Colton Herta Becomes Youngest-Ever IndyCar Winner at Circuit Of The Americas
A costly late-race caution forced Will Power to surrender the lead and 18-year-old Herta built a gap at the front for his first series victory.
Sunday quickly became the all-time high-point for both IndyCar's youngest driver as well as its newest team. Colton Herta, at 18 years, 11 months, and 25 days, overcame a tricky inaugural visit to Austin's Circuit Of The Americas to claim his first career IndyCar victory in the No. 88 Harding-Steinbrenner Honda.
Team Penske's Will Power started from pole for the second consecutive race and led the field of 24 to COTA's lofty Turn 1. Drivers ran clean through the tricky hairpin with five-time champion Scott Dixon making up two spots on the outside courtesy of IndyCar's decision to lift track limits at Sunday's event. Trouble would strike for Andretti Autosport quickly after, though, as Zach Veach spun following contact with Graham Rahal, forcing him to go a lap down early on.
Veach's teammate Alexander Rossi, however, was cruising at the front and was tasked with closing the gap to Power. The Californian, who has experience racing at COTA from his days in Formula 1, diligently worked to contain the degradation of his Firestone reds while his Penske rival opted for primary-compound tires on his first pit stop.
Meanwhile, just behind Power and Rossi in third was the rookie Herta who wowed in qualifying, earning a P4 starting position. He maintained his spot on-track and built a significant gap to the car behind with the pace he displayed on both Friday and Saturday.
Near the Lap 20 mark, Herta had commandeered second place from Rossi and challenged Power—20 years his senior—for the lead. The rookie's pursuit persisted, but Power's experience and patience rewarded him as he led every lap to the halfway point. Rossi would soon re-take second as Herta pitted.
The second half brought the unexpected when frontrunners Power and Rossi were far removed from the rest of the pack. Both were approaching the end of their tire stints while Herta had dropped back following a pit stop for red-compound Firestones. The two looked clear to come out ahead of Herta following a timely stop, but a collision between the No. 10 CGR Honda of Felix Rosenqvist and No. 5 ASPM Honda of James Hinchcliffe forced a momentum-shifting caution period.
With the pits closed, Power frustratingly paraded around track until he could make his stop, pleading to salvage his race with a stellar restart and run through the field on Lap 46. Upon finally pitting and taking his tires, Power's No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet stalled out and was stationary in his pit box. Repeated attempts drew tension with all focus on last year's Indianapolis 500 winner, but his day ended when he was unable to take off after receiving a desperate push from his crew.
Power's loss was Herta's gain as he assumed the lead upon the late-race restart. Worries grew on the HSR pit wall as Team Penske's Josef Newgarden loomed in second with over 100 seconds of Push-to-Pass remaining, meaning Herta had to make the perfect run when the green flag waved.
The 18-year-old displayed heaps of poise and talent as he pulled away from Newgarden, a former champion, quickly building a 2.5-second lead. Herta continued his performance in the final 10 laps and subsequently crossed the finish line in P1 to conclude his third-ever IndyCar race.
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