Herta dominates St Petersburg, McLaughlin 11th
Monday 26th April, 2021 - 5:10am
Colton Herta has dominated the Grand Prix of St Petersburg for Andretti Autosport, holding off a late challenge from Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.
Herta led 97 of the 100 laps, the 21-year-old claiming his fourth IndyCar Series victory, and in doing so tied himself with father Bryan Herta for career wins.
It was a physical affair on what was a hot and humid Sunday afternoon in Florida.
“It’s one of the most tired I’ve been in a race car, my hands are all beat up,” said Herta.
“What a great job by everybody. Sorry if I can barely talk, I’m so winded.”
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It marks a comeback for the Californian, who was caught up in a first-lap crash in the season-opener at Barber Motorsports Park.
Ironically, Herta beat Newgarden, who set off the Lap 1 melee a week earlier.
The win ended a streak of success for the Team Penske pilot, who won the last two editions of the race in 2019 and 2020.
“I’m so happy that we did this,” Herta added.
“I’m so happy to rebound from Barber and get the momentum going for the season that we need, which is a championship season.
“[Newgarden] is so good around here, and props to him and his guys who have done a great job this year.
“I was nervous because he was on those new Red (soft compound) tyres and I thought they would be better, but they ended up being similar and I was able to hold him off.
“Oh man, I can’t even speak right now.”
As the field spread out on approach to Turn 1, it was pole-sitter Herta who took the holeshot.
Second-place starter Jack Harvey (Meyer Shank Racing) slotted into second while team-mates Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud held onto third and fourth respectively despite both receiving contact from Sebastien Bourdais (AJ Foyt Racing).
In the midfield, McLaughlin (Team Penske) lost two places on the first lap, falling from 14th to 16th.
It was a quiet opening stanza with little in the way of drama as Herta established a comfortable lead over Harvey.
The first full-course caution came on Lap 18 when Jimmie Johnson (Chip Ganassi Racing) locked up into the final corner and parked his car in the tyre barrier.
Prior to the caution, a handful of drivers had pitted, including McLaughlin, a move that would pay dividends late in the race.
The Green flew on Lap 22 with Herta holding station at the front of the field, unchallenged by Harvey.
Drama struck shortly after the restart as Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) came to blows with James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport) on Lap 23, the latter suffering a puncture having clashed wheels.
While Herta stretched his legs, Harvey fell into the clutches of Newgarden, who by Lap 31 got a run into Turn 1 and dispatched the Brit.
Harvey was among the first to head to pit lane under Green on Lap 34.
In the midst of the pit stop sequence, Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport) and Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) banged wheels into Turn 6 resulting in a puncture for Rossi while battling for the top 10.
Unable to turn, Rossi parked midway through the corner and gave Rahal nowhere to go – the pair coming to a halt. Both would get going, Rossi returning to the pit lane for a new set of tyres.
With the threat of a Safety Car intervention, all those who hadn’t pitted cycled into the pit lane.
Once the pit stop sequence was completed it was Herta who led Newgarden, Pagenaud, Harvey, Dixon, Sato, Bourdais, Rinus VeeKay, Marcus Ericsson, and McLaughlin, who made ground by short fuelling.
The second round of pit stops, which began on Lap 65, saw little in the way of changes inside the top 10.
The second Yellow of the day came on Lap 74 when Johnson spun out of Turn 3 and stalled.
After a short Safety Car period, the Green flew on Lap 77. McLaughlin lost out to VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing), dropping from ninth to 10th.
The Yellow came out for the final time on Lap 81 when Ed Jones (Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan) lunged Hinchcliffe at Turn 4. Jones spun, getting collected by Pato O’Ward (Arrow McLaren SP) on the way through.
With 18 laps to go, the race returned to Green. Power continued his charge, squeezing out McLaughlin for 10th.
The Toowoomba-born driver dispatched VeeKay and Bourdais, climbing to eighth by the race’s end.
A late push by Newgarden to usurp Herta was to no avail as the 21-year-old stretched his legs once more to claim a 2.5-second win.
Pagenaud completed the podium with Harvey and Dixon fourth and fifth respectively. Sato, Ericsson, Power, VeeKay, and Bourdais rounded out the top 10 while McLaughlin was 11th.
The IndyCar Series continues with a double-header at Texas Motor Speedway on May 2-3 (AEST).
Results: IndyCar Series Grand Prix of St Petersburg
|1||26||Colton Herta||Andretti Autosport||100 laps|
|2||2||Josef Newgarden||Team Penske||2.4933||2.4933|
|3||22||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||6.1496||3.6563|
|4||60||Jack Harvey||Meyer Shank Racing||8.0833||1.9337|
|5||9||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||8.9497||0.8664|
|6||30||Takuma Sato||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||11.6802||2.7305|
|7||8||Marcus Ericsson||Chip Ganassi Racing||11.9393||0.2591|
|8||12||Will Power||Team Penske||13.2363||1.297|
|9||21||Rinus VeeKay||Ed Carpenter Racing||13.7194||0.4831|
|10||14||Sebastien Bourdais||AJ Foyt Enterprises||15.9951||2.2757|
|11||3||Scott McLaughlin||Team Penske||17.5926||1.5975|
|12||7||Felix Rosenqvist||Arrow McLaren SP||18.5638||0.9712|
|13||51||Romain Grosjean||Dale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware Racing||22.7276||4.1638|
|14||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||24.1275||1.3999|
|15||15||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||24.7928||0.6653|
|16||20||Conor Daly||Ed Carpenter Racing||48.1603||23.3675|
|17||10||Alex Palou||Chip Ganassi Racing||1 lap||16.322|
|18||29||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||1 lap||27.416|
|19||5||Pato O’Ward||Arrow McLaren SP||1 lap||4.0486|
|20||18||Ed Jones||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser Sullivan||1 lap||15.6796|
|21||27||Alexander Rossi||Andretti Autosport||2 laps||45.0157|
|22||48||Jimmie Johnson||Chip Ganassi Racing||5 laps|
|23||4||Dalton Kellett||AJ Foyt Enterprises||67 laps|
|24||59||Max Chilton||Carlin||18 Laps|