Colton Herta, Andretti, St Petersburg, IndyCar, 2021

Herta soaks up pressure from Newgarden for St Petersburg win

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Two drivers whose races were ruined in the first-lap crash at Barber last week fought over victory on the streets of St Petersburg.

But two-times champion Josef Newgarden, who triggered the pile-up at Barber Motorsport Park one week ago, was fittingly denied the win by the first driver who hit his spinning car that day – Colton Herta.

The Andretti driver comfortably claimed pole position yesterday and took control of proceedings from the start of the race. Running on the ‘alternate’ tyres he, along with fellow front row starter Jack Harvey on the same rubber, edged away from the Penske duo of Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, running the harder tyres.

Sebastien Bourdais, who almost failed to take the start due to late-running repairs on his Foyt machine, clashed with Pagenaud at turn one. The pair continued, but Bourdais was left with a damaged nose.

With most drivers aiming to complete the 100-lap race with just two pit stops, fuel management was the order of the day in the early laps. On lap 17 Herta came on the radio to warn his team the track surface was starting to break up at turn nine.

Start, St Petersburg, IndyCar, 2021
Herta held Harvey back at the start
But the first drama of the day unfolded at the final hairpin, where multiple NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson skidded off and came to a stop. After several unsuccessful attempts to reverse away, the safety team was despatched to recover him, and the race went under caution.

Herta kept his lead when racing resumed, but towards the end of the first stint Harvey’s soft tyres began to fade, bringing the Penske duo within range. Newgarden picked him off quickly but Pagenaud was more tentative, holding station while a queue formed behind them, headed by Bourdais.

Graham Rahal had lunged past Alexander Rossi on the first lap, and that pair also joined the train, tailed by Scott Dixon. By lap 35 Newgarden had pulled seven seconds clear of them in just three laps, and Harvey finally headed for the pits.

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Herta and Newgarden also came in with no loss of positions. However Newgarden’s pursuit of the leader was inadvertently compromised by a collision between Rahal and Rossi.

Jimmie Johnson, Ganassi, St Petersburg, IndyCar, 2021
Johnson skidded into the wall and couldn’t engage reverse
The pair had swapped places again, leading Rahal to make another bid to pass the Andretti driver at turn four. But they made contact, Rossi suffered a front-right puncture and was unable to turn into the following corner, coming to a stop with Rahal. The RLL driver quickly engaged reverse and sped off, but Rossi took longer to get going again and, juggling a punctured tyre and an overheating brake, briefly held Newgarden up.

Newgarden lost further ground when he and Herta came in for their final pit stops together under green flag running. Herta was by now 10 seconds up the road, far enough that when the pair came in on the same lap, Newgarden was delayed by the departing Herta.

However a second spin for Johnson at the exit of turn three triggered a caution period which allowed Newgarden to apply fresh pressure to Herta. Having taken the alternate tyres for the final stint, Newgarden hounded the primary-shod Herta at the restart, to no avail.

Colton Herta, Andretti, St Petersburg, IndyCar, 2021
Herta has now won as many IndyCar races as father Bryan
The process was repeated after Jones triggered another caution on lap 82. Having clashed with O’Ward at turn one, the Coyne driver became the second driver to assault James Hinchcliffe, who had already been hit by Takuma Sato earlier in the race. While Jones clattered into Hinchcliffe, O’Ward arrived on the scene and tipped the Coyne machine into a spin.

At the final restart Herta again kept Newgarden at sword’s length. Over the final laps Newgarden’s soft tyres finally began to fade, and Herta drew his lead back up to over two seconds, sealing his fourth victory in the series.

Pagenaud completed the podium behind Newgarden, followed by Harvey. Dixon worked his way up to fifth ahead of Sato. Will Power, who lined up a lowly 20th, rose to take eighth behind Marcus Ericsson. Rinus VeeKay and Bourdais completed the top 10.

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Race result

PositionNumberDriver
126Colton Herta
22Josef Newgarden
322Simon Pagenaud
460Jack Harvey
59Scott Dixon
630Takuma Sato
78Marcus Ericsson
812Will Power
921Rinus VeeKay
1014Sebastien Bourdais
113Scott McLaughlin
127Felix Rosenqvist
1351Romain Grosjean
1428Ryan Hunter-Reay
1515Graham Rahal
1620Conor Daly
1710Alex Palou
1829James Hinchcliffe
195Pato O’Ward
2018Ed Jones
2127Alexander Rossi
2248Jimmie Johnson
234Dalton Kellett
2459Max Chilton

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 22 comments on “Herta soaks up pressure from Newgarden for St Petersburg win”

    1. The race was enjoyable. The field is so strong this year that making the top 10 is kinda an achievement. Dixon all-ways there, Herta cranking up and so on looking around. Johnson though, was having a tough ride.

