Colton Herta outlasts Mother Nature for first IndyCar victory of 2022 at GMR Grand Prix

Colton Herta survived a chaotic, tricky and slick run in the midwest by notching his first NTT IndyCar Series victory of the season in the rain-shortened GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on Saturday, May 14.

The 22-year-old Herta from Valencia, Santa Clarita, California, led three times for a race-high 50 of 75 shortened laps and benefitted for a late pit stop for slick tires to overtake Pato O’Ward during a Lap 66 restart and fend off the field by Lap 73 when the caution flew due to an on-track incident. During the caution period, the event was reaching its two-hour time limit and running on a 21-minute clock session due to the wet, foggy conditions amid a delayed start that also shortened the event by 10 laps from the original 85 planned. With the event concluding on Lap 75, Herta was able to navigate his way around the circuit under two cautious pace laps to claim his first triumph of the season following a string of misfortunes.

With on-track qualifying occurring on Friday, Will Power secured his 64th career pole position after posting a pole-winning speed at 125.854 mph in one minute, 9.7664 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Alex Palou, who logged a qualifying speed at 125.777 mph in one minute, 9.8090 seconds.

When the green flag waved and the race commenced amid a delayed start due to inclement weather, Power led the field ahead of Palou, Josef Newgarden and the field entering the first two turns as the field jumbled behind. Through Turns 4, 5 and 6, Power maintained the lead. Then in Turn 7, Alex Palou moved into the lead and Pato O’Ward moved into the runner-up spot as Newgarden and Power were both overtaken. Soon after, O’Ward overtook Palou entering Turn 12 and went on to lead the first lap.

During the following lap and as O’Ward was leading, teammate Felix Rosenqvist cycled his No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Dallara-Chevrolet into second place while Palou, Power and Conor Daly were in the top five. 

Following the third lap, O’Ward surrendered the lead to pit early while teammate Rosenqvist moved into the lead. By then, names like Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Rinus VeeKay pitted. Soon after, Palou, Romain Grosjean, Callum Ilott, Juan Pablo Montoya, Hello Castroneves, Dalton Kellett, David Malukas, Jimmie Johnson and Marcus Ericsson also pitted.

Through the first five scheduled laps, Colton Herta, who made a bold save while slipping sideways as he pursued O’Ward earlier through the infield, cycled his No. 26 Gainbridge Dallara-Honda into the lead followed by O’Ward and Rosenqvist. Shortly after, the first caution flew when Palou spun his No. 10 American Legion Dallara-Honda in Turn 10.

When the race restarted on the ninth lap, Herta maintained the lead ahead of O’Ward, Rosenqvist and the field. 

On Lap 16, the caution flew when contact between Rossi and Newgarden resulted with Newgarden’s No. 2 PPG Dallara-Chevrolet getting turned off the front nose of Jack Harvey through Turn 12 as he took his car to the garage and dropped out of race-winning contention. Under caution, some like Marcus Ericsson, Kirkwood and Palou pitted while the rest led by Herta remained on the track.

On Lap 20, the race restarted under green. At the start, Herta retained the lead ahead of O’Ward and Rosenqvist while Takuma Sato muscled his way into fourth place over Power. Following the first three turns, however, the caution returned for a two-car wreck involving Rinus VeeKay and Devlin DeFrancesco, where the former got loose, went off the course, came back across the circuit sideways and was hit by the latter.

Four laps later, the race resumed under green as the skies darkened. At the start, Herta retained the lead ahead of Arrow McLaren SP’s O’Ward and Rosenqvist while Sato retained fourth place ahead of Power, Rossi and the field. 

Through the first 30 laps of the event, Herta was leading by more than seven-tenths of a second over O’Ward while Rosenqvist, Sato and Power were running in the top five. Challenging Power for a top-five spot was Rossi while Harvey, Scott McLaughlin, Romain Grosjean and Callum Ilott occupied the top 10. Simon Pagenaud was in 11th followed by Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Graham Rahal and David Malukas while Christina Lundgaard, Dalton Kellett, Tatiana Calderon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ericsson were in the top 20. Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson was in 21st ahead of Kirkwood while Palou was mired in 24th place.

Three laps later, O’Ward returned to the lead as Herta pitted under green. By then, names like Takuma Sato, Scott McLaughlin and Dalton Kellett pitted. Then during the following lap, Herta pitted as teammate Rosenqvist inherited the lead. Along with O’Ward, names like Rossi, Grosjean, Ilott, Power and Pagenaud pitted.By Lap 35, Rosenqvist surrendered the lead to pit along with Castroneves, Rahal, Montoya and Malukas.

Not long after, Kellett made contact with the tire barriers between Turns 5 and 6 and stalled his car as the caution flew. Prior to the caution, Dixon limped his No. 9 PNC Bank Dallara-Honda to pit road under a slow pace after running out of fuel. At the moment of caution, Ericsson was scored the leader followed by Kirkwood, Herta, Rosenqvist and O’Ward.

During the caution period, the precipitation steadily increased around the circuit. Despite the wet circuit, the race restarted under green on Lap 41. At the start, disaster struck for O’Ward, who got loose while making a move on Herta in Turn 1 and spun as his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Dallara-Chevrolet was then his by teammate Rosenqvist, whose front nose was destroyed. The incident, which also involved Sato spinning, drew another caution as the field surpassed the halfway mark on Lap 43. In the midst of the carnage, Ericsson retained the lead ahead of Kirkwood, Herta, McLaughlin and Harvey.

Under caution, some like Kirkwood pitted while the rest led by Ericsson remained on the track.

When the race restarted under green on Lap 45, the field fanned out to multiple lanes as Ericsson retained a narrow advantage over Herta. Through the infield backstretch, however, Herta reassumed the lead followed by McLaughlin as the field continued to scramble for positions. 

At the Lap 50 mark, Herta extended his advantage to more than a second over McLaughlin while Harvey, Grosjean and Pagenaud were in the top five. Power was in sixth followed by O’Ward while Ilott, Castroneves and Conor Daly were in the top 10. By then, Ericsson was mired back in 13th while Dixon, who raced his way back on the lead lap during the previous restart, was lapped and back in 21st.

During the following lap, some like Ericsson pitted under green while the rest led by Herta remained on the track. On the track, Grosjean spun in Turn 7 after getting hit by Harvey.

On Lap 57, the caution flew when Jimmie Johnson spun in Turn 10. Under caution, the lead lap competitors pitted as McLaughlin edged Herta to assume the lead. Soon after and with the precipitation intensifying, some like Herta, Dixon, Rossi, Palou, Power, Pagenaud, Harvey, Daly, Castroneves, Montoya and Ilott pitted for a second time for wet tires. In the process, O’Ward moved up to second place behind Herta.

Soon after, the event became a timed event with IndyCar given 20 minutes to have the event completed since the event was reaching its two-hour time limit amid the wet conditions and the delayed start. In the process, the field led by McLaughlin continued to run on the circuit under a cautious pace behind the pace car. Just then, the leader McLaughlin spun through Turns 10 and 11 under the final 17 minutes as O’Ward cycled back to the lead. 

When the race restarted under green with approximately 14 minutes left and on Lap 66, Herta gained a huge run on O’Ward prior to the first turn to reassume the lead as O’Ward fended off Pagenaud to retain the runner-up spot. Soon after, however, the caution flew when McLaughlin spun and stalled his car between Turns 2 and 3.

Under caution and with 10 minutes of the event remaining, Herta continued to lead ahead of O’Ward, Pagenaud, Power and Daly while Montoya, Ericsson, Castroneves, Ilott and Sato were in the top 10.

Then as time continued to expire, O’Ward spun under caution, which allowed Pagenaud and Power to move up to second and third while O’Ward fell back to fourth. Meanwhile, Herta remained as the leader as time continued to expire.

With approximately six minutes left, the race proceeded under green on Lap 70 while O’Ward pitted. At the start, Herta retained the lead ahead of Pagenaud and Power while Daly and Montoya were in the top five. 

With under five laps minutes, Herta was leading by more than two seconds over Pagenaud while third-place Power trailed by more than seven seconds. In the process, Daly retained fourth ahead of Ericsson, who overtook Montoya, while Sato, Rosenqvist, Castroneves and Ilott were in the top 10.

With two minutes left and as the race continued to run under green amid the wet conditions, Herta extended his advantage to nearly four seconds over Pagenaud while Power, Ericsson and Daly were in the top five.

Shortly after, the caution flew on Lap 73 when Montoya wrecked in Turn 11. The incident and caution were enough for the remaining time of the event to expire as Herta, who endured an up-and-down start to the season, was able to cautiously navigate his way around the 14-turn circuit for a final time and claim the checkered flag on Lap 75 for his first victory of the season. 

With his first IndyCar victory of the 2022 season, Herta notched his seventh career win in the IndyCar circuit, his first at Indianapolis and first since winning the final two scheduled events of the 2021 season. The Indy victory, which was a first of the season for Andretti Autosport and for Honda, was enough to boost Herta up five spots in the championship standings to sixth place.

“[Pitting for slick tires] sure helped us a lot,” Herta said on NBC. “We gained a lot of positions there. Man, this is awesome. That was the hardest race I think I’ve ever done. Wet [tires] to dry [tires], dry back to wet. Thank you so much to the Hoosiers [fans] for sticking around. I know you’re used to this kind of weather, so thank you very much. I love you guys. ”

Finishing in the runner-up spot was Pagenaud, who notched his first podium result in his first season with Meyer Shank Racing and first since the 2021 Indy 500. Meanwhile, Power settled in third place for his fifth consecutive top-four result through the first five scheduled IndyCar events. Power’s podium result was enough for him to assume the points lead.


“I couldn’t see, couldn’t drive at the end,” Pagenaud, who started 20th, said. “That was unfortunate. The car felt really good in the wets, but I just couldn’t see. I was looking for lights on the sides to find a braking point, but it was treacherous at the end…It was really tough to finish the race. An amazing job from everybody at Meyer Shank Racing. We made the right calls on the tires. It was really tricky to decide, but overall, it was a great race. It was a really good job.” 

“It was just so hard to decide, whether to go to wets or slicks there when it was raining on one side of the track and it was dry on the other,” Power added. “Stoked with third. Really happy to get the Verizon 5G Chevy on the podium after a mayhem day. I tried to be smart, sit back and didn’t want to take any too big of a risk…You could pick the wrong tire and it can be a terrible day, but in every situation, I just try to be as smart as I could, not take a big risk. It’s usually not fun not racing for a win, but it wasn’t the condition to try to do that, especially with the points battle.”

Ericsson came home in fourth place followed by Conor Daly while Rosenqvist, Sato, Ilott, Lundgaard and Dixon finished in the top 10.

In the midst of the on-track chaos, Rossi finished 11th, Castroneves settled in 14th, O’Ward fell back to 19th behind Grosjean and Palou and McLaughlin finished 20th. Johnson finished 22nd while Montoya, who was in position for a top-10 run prior to his late incident, ended up 24th.

There were 10 lead changes for six different leaders. The race featured eight cautions for 31 laps.

With his third-place result, Will Power leads the championship standings by 16 points over both teammate Scott McLaughlin and Alex Palou, 30 over teammate Josef Newgarden, 37 over Scott Dixon, 38 over Colton Herta and 42 over Pato O’Ward.

Results.

1. Colton Herta, 50 laps led

2. Simon Pagenaud

3. Will Power

4. Marcus Ericsson, 10 laps led

5. Conor Daly

6. Felix Rosenqvist, four laps led

7. Takuma Sato

8. Callum Ilott

9. Christian Lundgaard

10. Scott Dixon

11. Alexander Rossi

12. David Malukas

13. Jack Harvey

14. Helio Castroneves

15. Tatiana Calderon, one lap led

16. Graham Rahal

17. Romain Grosjean, one lap down

18. Alex Palou, one lap down

19. Pato O’Ward, one lap down, five laps led

20. Scott McLaughlin, one lap down, five laps led

21. Devlin DeFrancesco, two laps down

22. Jimmie Johnson, two laps down

23. Rinus VeeKay, two laps down

24. Juan Pablo Montoya – OUT, Contact

25. Josef Newgarden, 15 laps down

26. Kyle Kirkwood – OUT, Contact

27. Dalton Kellett – OUT, Contact

Next on the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series schedule is the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The starting lineup for the event will be determined through two qualifying sessions between May 21-22. The main event will then occur on May 29 with the event’s coverage to occur at 11 a.m.  ET on NBC.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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