IndyCar COTA Report: Herta becomes youngest ever IndyCar race winner

Rookie Colton Herta now holds the title of youngest IndyCar race winner of all time, at the age of 18, after winning the inaugural IndyCar race at the Circuit of the Americas. Herta held off 2017 champion Josef Newgarden to take the win, while pole-sitter Will Power’s race unravelled after Felix Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe came together.

Herta qualified in a remarkable fourth place, making him top rookie and giving him a chance at challenging for his first podium, in what was only his third race. The Harding Steinbrenner driver passed Ryan Hunter-Reay on the first lap to take third place, a position which he held for the majority of the race. He briefly passed Alexander Rossi for second but was then shuffled back to third during the stops and stayed there until the race was turned on its head at the final stops.

Herta pitted earlier than leaders Power and Rossi, taking the lead when Rosenqvist and Hinchcliffe caused the race’s only caution before Power and Rossi had stopped. Herta has proved all the doubters wrong in a race where he thought the podium was as good as it was going to get.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Power had not put a foot wrong all weekend and had led all the laps up until the fateful final stops. Both him and Rossi were taking a risk by staying out in what is known as the ‘danger zone’, where a caution can ruin your race, and the gamble backfired. They both pitted during the caution and dropped back through the field – but Power never re-joined the race.

The Penske driver couldn’t pull away from his pit box and, despite the best efforts of the #12 crew, he was unable to get the car going, with what was presumed to be a driveshaft issue. As for Rossi, well he did get back into the race and, after some signature Rossi overtakes and saves, he came home in ninth, which was a good recovery but not what he was hoping for.

Unlike Power and Rossi, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay both benefitted massively from the timing of the caution and were shuffled up the order, despite being off the pace of the leaders all day. After fairly quiet and distant races, the pair filled out the final two spots on the podium, though they were unable to challenge Herta for the win.

Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais and Marco Andretti also all lucked in with the caution and finished fourth, fifth and sixth respectively. None of them had a good time in qualifying and it was looking to be an unremarkable race for the trio, but their luck finally turned, and they scored some of the best results any of them have seen in a long while.

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

Andretti’s race very nearly unravelled when Takuma Sato got a bit too close for comfort, but both drivers got away with it and finished the race. Sato came home in seventh after just getting past rookie Patricio O’Ward on the final lap. O’Ward’s race looked like it would end in something higher than eighth at certain points in the race, but a slow stop at the second round of stops hampered his progress, before he then struggled at the end of his last stint, losing two spots in the last ten laps.

Track limits, and the complete lack of enforcement of them, proved to be quite the talking point of the weekend and played a significant role in causing the race’s only caution. Rosenqvist and Hinchcliffe had been fighting in a group for a few laps after their third stops and both went very wide in the small straight between Turns 19 and 20. Rosenqvist went to turn back onto the track sooner than Hinchcliffe and they collided, sending the Swede into the wall just before pit entry and leaving the Canadian with a broken front wing and puncture. No action was taken by race direction, but the collision had huge consequences for the whole field due to the timing of it.

Reigning champion Scott Dixon was one of the drivers who fell foul of this, though he had struggled with pace all race – as had Chip Ganassi teammate Rosenqvist. Dixon was up to as high as third at one point, but ultimately came home in a rather disappointing thirteenth, a result that will do nothing to help his title defence.

That concludes what was a very eventful and surprising first race at COTA for IndyCar with the series next in action at Barber Motorsports Park on April 7.

Full Race Results:

  1. Colton Herta (R)
  2. Josef Newgarden
  3. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  4. Graham Rahal
  5. Sebastien Bourdais
  6. Marco Andretti
  7. Takuma Sato
  8. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  9. Alexander Rossi
  10. Jack Harvey
  11. Spencer Pigot
  12. Tony Kanaan
  13. Scott Dixon
  14. Ed Jones
  15. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  16. James Hinchcliffe
  17. Matheus Leist
  18. Kyle Kaiser (R)
  19. Simon Pagenaud
  20. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  21. Max Chilton
  22. Zach Veach
  23. Felix Rosenqvist

DNF – Will Power (driveshaft)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Colton Herta (R)
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Alexander Rossi
  5. Graham Rahal

Featured Image Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

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