      1. Just wanted to add : Have you seen Herta blisters hands at the end of the race, wow.

      2. Josh (@canadianjosh)
        25th April 2021, 22:16

        IndyCar is a very competitive series right now. Herta and Newgarden plus a handful of youngsters plus the older vets like Dixon and Power is a great Mix. Sadly for Jimmie Johnson though, he’s past his prime, put him in the Mercedes F1 car 20 years ago he’d fight Lewis for a title but he’s been slowing down the last 3 or 4 years now.

        1. @canadianjosh, I don’t see it that way, #48 just has stepped into an actual race car for the first time in his illustrious career, one that needs more car handling skills than “right foot straight, lean left”

          1. Josh (@canadianjosh)
            26th April 2021, 8:53

            Lol you’re kidding me right?

            1. la preuve est dans la poutine

          2. @uneedafinn2win now use some logic and answer me this:
            1. You say Nascar is “right foot straight, lean left” – ok
            2. There are 34 drivers entering the Nascar season.
            3. One driver keeps winning more than everybody else.

            How does that driver do that, huh? After all, it’s “right foot straight, lean left” for everybody equally. Huh?

            Reply moderated
            1. I would reply, but alas, anonymous commenting requires no response…

    2. The kid is really, really good.

      1. My money (literally) is still on good’ole Dixie. Top 5 every race

      2. Colton drove a fantastic race on a tough street course. I couldn’t help think of Max and Colton, both sons of racers, but who will both shatter their father’s records. Both are driving great at such a young age. Excellent tutoring by their dad’s. What a great year of racing this is turning out to be, still think Merc are sandbagging in the media with their poor pitiful us routine getting old. Indy is looking strong and F1 has at leas the possibility of being good for the first time in forever.

    3. I really like the St. Petersburg circuit. The contrast between the extremely wide runway straight and the tight city sections makes for a nice variety. The Indycar season is shaping up to be a banger.
      Grosjean is adapting well, but he needs to make it to the final six in qualifying if he is to eventually be fighting for podiums.

    4. Was considering to watch the races this year because of Grosjean, but just saw the highlight video with all those full-course cautions and then remembered why I stopped watching before..

      Looks good though. Cars bouncing around. Feels fast and on the edge.

      1. @balue That probably exaggerates it to be honest. I think there were three during the race. I got the impression they didn’t take as long clearing everything up as well either which is what irritates me most about IndyCar caution periods.

        1. @keithcollantine 3 race resets is way too many for me, but the main problem was that it was practically every race, and I would be surprised if it’s any different now.

          1. They had little options when a car stops on the track and they have to send a truck to restart the car.

            I watched most of it, wasn’t that bad but I’m missing something. Often times races end up being tyre or fuel preservation. Cars are spec but the field spread is real. Due to spec cars, anyone out of position has issues coming through the field.

          2. That depends though, as there have been plenty of recent races where the race has run without a caution period from flag to flag.

            St Petersburg isn’t one of them though – turn one comes off the runway directly onto city streets and narrows significantly, so there’s regular crashes on restarts on by far the best (and sometimes only) passing point on the track.

            Indycar also, where possible, tends to hold off from throwing a yellow flag, even if it’s necessary, to allow everyone to pit and prevent anyone gaining a big advantage or disadvantage from pitting at the wrong time.

            It’s a big improvement from the old days when any car that could be cleared with a local yellow always led to an immediate full course yellow – something that, subjectively speaking, seems to be happening more often in F1.

    5. If Colton gets more wins in the next few months, there could be a possibility that Herta will be called up by a Formula 1 team to test out a car. I like to see it happen. It will take a championship to get him there. With 3rd place from last year, he could get more extra points toward his Super License.

    6. @placid He is looking like the real deal and I could see Liberty trying to twist arms to get him an F1 shot if they really want to crack the US market. Every time I tune in he always seems to be at the sharp end of the field.

    7. Mark in Florida
      26th April 2021, 17:17

      This St. Pete track is a great venue. I have went several times. The racing is always good and the track ushers are helpful with any questions you might have. It is easily walked from end to end so you can see different parts of the track. If you get hungry cross the track and you’re right in downtown with any pick you want of the restaurants. Colton is demonstrating more maturity this year. He rushed some moves in the past but he is more considered now. Could he drive in F1? In the right car probably. A terrible car only makes the good driver look bad in the end. Indy is super competitive this year, one of the deepest field of drivers I’ve seen in a while. Jimmy? He looks awful, he’s nowhere sad to say.

    8. It would be fantastic to have an American in F1 again.

    9. I hope Herta can take the Montoya route to F1. Get a title and an Indy 500 win on his resume first and then jump into a decent F1 team. I can see McLaren signing him given Zak Brown is a fan of IndyCar.

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