Scott Dixon

The first half of June was busy for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The completion of five consecutive weeks of on-track action was followed by a mid-week hybrid test at the Milwaukee Mile, a private test at Nashville Superspeedway and the announcement of the new broadcast agreement along with the 2025 schedule. Last weekend, the series caught a short breather.

But there is no rest for the weary. This week, the action resumes with the first summer trip in 21 years to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and its famous “Corkscrew” turn complex. The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey has been a September race in recent years, so this will be a new adventure.

The combatants will be familiar, led by Scott Dixon, who won last year’s race. Chip Ganassi Racing’s six-time season champion beat Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin in the 2023 season finale by 7.3180 seconds, and both of their teams will be among this weekend’s favorites.

The other driver on the podium last year was Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou, who capped his second title in three years with a third-place finish. He enters Sunday’s race (6 p.m. ET, USA Network, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) five points behind Team Penske’s Will Power for the series lead.

Power also is a two-time series champion. He finished fourth in last year’s Monterey race.

A quick look at a few of this weekend’s storylines:

Championship Taking Shape

This is the eighth race of the season, which means the halfway point in a 17-race calendar is approaching.

As it stands, the top three drivers in the standings – Power, Palou and Dixon -- have what amounts to a full-race lead on the pack. Dixon is 11 points out of the lead. Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward ranks fourth, 52 points behind Power.

Recalling Last Year’s Race

Monterey hosted the season finale last year, and it was wild and woolly. There were eight caution periods, tying a track mark set in 2001, a race won by Max Papis.

The 35 laps of caution set a dubious event record. The opening lap saw at least a half-dozen cars tangle in Turn 2. The mess started with Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Christian Lundgaard getting into the back of McLaughlin, who got knocked into Josef Newgarden’s path. Newgarden then took contact from RLL’s Graham Rahal. McLaughlin was one of those able to drive through the gravel trap and continue without damage, and he recovered to finish second.

Palou led a race-high 51 laps, with Dixon leading 20. Dixon finished the year with three wins in the final four races to finish second in the standings.

Former INDYCAR Winners at Monterey

This iteration of the sport has raced at Laguna Seca since 2019, and there wasn’t a race during the COVID-interrupted season of 2020.

Therefore, only a handful of drivers in this weekend’s 27-car field have won a series race here. Colton Herta of Andretti Global w/Curb-Agajanian has won twice (2019 and 2021), with Palou and Dixon winning the past two years, respectively.

Helio Castroneves won the CART race in 2000, but the Meyer Shank Racing seat he has occupied the past two races now belongs to David Malukas, who will make his season debut.

Sunday’s Late Start

This certainly isn’t a night race, but this is about as late in a weekend as the green flag has waved.

For East Coast viewers, settle in for the green at approximately 6:30 p.m. ET. The race will feature 95 laps.

NTT INDYCAR SERIES action begins Friday with the first practice at 5 p.m. ET. The second practice is Saturday at 1 p.m. with qualifying later in the day at 5:15 p.m. All these sessions will air live on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

INDY NXT by Firestone’s Doubleheader

It’s a double dip of action for the INDYCAR development series. Races are set for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday and 4 p.m. ET Sunday. Both air on Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

The top three drivers in the standings are fielded by three different teams: Jacob Abel (Abel Motorsports), Louis Foster (Andretti Global) and Caio Collet (HMD Motorsports). Abel leads Foster by 19 points with Collet a distant third, 77 points out of the series lead.