St. Pete IndyCar: Herta dominates for fourth career win

Andretti Autosport-Honda's Colton Herta led 97 of the 100 laps in St. Petersburg to clinch his fourth career win, his first on a street course, and defeat the Penske-Chevrolets of Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

By St. Pete standards it was a clean start, Andretti Autosport-Honda’s Colton Herta leading Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing-Honda) into Turn 1 while two-time St. Pete winner Josef Newgarden reined in his ambition to slot into third. Team Penske-Chevrolet teammate Simon Pagenaud was nuzzled in the right rear by Sebastien Bourdais’ AJ Foyt Racing-Chevrolet but retained fourth. Bourdais’ nose-camera was displaced in the collision but continued apparently without major hurt.

Pato O’Ward fell from his sixth place starting spot down to ninth, allowing Rinus VeeKay’s Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet into sixth ahead of Graham Rahal (RLL-Honda). Up from 11th on the grid was Alexander Rossi, but on Lap 5, Scott Dixon on the alternate compound Firestones moved past O’Ward who was on primaries.

By Lap 7, Herta had pulled a 2sec margin over Harvey who had a similar margin over Newgarden, who had started on primary tires, like all the Penske runners.

By Lap 9, VeeKay on reds was having to defend at Turn 1 to keep the primary tired Rahal and Rossi behind him. ECR teammate Conor Daly chose that lap to duck into the pits from 19th, committing to a three-stop strategy. The Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan-Honda of Ed Jones, and the second Foyt car of Dalton Kellett also stopped very early.

Herta had stopped stretching his lead by Lap 12, maintaining his margin over Harvey at around 2.5sec as most runners resigned themselves to a two-stop fuel-saving strategy. From Bourdais (5th) back to O’Ward (10th) were blanketed by just three seconds.

Jimmie Johnson running at the tail of the two-stoppers in the Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda, understeered off the track at the final turn on Lap 16, which eventually triggered a caution and closed the pits - but not before Penske pair Scott McLaughlin and Will Power, along with Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy’s Felix Rosenqvist and Coyne with RWR’s rookie Romain Grosjean had scurried into the pits. Power and Grosjean went for primaries, McLaughlin and Rosenqvist chose reds.

When the pits opened, still under caution on Lap 20, no one took the bait.

The Lap 22 restart saw Bourdais locking up at Turn 1 but holding onto fifth, while VeeKay couldn’t hold off Rahal at Turn 4, as the RLL driver went around his outside.

Sato dived up the inside of James Hinchcliffe at Turn 1 and their rubbing caused the right-front of the Andretti Autosport car to deflate, and Sato carried on charging, moving past Ryan Hunter-Reay at Turn 10. In a similar maneuver, Power tried to take Grosjean for 19th, but the pair made contact, and the Coyne car rubbed the wall. Their subsequent delay allowed Jones to jump the pair of them, but then Grosjean smacked the wall exiting the final turn as well.

Up ahead, Rossi had taken advantage of VeeKay’s struggles on his fading reds with a very brave move around the outside of the long kink-interrupted back straight, getting the pass completed before Turn 10. Dixon and then Sato also passed VeeKay to move into eighth and ninth respectively, before ECR elected to bring VeeKay in for his first pitstop to take on the primary tires.

On Lap 31, Newgarden passed Harvey for second at Turn 1 but still had 4sec to make up on Herta who had done a great job of preserving his Firestone alternates. However, Newgarden was charging hard and slashed that margin down to 2.1sec in just three laps. Harvey, now 8sec off the lead, was passed by Pagenaud on Lap 34, and so Meyer Shank Racing called in Harvey for a set of primaries. Also choosing to pit that time by was Bourdais.

On Lap 35, Herta and Newgarden pitted for fresh blacks, and Pagenaud and Rossi stopped on the next lap. However, as Rossi rejoined on cold tires, he was prey to Rahal on warm tires, and at Turn 4, the RLL car dived for the inside. He wasn’t fully alongside, Rossi turned in and the pair hit hard enough whereby Rahal’s front wing endplate punctured Rossi’s right-front tire and he couldn’t make the next turn. Rahal on the outside, skittered with him into the tire wall but got going again by himself. So – eventually – did Rossi, but had to limp to the pits and resumed in 22nd, two laps down.

Herta had disappeared from Newgarden since they had both taken on the same tire compound at the pitstops, and by Lap 45 the gap was out to 7sec. A further 5sec back was Pagenaud, who was just one second ahead of the rejuvenated primary-tired Harvey. Dixon and Sato lay fifth and sixth, the RLL driver four seconds ahead of Bourdais, VeeKay and the Ganassi car of Marcus Ericsson. McLaughlin – who like Power, Rosenqvist and Grosjean (14th, 15th, 16th) had now made two stops – completed the Top 10. However, Ericsson passed VeeKay on Lap 50, and now the Dutch sophomore came under pressure from the New Zealand rookie. Ericsson, meanwhile continued to charge and passed Bourdais for seventh on Lap 56. The next lap saw Herta’s margin over Newgarden reach double figures although that came down by 1.5sec when Herta hit traffic.

VeeKay and Ryan Hunter-Reay pitted on Lap 65, while O’Ward’s reds were giving up and he started falling down the order, losing out to McLaughlin, Palou and Power before ducking into the pits on Lap 66 and getting a heavy adjustment to his front wing to crank on more downforce.

