IndyCar Results and More: No Raining on Colton Herta's Victory Party at Indy Road Course

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

To borrow a line from an old Rolling Stones song, time was on Colton Herta’s side in Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The race was originally scheduled for 85 laps, but due to ongoing issues with rain, Herta was declared the winner after just 75 laps when Juan Pablo Montoya made contact with a retaining wall, bringing out a full-course yellow caution that also led to the two-hour race window being reached.

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

It was Herta’s first win of 2022 and seventh of his young IndyCar career.

“Man, this was awesome,” Herta said on NBC after the race. “That was the hardest race I think I’ve ever done. Wet to dry, dry back to wet. And thank you so much for the Hoosiers who stuck around. I know you’re used to this kind of weather, so thank you very much. I love you guys.”

The race was slated to go 85 laps, but around Lap 68, IndyCar announced the race would finish under timed conditions. At the time, there was less than 10 minutes to go.

As the race restarted following yet another caution, IndyCar also moved all lapped cars behind those cars on the lead lap. Herta was in the lead and never let go.

When asked how he won the challenging event, Herta chuckled, “Pure talent.”

Then, getting more serious, he added, “The most interesting thing is you never have a car that works in the wet and the dry. It's just not possible, but it happened today. It was very interesting. Felt comfortable in all conditions. Yeah, it was fun to do it.”

Photo credit: Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Previous GP winner Simon Pagenaud earned his best finish of the season, ending up second.

“Oh my God, that was nuts,” Pagenaud said. “The weather, we should have a button just to spray some water on the track I think because the racing was phenomenal.

“Strategy was also the name of the game today. Choosing the right time at the right time. Waiting for the rain. Not sure it was coming. It was coming. Then just amazing, amazing succession of events.

“Just really proud of my team. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to show results, but the potential has been there the whole time, so I'm really proud that today we were able to show all the hard work that has been done in the background by Mike Shank and everybody at Meyer Shank Racing.”

Pole sitter Will Power, Marcus Ericsson and Conor Daly finished third through fifth. Sixth through 10th were Felix Rosenqvist, Takuma Sato, rookie Callum Ilott, Christian Lundgaard and Scott Dixon.

One other note of significance: Saturday marked the first time IndyCar has raced in the rain with the aeroscreen that was mandated starting last year. It worked flawlessly.

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images
Photo credit: Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Lightning Warning, New Points Leader Made for Crazy Race

To say Saturday’s race was crazy is an understatement. The on/off rain was a significant factor, obviously.

There even was a warning from the National Weather Service that lightning was in the area and that fans should clear the grandstands at about the Lap 68 mark, but surprisingly, IndyCar officials did not stop the race nor cleared the grandstands. The race continued on until the time limit was reached.

Amidst all that, there was a significant upheaval in the IndyCar driver point standings, as well.

Even though he hasn’t won a race yet this year, Will Power’s great consistency in the first five races—he hasn’t finished lower than fourth in any of them, and was third in Saturday’s race—moved into the top spot in the driver standings with 138 points.

“Cars were dropping like flies,” Power said after the race. “It was such a hard choice on whether to get the slicks, which could have been the best strategy out there – or go for the wets.

“It’s so crazy, this place (IMS). When you look around, it can be completely raining on the frontstretch and you go around to the back and it’s completely dry. It was really anyone’s guess at what was going to happen. We got to the point where it was too wet, we were going to get caught out and we needed to take wets.”

Power later said, “Those sort of days you're thinking points when you see Palou out and you see Newgarden out and a couple of the main contenders that you are going to be fighting. You start thinking a little bit that way, yeah.”

Power’s Team Penske teammate, Scott McLaughlin, who finished 20th in Saturday’s race, is second in the overall standings with 124 points.

And another Team Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden, who wrecked Saturday and finished 25th, was still able to hold on to the No. 3 position in the points with 123 points.

Defending Series champ Alex Palou, who had been No. 1 coming into Saturday’s race, had a rough race, finishing 18th, which dropped him from first to fourth with 115 points, 23 points behind Power.

Last but not least, Herta’s win helped push him up to fifth in the standings with 112 points.

