Colton Herta Wins Flooded Indianapolis GP

·4 min read
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Colton Herta started today's Indianapolis GP 14th. But it was a wet start, thanks to rains an hour before the green flag, and the drying track created huge opportunities for someone to strike. It will not surprise you to learn that Herta, the risk-taking emerging superstar of IndyCar and legitimate Formula 1 prospect, was the one to take that risk.

On a drying track, Herta was the first driver to switch to dry tires. On-board videos showed an incredibly sketchy situation, but his pace was enough: Almost the entire field came down for dry tires the next time by, and, after a lap of getting his up to speed, that put Herta behind Pato O'Ward in second. Later in that lap, while chasing O'Ward for the race lead with slightly warmer dry weather tires, Herta put together the signature moment of his career to date:

While exiting the first half of a chicane, Herta broke loose. He had to briefly take his hands off his wheel to get to full lock, but it was enough to keep the car on the road without losing second. By the time he got his hands straight again, Herta was miraculously in a straight line and still within striking distance of leader Pato O'Ward. That put him in position to strike when O'Ward was forced to lift during a moment of his own, allowing Herta to swing past for the race lead.

It made his Andretti Autosport team's call to switch to dries a lap early a 13-position gain, and in the laps that followed he rewarded the strong decision by substantially growing the lead from there. But the cautions followed, most notably one during the middle of a cycle of green flag stops that put Herta and O'Ward behind Marcus Ericsson, with O'Ward's McLaren teammate Felix Rosenqvist now running immediately behind Herta. On the restart, O'Ward saw the traffic in front of Herta as opportunity and attempted to pass both his teammate and Herta in the same corner. That ended with him spinning and hitting his teammate, bringing out yet another yellow.

O'Ward fell to just sixth on the spin and, somehow, climbed back into the top three before the light rain came back and another caution brought the entire field down the pit lane for another set of dry tires. A lap later, heavier rains made wet tires the obvious choice and Herta stopped again. This time, the entire field followed from fifth on back, effectively stranding Scott McLaughlin, O'Ward, and Romain Grosjean on dry tires at the front of the field. McLaughlin and Grosjean both spun under caution before the actual restart, while O'Ward quickly gave up the lead to Herta on the restart. Herta then survived another restart to take his first win of the season before yet another caution ended the race a few laps later.

And that's just the stuff that effected the race win. Behind that, championship contenders Alex Palou and Josef Newgarden had major issues of their own. Scott Dixon fell a lap down and actually fought on track with the leading Herta after a restart to get it back before ultimately finishing tenth. Simon Pagenaud somehow landed in second for Meyer Shank Racing, his best result with the new team. And Will Power, the former series champion who has struggled with slow starts so often since winning his title, put together yet another third place finish to grow his hold on the championship lead. With the call to stay on dry tires stranding contenders O'Ward and McLaughlin down in 17th and 18th, that is a particularly significant result.

After all that, Power leads the group of McLaughlin, Palou, Newgarden, Dixon, Herta, O'Ward, and Ericsson in a pack separated by the maximum number of points available in any given race weekend. That's significant because the next race, the Indianapolis 500, is actually worth double points. That makes it a major early-season separator for contenders, and, often, what will be looked back on later as a championship-deciding event. Practice for that race starts this week, qualifying runs next weekend, and the Indianapolis 500 itself runs in its traditional place on the last Sunday in May.

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