Second-generation racer Colton Herta became the youngest winner in Indy car history today at the Circuit of the Americas, taking advantage of a late-race yellow flag to score his first NTT IndyCar Series victory in just his third race start.
Herta, son of former Honda Indy car and Acura sports car racer Bryan Herta, started fourth and kept his Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda in the lead pack throughout the caution-free first 43 laps of today’s 60-lap contest. For those 44 laps, tire management was the key for drivers and teams in the first visit of the IndyCar Series to the challenging COTA circuit.
But the complexion of the race changed dramatically on Lap 44, when contact between rookie Felix Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe sent the former into the barriers, resulting in the first and only caution period of the race. Herta, who had just made his final scheduled pit stop, cycled to the front of the field as leaders Will Power, Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon were forced to make their final stops during the caution.
In addition to Power, Rossi and Dixon – who were running first, second and third at the time – Rosenqvist and Hinchcliffe also had to stop for repairs, while a mechanical issue for Power during his pit stop ended his race.
When the green flag waved for the final time on Lap 50, Herta pulled away to an intitial 2.5-second lead over Newgarden, while Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal briefly battled over third place. Driving like a veteran, Herta extended his advantage to nearly four seconds, while Hunter-Reay pulled away from Rahal and closed on Newgarden for second. Meanwhile Rossi, who had taken the restart in 14th, put on a spectacular recovery drive that saw him gain five positions in the final 10 laps.
While Newgarden held on for second at the checkers, Honda drivers dominated the top-10 finishing order with Hunter-Reay finishing third, followed by Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais, Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato in seventh. Rossi crossed the finish line in ninth, just ahead of Jack Harvey, as the second-year Indy car driver rounded out the top 10 for Honda.
At age 18, Herta breaks the record previously held by Rahal, who scored his first Indy car victory at the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, when he was 19 years old.