First Non-Penske Win This Season

Saturday’s race marked the first time this season that a non-Team Penske driver won. It also was the first time a Honda-powered car won this year after Chevy won the first four races.

Still, with his third-place podium finish, Will Power extended his streak of finishing each of the first five races in fourth place or higher.

Ironically, Power remains the only Team Penske driver who hasn’t won this year, but he isn’t hurting too much: he moved up to first in the standings after Saturday’s race.

Another item of note: there have been 12 races held on the road course since the inaugural event in 2014 and eight of those races have been won by Team Penske drivers. But not Saturday.

Mario Nearly Took the Green Flag

We almost had an immortal ringer in the field of Saturday’s race. During the parade pace laps, AJ Foyt Racing driver Dalton Kellett could not get going, blocking his teammate, Tatiana Calderon.

At the same time, legendary driver Mario Andretti was taking the special Honda two-seater car, which is used for driving celebrities and fans around the track prior to the race, around the track en route to the paddock.

When Kellett finally got going, it took him and Calderon both a while to get up to speed to catch up with the field, making it appear that they were chasing Andretti, who was ahead of them.

Andretti got a huge round of applause from fans once he left the track.

Tough Day for IndyCar Champ Palou

Defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou was a victim of all teams going to red tires early in the race as the rain subsided and the track started drying naturally.

All teams had shifted to red slicks on Lap 4 or 5, including Palou, but his tires apparently took a while to get enough heat in them.

Palou was coming into a turn along with Tatiana Calderon and both lost traction and spun off into the grass. Calderon was able to recover and returned to the track. Palou drove through the grass and got back on-track, but his car stalled as he was back on the asphalt. He could not immediately restart, bringing out a yellow caution flag.

Palou, who started second and had flirted with the lead in the opening laps, wound up losing a lap and finished 18th in the 27-car field.

Chevy Celebration on Hold

Chevrolet was placed on hold Saturday. The bow tie company won all of the first four races of the season. If they would have won Saturday, it would have been the 200th IndyCar win for Chevrolet in the current powerplant.

Now it’s wait to see what happens in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.

Contact Dooms Newgarden's Race

Early in the race, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden made contact with Alexander Rossi and Jack Harvey, spun around and came to a stop. Rossi came down on Newgarden, clipped tires with Newgarden, and then the trailing Harvey also clipped tires with Newgarden, ultimately leading to the spin.

Newgarden suffered enough damage to his race car that he almost immediately climbed out and the car had to be towed back to the pits.

But his team made quick work on repairs and Newgarden returned to the track on Lap 31, but the damage was already done, so to speak. Newgarden ultimately finished 25th out of 27 starters, 15 laps down.

It was Newgarden’s worst finish of the season, his previous two worst being 14thin the last race at Barber Motorsports Park, and 16th in the season-opening event at St. Petersburg, Fla. He won the other two races prior to Saturday’s event at IMS.

Defending Race Winner VeeKay Crashes Out

Defending race winner Rinus VeeKay saw his hopes of winning two in a row come to a crashing end on Lap 22.

VeeKay had spun off-track and into the grass, drove back onto the track and was almost immediately t-boned by Devlin DeFrancesco.

VeeKay was able to get his car back under power and drove his car to the pits, while DeFrancesco had to be towed off.

VeeKay finished 23rd, two laps down.

Jimmie Johnson Again a Backmarker

Seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson once again struggled, finishing 22nd. It marked the fourth time that the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion has finished 20th or worse in the first five races. His only finish above 20th was his sixth-place showing—his best career finish in IndyCar competition—on the oval at Texas Motor Speedway back in March.

Johnson got into big trouble in Turn 10 on Lap 58 when he spun and ended up in the middle of the track. With a bunch of cars coming, Johnson wisely threw his car in reverse to let some cars get by before he put it back into gear and returned to the track.

Johnson now prepares for his first Indianapolis 500 on May 29. He’s a four-time winner in NASCAR on Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so it should be interesting if he’s able to transfer any of his previous success in a Cup car into a good run in an Indy car.

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski