Colton Herta Wins at COTA

The first NTT IndyCar Series race at COTA produced the first career win for Colton Herta. The Harding Steinbrenner racing driver was making his third career start, and is now the youngest winner in the history of the sport. The 18-year old driver has taken a liking to the massive road course in Austin, Texas. Herta led nearly every test session earlier in the year, was consistently fast in practice, and won the race after qualifying in 4th position.

Josef Newgarden had a chance to sweep the first two races of the season, but couldn’t find his way around the Rookie. Ryan Hunter-Reay joined his fellow Americans on the podium, which was a much-needed result after his DNF in the early laps of the season-opening race at St Petersburg. Graham Rahal had an eventful afternoon, and finished 4th for RLL, and Sebastien Bourdais followed up his DNF from St Petersburg with a top five finish after starting in 17th position.

IndyCar Classic Box Score

The biggest moment of the race came on Lap 46 when Felix Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe touched in Turn 19, resulting in the only caution of the event. Will Power had dominated the race until then, leading every lap since the drop of the green flag. The pole sitter was one of a few drivers that hadn’t yet pitted, but that wasn’t the worst of his luck. After his pit stop was complete, the drive shaft broke on his No. 12 Chevrolet, which ended his day. The Team Penske driver has earned pole position in both races this season, but hasn’t won a race as he finished last (24th) in today’s race.

Marco Andretti had a solid afternoon, advancing 14 positions in the race, finishing in 6th place. Takuma Sato was just behind him in 7th, capping a great day for RLL Racing. Patricio O’Ward was making his season debut with Carlin Racing, and he put on a show. The Rookie was fast, bold, and fearless on Sunday, grabbing an 8th place finish for the team. Alexander Rossi was battling all day long, but was caught out by the yellow, which ruined his chances of winning. Jack Harvey matched his career-best finish, earning another top ten finish for Meyer Shank Racing. The future is bright for IndyCar, as Herta, O’Ward, and Harvey all showed today.

Spencer Pigot and Tony Kanaan both had decent results, just missing the top ten on Sunday. Scott Dixon had his own issues during the race, including some contact when attempting to block Zach Veach in Turn 1. The reigning series champion finished 13 today, which doesn’t happen often. In fact, this is just the second time since the start of the 2017 season (36 races) that Dixon has finished outside of the top 12 (2017 Indianapolis).

Herta led 15 laps on his way to victory, as he beat Newgarden by 2.7812 seconds. At 18 years, 11 months, 25 days old, the second-generation driver has made history at Circuit of The Americas. “Oh my God, this doesn’t feel real,” Colton said during the cooldown lap. “It’s amazing. Really super proud of him,” said his father, Bryan Herta. “Colton won the race. Feels like Christmas to me.”

Simon Pagenaud had a weekend to forget. After qualifying in 22nd, the Team Penske driver struggled on race day, and had an intense battle with Rossi that had plenty of contact. He had to pit late, but was able to stay on the lead lap and finish in 19th place. The Arrow SPM team also had a rough go on Sunday, finishing 15th and 16th respectively.

The NTT IndyCar Series will have another weekend off before the next event. The next race on the schedule is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 7. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 4 PM ET on Sunday.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

JOSEF NEWGARDEN: “I thought we might have had a shot there at the end.  A lot of things played into the race today. We had a little luck and I thought that could play into our favor to race for another win. The PPG car looked good and felt good, it just wasn’t enough there at the end. So, I’m really proud of our guys. I’m proud of Team Chevy. I’m a little disappointed we missed it by a bit, but we’ll go on to the next one. A second place is big for us.  We talked about the fact that you need to have podium finishes if you aren’t winning races and this goes a long way to our championship run.”

MATHEUS LEIST: 
“Definitely not where we wanted to finish at COTA. I think a lot of things went on in this race, for some parts I thought we had the pace and then on other stints we were struggling a lot. In general, not a happy day here and then we got caught by the yellow (flag). We were doing a decent race to finish in the top 12 when that yellow came out. There was nothing we could do, we just went to dead last and from there on with just 10 laps to go, there was nothing we could do. Unfortunately, a tough day here at the track but let’s see if we can make the car faster for the next race.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: “Starting side-by-side with (my teammate) Marcus (Ericsson), we decided to split the tire strategy. It’s funny – coming into the last stint, we converged almost identically. We didn’t have quite as good pace on the blacks (Firestone primary tires), but the Arrow car felt really good on the (Firestone alternate) reds. Marcus and I pitted, I think, from seventh and eighth almost together near the end with sticker reds. There were a couple of guys in front of us with scrubbed reds and they definitely were falling off more than our (tires) were, so we were looking at a solid top 10, maybe even flirting with a top five today. Which, given where we started, would have been a great result. Unfortunately, I got caught up in the incident with Felix (Rosenqvist), and it’s unfortunate, we had a really good battle back and forth, so it shows that Circuit of The Americas can put on a good race. Ultimately a bit of a racing incident in Turn 19; I feel bad for Felix – he was having a good race as well. Proud of the Arrow SPM boys. Not the result we wanted, certainly, but from where we started, I think we rebounded nicely. Had we not gotten caught up in that incident, and had Marcus not had a problem in pit lane, I think both cars would have been toward the top of the leaderboard.”

