Herta wins as rookies shine in Lone Star State

Colton Herta became the youngest IndyCar winner at 18 years, 11 months and 25 days at Circuit of the Americas.

The future is bright, the possibilities are endless. The rookies of IndyCar have made headlines in both races so far this season. Felix Rosenqvist pulled off an epic pass to take the lead from Will Power in St. Petersburg, now Pato O’Ward and Colton have the spotlight. In truth, these guys already made headlines last year at Sonoma, particularly Pato. The Mexican qualified fifth and finished ninth in his first race as Colton’s teammate. It was the feel good story of the year, made even more so firstly when the two were announced as teammates for this year at the Yankee Stadium and secondly when the team formed a technical alliance with Andretti Autosport.

But then it all fell apart. Harding realised they didn’t have the coin for Pato’s ride, so the 19-year-old chose to leave the team. With Charlie Kimball only racing five times this year at Carlin, Trevor took my advice and signed Pato for the remaining twelve races plus the Indy 500.

So, it came to pass. With no testing, at an unknown track with a brand new team Pato did his thing and qualified 8th. Standard. Then, he made a great start and gets up to 6th at the end of the first lap. Just part of the job. Unfortunately, he then struggled with getting away from his pit stops, which dropped him back. This meant he had to actually race his way through the field. Turns out Pato is rather spectacular as his racecraft and he came back to finish where he started. This included an insane pass on Graham Rahal that start with Pato putting his nose on the inside at turn 16. He pushed Graham wide but the American came back through the triple right-hander, forcing Pato behind him. The Mexican hung in there though and drove right around the outside to position himself on the inside for turn 19, where he finished off the move. Another day at the office. This is the first time Trevor Carlin has had an actual racing driver in his IndyCar and he must keep him, because this kid is the real deal.

As for Colton, he was fastest in Spring Training here and although he missed a practice session because of a blown engine, qualified fourth. At the start, he forced his way through to take third and held onto first and second placed men Alex Rossi and Will Power, even passing Rossi at one point. As the race came into the final stage though, he was back to third and settling for a podium. This would have been fantastic for a team that’s been through what they have, but then James Hinchcliffe got together with Felix and brought out the only full course yellow. Now, pretty much all the drivers apart from Rossi and Power had pitted. This meant that because of IndyCar’s bizarre rule that the pits are “closed” for the first few laps of a yellow, Rossi and Power were hosed. When they came to the pits they came back in the midfield because the pack was compressed behind the pace car. Or at least one of them came out. Because Willy P’s car decided not to move when the engine revved, leaving him to conduct an understandably sweary interview as his day was done.

So, Colton found himself in the lead with half the push to pass seconds of championship leader Josef Newgarden. But the second generation racer nailed the restart and pulled away to win by 3 seconds. Now, although he got a huge slice of luck with the yellow flag killing Rossi’s race, the kid had the speed and ran near the front all race. So it’s not like he didn’t deserve it and the rules are the same for everyone, even if they are stupid.

The result of this race means JoNew leads the charge on 93 points, with Colton’s win moving him to second on 75. Although Ganassi had a terrible race, Scott Dixon is still in third on 57 ahead of Rossi on 57, Graham on 50, followed by Power, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay who had a good run to third in the race, James Hinchcliffe, and Felix rounding out the ten.

With Felix’s run in St. Pete, Pato and Colton doing their thing here and Santino Ferrucci doing a nice job for Dale Coyne, it looks like the next decade of IndyCar is sorted out.

Feature image credit: IndyCar
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