Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Colton Herta Wins Wet and Wild GMR Grand Prix


Colton Herta wins a wild GMR Grand Prix.
Colton Herta outlasted the treacherous GMR Grand Prix to score the seventh career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series. Image courtesy of Mike Young / Penske Entertainment

Colton Herta was victorious in a chaotic NTT IndyCar Series bout in treacherously wet conditions on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The 22-year-old California native took the checkered flag under caution for the GMR Grand Prix by, which marked the seventh win of his career. Originally scheduled for 85 laps, it became a timed race and ultimately ended with 75 laps logged.

The No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda of Simon Pagenaud took the runner-up spot. Pole sitter Will Power ended up claiming the third and final spot on the podium, and exits the fifth round of the season with the overall championship lead.

Marcus Ericsson and Conor Daly rounded out the rest of the top five.

The No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist scored sixth, followed by rookie Callum Ilott in seventh. Takuma Sato, rookie Christian Lundgaard and six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon concluded the rest of the top 10.

The race was a picture of chaos and was declared a wet start, which made every driver start on rain tires. Power led the field through the opening lap until Turn 7, where he was split by the combination of Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden and reigning series champion Alex Palou.

Palou ended up with the lead, albeit briefly, as Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet climbed into the top spot in Turn 12. At the same moment, Newgarden ended up in the grass after fighting with Power and fell down the running order to the backend of the top 10.

Despite the wet start, it only took a couple of laps before drivers dove to pit road for the swap to Firestone alternate (red sidewall) slick tires.

On Lap 5, Herta managed to make a miraculous save and follow it up with a pass on O’Ward to take the lead. The caution fell a lap later after Palou was stopped in Turn 10 after spinning. Palou would be able to continue, though, and ended up finishing 20th.

A restart came on Lap 9 but another caution returned on Lap 17 after Josef Newgarden retired as a byproduct of from Alexander Rossi and Jack Harvey. Newgarden’s No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet was sandwiched between the pair as he first bounced off of Rossi, to his left, before the left-front of Harvey’s No. 45 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda caught the right-rear of Newgarden and sent him into a spin before coming to a stop in Turn 12.

The restart on Lap 21 was quickly subdued after Rinus VeeKay, who won the event in 2021, drifted into the grass in Turn 1 and returned sideways and in the path of Andretti Streinbrenner Autosport rookie Devlin DeFrancesco, who pounded directly into the side of the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. Despite the heavy impact, both drivers were able to continue and each logged 73 laps as VeeKay ended up finished 23rd and DeFrancesco 21st.

The caution flew once more on Lap 36 after Dalton Kellett went off in Turn 6. Then, on a  Lap 42 restart, O’Ward and Herta were both in a tight battle heading into Turn 1. However, O’Ward spun and ended up collecting teammate Rosenqvist, who suffered a broken front wing as a result of the contact. Sato was in close proximity of the pair but was able to dodge the incident by using the grass as the escape path.

At the time there were mixed feelings on if rain was about to return to impact the race, leaving the field split on the call as some drivers returned to pit lane for rain tires. Among the group that pitted were Graham Rahal, rookie Kyle Kirkwood and Alexander Rossi, who came out in the lead from the group but still outside the top 10 on track position.

Ericsson led on the Lap 45 restart, but Herta made quick work of the Chip Ganassi Racing pilot and put his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda out front once again. By Lap 51, it was evident the gamble for Rossi and Co. didn’t work and he ditched the strategy and returned to pit road once again for a set of alternate tires.

Simultaneously, Romain Grosjean attempted to put a late braking outside move on Harvey in Turn 7. The move ended with Grosjean’s No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda in the grass after contact from Harvey, leaving the latter fuming and yelling over the radio, “What an idiot.”

The theme of cautions continued on Lap 57 after Jimmie Johnson spun in Turn 10. He ended up 22nd.

At this point, only the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet of Scott McLaughlin, O’Ward and Grosjean remained on alternate tires, while the rest of the field pitted for rain tires. Then, on Lap 65, McLaughlin spun from the lead under caution, which gave the top spot to O’Ward. McLaughlin was forced to restart sixth as a result.

Ultimately, the winning pass from Herta came on the Lap 66 restart. As soon as the green flag waved, Herta, who was third, darted to second and then pulled to the inside of O’Ward as the two charged into Turn 1. Herta managed to take the lead and moments later McLaughlin spun in Turn 3 to bring out another caution.

While under caution on Lap 69, O’Ward spun from second and dropped to fourth, which elevated Pagenaud and Power.

O’Ward ended up pitting on Lap 70, which was the ensuing restart and was left to finish 19th.

Herta managed to build up to nearly a four-second lead until the caution fell for the final time on Lap 73 after Juan Pablo Montoya’s top 10 run ended after finding the Turn 11 wall.

It is the first win for Andretti Autosport on the IMS road course.

The race featured 10 lead changes among six drivers. Additionally, there were eight cautions for a total of 31 laps.

PositionCar No.DriverGap from LeaderLaps LedLaps
126Colton Herta5075
260Simon Pagenaud-3.098375
312Will Power-7.153875
48Marcus Ericsson-7.81931075
520Conor Daly-9.653575
67Felix Rosenqvist-11.0949475
777Callum Ilott (R)-11.481475
851Takuma Sato-11.5104 75
930Christian Lundgaard (R)-11.804775
109Scott Dixon-13.991675
1127Alexander Rossi-16.730075
1218David Malukas (R)-17.981775
1345Jack Harvey-19.574875
1406Helio Castroneves-24.488175
1511Tatiana Calderon (R)-31.9259 175
1615Graham Rahal-41.803775
175Pato O'Ward-45.9585575
183Scott McLaughlin-53.1982575
1928Romain Grosjean-1 LAP74
2010Alex Palou-1 LAP74
2129Devlin DeFrancesco (R)-2 LAPS73
2248Jimmie Johnson-2 LAPS73
2321Rinus VeeKay-2 LAPS73
246Juan Pablo Montoya-3 LAPS73
252Josef Newgarden-15 LAPS60
2614Kyle Kirkwood (R)-22 LAPS53
274Dalton Kellett-41 LAPS34

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