MARCUS ERICSSON: 
“We knew it was going to be a tough job today starting from 16th. We also knew that we were going to have a really strong race car, which we showed in St. Pete (Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg). I had a good start; the first stint was good. Then we did that other pit stop to get free air and just got our race going. I have to say again, like in St. Pete, we were flying out there, and we were making all the right moves strategy-wise and driving-wise. I think we were the fastest car out there for much of the race moving up through the field. Everything was going according to plan, every pit stop, everything. Then it was very unfortunate on the last pit stop that we had traffic there on pit lane and had an issue there, which picked us up a penalty which was extremely frustrating, because at the last restart, being P5 with good tires. I think a podium was in the cards with the pace that we had. So even fifth where we were running would’ve been an amazing result considering where we started the race. I think we have a lot of things that we are very happy and proud of, but of course it’s extremely frustrating that the second weekend in a row we have the pace and the Arrow car to be in the top five, or better, and we got away with almost nothing. We need to sort out that, but we have a lot of positives as well. From a personal side, it was one of my best races of my career I think, so I’m very proud of that and I’ll be ready for the next one.”

SCOTT DIXON:
 “It wasn’t our best race with the PNC Bank team. I’m really not sure what to say about it. I’m pretty frustrated and not sure what else to say.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST: “We had good speed in the NTT DATA car and we just couldn’t get where we needed to in the race. I made a mistake and spun which didn’t help. Then (James) Hinchcliffe and I got together and I got knocked out. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but I’ll have to look at the replay. But there were things I learned for sure and we’ll come back stronger at (Barber).”

WILL POWER: “Yeah, it feels like an input shaft. I just released the clutch snap and I could kind of hear it grinding together. I’m massively disappointed, man; like you lead all those laps and worked so hard all weekend to put yourself into position. If the yellow (flag) didn’t get us, the driveshaft did.  Another hole at the beginning of the season. But the guys have done a great job. We’re quick every weekend. Oh, I just want to have a good run, man. I just want to have a normal run in a season without this sort of crap.”

TONY KANAAN: 
“Decent day for us after a tough weekend. We didn’t have the qualifying pace, but in the race, it was actually a little closer. Starting dead last and didn’t have a lot of options but we did a great job on the pit stops. Then we got a little lucky with the yellow and in the end, we held our place so a top 12, I’ll take it. I think we have to build from here. Matheus (Leist) had a pretty promising race. I think if we can qualify better – track position is so important nowadays – we’ll be fine. Hopefully we’ll improve that for Barber and we’ll be able to get a top 5.”

GRAHAM RAHAL: 
“I thought it was a good day. We battled. I thought we got lucky there with that yellow (flag), all of us up front at the finish got lucky a little bit, but that’s OK we’ll take it. Our car had pace all day. We just kept battling, kept battling with the same group, having to fight our race through the same group of guys. Realistically, we were a top-five, top-six car no matter what. Our guys worked hard to get this No. 15 TOTAL Honda to the front. I think the pit stops were really strong. We’ve got a lot of young guys on the pit stops and they did a great job. We’ll put our heads down from here. The great sign is that RLL (Rahal Letterman Lanigan) is competitive. We were competitive at St. Pete, we were competitive here. We couldn’t say that so much last year, so it’s a good start to the year.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: 
“It’s great to get a top-five finish after the weekend we were having. Great job by the No. 18 SealMaster Honda team. A solid strategy and a good job in the pits. It was a very static race, not much going on. I didn’t really go anywhere. Then, toward the end, some guys decided to gamble, but I had to stop and then try and run fast. The guys ahead of me didn’t go anywhere. We weren’t really very far from them. Then the yellow (flag) came out as we were in pit lane. That’s about as lucky as you are going to get. I feel bad for the leaders because they really didn’t deserve that, but we didn’t deserve the problem we had in St. Pete, so I guess things even out.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI: “We had a really good start and worked our way up to ninth. The first stint was really, really solid. The car was really good and we were able to hold our ground. In the second stint, on Firestone (alternate) red tires, there was a lot of fighting and I killed the tires a little bit too soon. I was just trying to hang on and survive but then once we put on the black (Firestone primary) tires, unfortunately we got forced off track and hit one of the ‘baguette curbs’ in Turn 12 and we blew up both rear dampers and that was basically it for us. The guys did a good job replacing the broken dampers, so we could go back out and finish the race on the lead lap but now we’re looking forward to the next one.”

