San Francisco Chronicle

Herta 1st in Monterey; Palou closes in on title

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Colton Herta routed the field — and ran over a rabbit while doing so — in another dominating performanc­e at Laguna Seca in Monterey as Alex Palou moved one race away from the IndyCar championsh­ip.

Herta won Sunday from the pole, same as he did in 2019 when IndyCar last raced the sprawling permanent road course, for his second win of the season. He tied his father,

Bryan, with a pair of wins at Laguna Seca, but more important, his fifth career victory moved him one past his dad’s tally.

“This place is so awesome, it’s my favorite track in North America,” the Andretti Autosport driver said.

Palou, meanwhile, drove a smooth and steady race for a second-place finish to widen his lead in the IndyCar standings from 25 points to 35 points over Pato O’Ward heading into next week’s finale. The 24-yearold Spaniard needed the breathing room because he has not seen the street course in Long Beach where the title will be decided.

Romain Grosjean put on a spectacula­r show late in the race when he picked his way through traffic on the 11-turn, 2.258-mile course. The Frenchman made a race-high 27 passes and appeared to have a shot to potentiall­y catch the leaders until he struggled to get past the lapped car of Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson was told over his radio to make Grosjean work for the position to protect his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Palou. Grosjean, in his first Indycar season after previously driving in Formula One, and Johnson, in his first Indycar year after seven NASCAR championsh­ips, banged cars through the turn as both drivers refused to relent.

Johnson briefly went off course but recovered, while Grosjean cleared him and set his sights on finishing higher than third. He couldn’t make up any more ground, though, but was thrilled with his third podium of the season.

“It’s been a great day, amazing,” said Grosjean, who apologized for the contact with the Johnson. “Laguna Seca, I love you, that’s all I can say.”

Johnson, meanwhile, had his best IndyCar race of the season. He finished 17th — his previous best finish was 19th — but made some quality passes with four-time Indianapol­is 500 winner Helio Castroneve­s among those he chased down. Johnson also posted comparable lap times.

NHRA: Tim Wilkerson raced to his second Funny Car victory in three weeks, beating Cruz Pedregon in the Carolina Nationals in Concord, N.C.

Wilkerson had a 3.927-second run at 331.36 mph in a Ford Shelby Mustang in the final for his 22nd career victory. He moved to sixth in season standings.

Josh Hart won in Top Fuel, Kyle Koretsky in Pro Stock and Angelle Sampey in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

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