguna Seca). I think that’s exciting,” Rossi said in an earlier Open-Wheels article. “It will definitely reward the team and the drivers that come to grips with everything the quickest. It will probably reward them in a championship.”
Incredibly, this is the 14th consecutive year that the IndyCar championship battle has been decided in the final round of the season. Additionally, this is the ninth time that an IndyCar championship has been decided at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – the first since CART’s season-ending race in 1996.
What that means, in essence, is this is crunch time – the put up or shut up scenario to go out and lay it all on the line. For Pagenaud, it is an opportunity he relishes.
“What a season it’s been. We won the Indy 500, and the DXC Technology Chevy team brought home a few more wins along the way. Now it all comes down to the championship race at Laguna,” Pagenaud says.
“This is my favorite time in racing — it’s crunch time. I love Laguna Seca. It’s a beautiful racetrack where I have done well in the past. Our strategy is very simple — we are going into it, to win it! It’s going to be full attack mode all weekend. The goal is to be the hunted so we can control our destiny.”
The action will kick off on Thursday with two open test sessions for all teams. Official practice sessions begin on Friday, and of course, qualifications will be held on Saturday. The race will go on-air for NBC this Sunday at 2:30 PM Eastern.
Now, check out the final “Fast Facts” of the 2019 season, courtesy of IndyCar.
Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey Fast Facts
Race weekend: Thursday, Sept. 19 – Sunday, Sept. 22
Track: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, a 2.258-mile permanent road course in Monterey, California
Race distance: 90 laps / 203.22 miles
Push-to-pass parameters: 150 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 15 seconds per activation.
Firestone tire allotment: Seven sets primary, four sets alternate. Teams must use one set of primary and one new set of alternate tires in the race.
Event website: http://WeatherTechRaceway.com
INDYCAR website: www.IndyCar.com
2004 race winner (most recent): Patrick Carpentier (No. 7 Indeck- Forsythe Championship Racing Ford-Lola)
2004 pole winner (most recent): Patrick Carpentier (No. 7 Indeck- Forsythe Championship Racing Ford-Lola), 1 minute, 9.605 seconds, 115.750 mph
Qualifying record: Helio Castroneves, 1:07.722, 118.969 mph, Sept. 8, 2000
NBC Sports television broadcasts: Qualifying, 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 21, NBCSN (live); Race, 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Sept. 2, NBC (live). Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider and Robin Miller.
Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is the chief announcer alongside analyst Anders Krohn. Jake Query, Nick Yeoman and Michael Young are the turn announcers with Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Dan Rusanowsky reporting from the pits.
All NTT IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 98, XM 205, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. Live coverage of NTT IndyCar Series qualifying is available on Sirius 98, XM 205, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
NBC Sports Gold livestreaming: All NTT IndyCar Series practice sessions and qualifying will stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports’ direct-to-consumer livestreaming product.
At-Track Schedule (All Times Pacific)
Thursday, Sept. 19
9:15 – 11:15 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series Open Test session 1
1:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series Open Test session 2
Friday, Sept. 20
10:30 – 11:15 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice 1, NBC Sports Gold (live) 2:10 – 2:55 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice 2, NBC Sports Gold (live)
3:10 – 3:40 p.m. – NTT IndyCar Series pit stop practice, NBC Sports Gold (live)
Saturday, Sept. 21
10 – 10:45 a.m. – NTT IndyCar Series practice 3, NBC Sports Gold (live)
1:35 p.m. – Firestone Fast Six Qualifying for the NTT P1 Award (three rounds of knockout qualifying), NBCSN (live)
Sunday, Sept. 22
11:30 a.m. – Driver introductions
11:30 p.m. – NBC on air
12:08 p.m. – Start engines command
12:15 p.m. – Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (90 laps), NBC (live)
Header image by Christopher Owens/INDYCAR.