A lap later, Sato ducked into the pits along with McLaughlin and Grosjean.

Herta pitted from an 11sec lead on Lap 68 to take on more primaries, while Newgarden and Pagenaud – who also stopped that lap – had to switch to the alternate compounds for their final stints.

Dixon went a lap longer and emerged still in fifth on primary tires, albeit under threat from the warm-tired Sato, but the reigning champ successfully held off the reigning Indy 500 winner. Palou and Power were the last to make their final stops – Palou’s second, Power’s third.

Then with 27 laps to go, Johnson spun exiting Turn 3, dislodging his front wing and smacking his left rear tire on the inside wall. He got going again albeit slowly and headed to the pits. The subsequent yellow bunched the field and alleviated any fuel saving worries, particularly for the two-stoppers.

Herta faced intense pressure on the Lap 77 restart with Newgarden on the easier-to-warm reds, but he kept his head and kept the lead. Further back, VeeKay passed McLaughlin for ninth and Power passed Palou for 11th. Rosenqvist passed Palou – the man who replaced him at Ganassi – the next time by.

Then on Lap 80, out came the caution for the third time as Ed Jones collided with Hinchcliffe while trying to make a pass, and spun and stalled at the exit of Turn 4. O’Ward also got caught up and was forced to pit for a new front wing.

The Lap 83 restart was orderly, although Power used his reds to go up the inside of teammate McLaughlin at Turn 1 to grab 10th. Two laps later, he took ninth from VeeKay down the inside of the ECR car at Turn 10.

Teammate Newgarden kept the pressure on Herta at the front of the field, the pair of them setting their fastest laps and dropping Pagenaud, who was nonetheless staying well clear of Harvey and Dixon. Sato in sixth was having to watch his mirrors for Ericsson, Bourdais and Power… although that became Ericsson, Power and VeeKay on Lap 89, when the latter pair passed Bourdais’ Foyt machine.

Herta started easing away from Newgarden but only by tenths at a time so that with five laps to go his advantage had crept up to 1.7sec. Just three laps later, though, it was out to 2.5sec and the Californian landed his fourth victory and his first street course win.

Newgarden finished 3.6sec ahead of Pagenaud who had a 2sec margin over Harvey. Behind Dixon, his teammate Ericsson finished just a quarter second adrift of Sato.

A late pitstop for Palou sent him tumbling down to 17th in the final couple of laps although he retains a two-point lead in the championship over Dixon and Power.

Cla Driver Team Laps Time Gap Mph Pits Retirement
1 United States Colton Herta
United States Andretti Autosport 100 1:51'51.411 96.552 2
2 United States Josef Newgarden
United States Team Penske 100 1:51'53.904 2.493 96.516 2
3 France Simon Pagenaud
United States Team Penske 100 1:51'57.561 6.149 96.464 2
4 United Kingdom Jack Harvey
United States Meyer Shank Racing 100 1:51'59.494 8.083 96.436 2
5 New Zealand Scott Dixon
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 100 1:52'00.361 8.949 96.423 2
6 Japan Takuma Sato
United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 100 1:52'03.091 11.680 96.384 2
7 Sweden Marcus Ericsson
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 100 1:52'03.350 11.939 96.381 2
8 Australia Will Power
United States Team Penske 100 1:52'04.647 13.236 96.362 3
9 Netherlands Rinus van Kalmthout
United States Ed Carpenter Racing 100 1:52'05.130 13.719 96.355 2
10 France Sébastien Bourdais
United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 100 1:52'07.406 15.995 96.322 2
11 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin
United States Team Penske 100 1:52'09.004 17.592 96.300 3
12 Sweden Felix Rosenqvist
Arrow McLaren SP 100 1:52'09.975 18.563 96.286 3
13 France Romain Grosjean
Dale Coyne Racing with RWR 100 1:52'14.139 22.727 96.226 3
14 United States Ryan Hunter-Reay
United States Andretti Autosport 100 1:52'15.539 24.127 96.206 3
15 United States Graham Rahal
United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 100 1:52'16.204 24.792 96.197 3
16 United States Conor Daly
United States Ed Carpenter Racing 100 1:52'39.571 48.160 95.864 5
17 Spain Alex Palou
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 99 1:51'51.251 1 Lap 95.589 3
18 Canada James Hinchcliffe
Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 99 1:52'18.667 1 Lap 95.200 3
19 Mexico Patricio O'Ward
Arrow McLaren SP 99 1:52'22.715 1 Lap 95.143 3
20 United Arab Emirates Ed Jones
Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan 99 1:52'38.395 1 Lap 94.922 5
21 United States Alexander Rossi
United States Andretti Autosport 98 1:52'19.059 2 Laps 94.233 3
22 United States Jimmie Johnson
United States Chip Ganassi Racing 95 1:52'43.664 5 Laps 91.016 3
23 Canada Dalton Kellett
United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 67 1:13'54.696 33 Laps 97.901 2 Spun off
24 United Kingdom Max Chilton
United Kingdom Carlin 18 25'26.704 82 Laps 76.400 2 Mechanical


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Series IndyCar
Event St. Pete
Author David Malsher-Lopez
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