IndyCar Notes: Colton Herta Not Happy with Will Power after St. Pete Incident
Colton Herta spent much of the off-season pointing to Sunday’s season-opening race as somewhat of a rebirth for him after a disappointing 2022 IndyCar campaign.
The younger son of former racer—and now part-owner of Andretti Autosport—Bryan Herta, Colton suffered through the worst finish of his four full-time seasons in IndyCar in 2022.
Sure, he earned a win in the first of two Indianapolis Grands Prix of the season, but other than that, 2022 was a rough season for the 22-year-old Herta. He earned just one other podium and had two poles, ending up with a disappointing (for him, anyway) 10th-place finish in the final standings, never really being a factor in the championship battle.
Herta complained that Will Power didn’t give him enough room in Sunday’s race, leaving his day to end prematurely with a 20th-place finish.
Power, who finished seventh, didn’t exactly see it that way.
“We like banged all the way in, I went up the inside and had as much luck as I could and feel bad I ruined his day, but I thought for sure that he knew I was there on his inside,” Power said of Herta. “It wasn’t just like a big divebomb, but it was like, ‘I’m here’ and he kind of hung around on the outside.
“I hate to ruin anyone’s day, I do. I hate that. I like to race these guys clean and he races me clean so I feel really bad that he ended up out and we were able to keep going. I’m glad we were able to get a top 10, but it was a very hectic day.
“It was just an unfortunate day. I always feel bloody bad about incidents like that.”
Ilott Turns Heads
Arguably the most outstanding performance of Sunday’s race was that of second-year IndyCar driver Callum Ilott.
The English driver for Juncos Hollinger Racing started 22nd in the 27-driver field, but put on a heck of a driving exhibition by a sophomore pilot, finishing an impressive fifth.
“Honestly, I think we improved throughout the weekend and managed to put out a good race car today,” Ilott said. “I kind of forgot that we started so far back in 22nd. I came from a long way back and kept it cool. I lost out a little bit because I was playing on the safe side, but those restarts were so slippy.
“So, I was losing a couple of places, but when people were overdoing it, that’s when I was able to capitalize. What a race, what a day, what a start. This was one of our weakest weekends last year, so to come in with a top 5 is not what I expected, but I think it sets a good start for the year.”
Newgarden’s Hot Finish
As for Power’s teammate, Josef Newgarden, he still can’t get over the fact that he led the series with five wins last season, yet wound up losing what would have been his third IndyCar championship to a guy who won just once in all of 2022, namely, his Team Penske teammate.
Newgarden was ready to bounce back in Sunday’s season opener, but unfortunately, fate had another idea. Newgarden’s Chevrolet caught fire with six laps to go and he was able to limp back to pit road, his day over with a 17th-place finish.
“Pretty tough day, just a terrible ending,” Newgarden said. “We had something mechanically break, unfortunately, on the engine side and had a small fire. Tried to come to pit lane and shut it off, get it back to pit lane and get the fire out. It’s unfortunate because I think we were on for a top-five.”
Australian Rules IndyCar
New Zealand now has three of its countrymen among the 27 full-time drivers in the series: Scott Dixon, McLaughlin and now you can add Marcus Armstrong to the mix.
Here’s how the three Kiwis finished in the race: Dixon (third place), Scott McLaughlin (13th) and Armstrong (11th), the highest-finishing rookie, with fellow rookie Augustin Canapino finishing 12th and Sting Ray Robb was 16th.
Dixon overcame early race contact with Felix Rosenqvist (finished 19th).
“I feel bad for getting into him early in the race,” Dixon said. “We’re good mates and you never want to do that.
“Wild race, man, with a lot of cautions laps and a lot of restarts. Just super happy to finish up front, have a clean race, and grab some great points.”
Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski