INDYCAR

HERTA TAKES HIS FIRST WIN AT COTA

AUSTIN, Texas (Sunday, March 24, 2019) – History was made in more than one way at Circuit of The Americas this weekend. Not only was the INDYCAR Classic the first NTT IndyCar Series race conducted at the track, but Colton Herta became the youngest driver to win an Indy car event when he took the checkered flag on Sunday.

The beneficiary of an opportune full-course caution period, Herta led the final 15 laps and won by 2.7182 seconds over Josef Newgarden. At 18 years, 11 months, 25 days old, the second-generation driver became the youngest to ever win an Indy car race, breaking the mark previously held by Graham Rahal, who was 19 years, 3 months, 2 days when he won at St. Petersburg in 2008.

INDYCAR CLASSIC: Official results

Sunday’s race was just the third in the NTT IndyCar Series for Herta, who finished second in the 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship before moving up to Harding Steinbrenner Racing this year. Herta was humbled to join the list of Indy car race winners that includes his father, Bryan, who won four times in a 12-year Indy car career and is now co-owner and race strategist for the car driven by Marco Andretti.

“Just to be up with the names of people that have won (a) race, I’m going to live and die an Indy car winner, which is spectacular in itself,” Herta said. “Yeah, it’s a great record at a young age. To be standing up here kind of feels surreal.

“We were not expecting (to win). I think we were going to get a podium (top-three finish) – I think we had the pace for that – but holy crap, man! … It’s spectacular!”

Driving the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, Colton Herta started the 60-lap race on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile permanent road course in fourth position. Pole sitter Will Power dominated the first three-quarters of the race, leading every lap under green-flag conditions until the only full-course yellow waved on Lap 44 after James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist made contact, sending the latter’s car careening into the barrier on the inside of Turn 19 at the entrance to pit lane.

Fortunately for Herta, he’d made his final scheduled pit stop a lap earlier under green. Race leader Power, second-place Alexander Rossi and third-place Scott Dixon were forced to make their final stops under yellow after the field packed up behind the pace car. Once that trio headed to the pits, Herta assumed the lead for the first time in his brief NTT IndyCar Series career.

Holding off Newgarden on the Lap 50 restart, Herta pulled away to the history-making victory.

“On the restart, we were quick,” Herta said. “We kind of sprinted off. I know we got the quickest lap on that first lap, which was pretty crazy to have the tires up to temp and everything ready.”

The win was also the first for the team co-owned by Mike Harding and George Michael Steinbrenner IV. After fielding a car for Herta in Indy Lights in 2017 and ’18, Steinbrenner partnered this year with Harding to bring the driving phenom to the NTT IndyCar Series.

“He did a phenomenal job,” the 22-year-old Steinbrenner said of Herta. “Colton hit all his marks, he did everything right, the crew did everything they needed to do to keep us out in front of (Newgarden’s) car the whole time. Everything went pretty much perfectly. 

“I really can’t believe we’re sitting here. I’m shaking and it’s a dream come true.”

Newgarden was satisfied with a second-place finish coming on the heels of his win in the March 10 season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The driver of the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet holds an 18-point lead over Herta after two of 17 races.

“We had a little luck (with the late caution), and I thought that could play into our favor to race for another win,” Newgarden said. “The PPG car looked good and felt good, it just wasn’t enough there at the end.

“A second place is big for us. We talked about the fact that you need to have podium finishes if you aren’t winning races, and this goes a long way to our championship run.”