ED JONES: “We made a few changes for the start which we thought would help the car in the race, but clearly it was the wrong way. It seems the No. 21 car had quite a big advantage, so we’ll need to take a look at that. I made the most of what I had today. We were a bit unlucky, because of tire degradation we went to the black tires for the end. With the yellow coming out, we ended up just being a sitting duck. We did the best we could, I think we were the second car on the (Firestone primary) black tires. It was a long, tough race but we’ll learn from this and move forward for Barber.”

SPENCER PIGOT: “Overall, we executed the race well. We had good pace, we were able to make passes and work our way up through the field. Unfortunately, (Marcus) Ericsson was sent out right in front of us in the pit lane and prevented me from getting into the pit box. That caused us to have a really slow last stop and forced us down the order we were only able to come back to 11th. Up until then, I thought the race was going pretty well. Thanks to my guys for their hard work and coming back from an unlucky qualifying session yesterday.”

SIMON PAGENAUD: 
“The race was pretty good. I mean we had a really good car, awesome strategy and really good pit stops. We got caught out by the yellow (flag) just like Will (Power) did. We were going to make that four-stop strategy work really well with potentially a top five or top six finish. So, starting 22nd, that was an awesome race. We made a lot of passes. It was great; and I had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, at the end, I had to get going on the red tires starting back from 16th. I had contact with (Alexander) Rossi, which took my valve stem off.  The whole weekend’s been pretty unfortunate despite having a lot of pace in the car. I’ll be back though.”

ZACH VEACH: 
“Overall, it was a pretty disappointing day. We had pace all weekend and unfortunately, on the start got the bad end of a racing deal and pushed off the track. We got back on track behind then had to replace a tow link on the right front and that kind of set our fate for the rest of the day. It’s disappointing for the Gainbridge crew – we had the pace to be up front but a racing deal ultimately took us out.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI: 
“The NAPA AUTO PARTS car was awesome. Will (Power) and I were in a league of our own. For the first two-thirds of the race, it was just me and Will (Power) – especially in the third stint, we were both fast and were able to gap ourselves from the rest of the field. It was going to be a pretty awesome race between the two of us there on new (Firestone) reds, but never got the opportunity with the yellow. From there the day was kind of over. It’s unfortunate we never got a shot to play it out. We’ll move on and focus forward on the races ahead.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY: 
“It was a pretty good race all in all. We definitely didn’t have the speed for Will (Power), Alex (Rossi) and Colton (Herta), but I’m happy we were able to get DHL and the No. 28 team another podium. Congratulations to Colton. There at the end, he was so fast, it was really impressive, he has really clicked with this track. It was busy – hard not to make a mistake. The car is flying all over the place. It was great being here for our first race and we have to thank everybody from Austin for coming out and making the event great. I think next year we will come back with an even better show.”

TAKUMA SATO: “It was a very exciting race.  At one point it was a shame, but (Jack) Harvey had an issue and he got slowed down and I was boxed in with (Scott) Dixon. If it didn’t happen, I was a pinball right and left.  If it didn’t happen I would have been fifth or higher. We had a failure on the air jack on the last pit stop so we lost a bunch of places.  Considering that, I think the strategy and the yellow helped bring us back to seventh place. For the team, under the difficult circumstances, it was a good weekend.”

PATRICIO O’WARD: “I think it was a pretty good race for us. We ended exactly where we started (eighth) and didn’t go backwards, so I’d say that was a successful day. We ran a clean race and we were right on pace, but after that yellow came out we needed one more lap under yellow to be able to push as hard as we wanted to. I was having to save a lot of fuel to make it to the end, so it was just impossible to keep Marco (Andretti) and Takuma (Sato) behind me coming full power. I know the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet had a top-five finish in it today and even though we couldn’t make it happen, it’s nice to know that we have the pace and can be fighting up front with the veteran drivers. Huge congrats to Colton (Herta). I’m really happy for him – I know this means a lot to him.”

KYLE KAISER: 
“That was an extremely long, hard fought race today. I think it really paid to go off strategy pretty early in the race. It made it pretty challenging as we were on a different cycle compared to most of the other cars, so it made it interesting in the middle of the race being on old tires when everyone else was on new. We were able to bring the No. 32 NFP Chevrolet home in 18th, which was a couple positions up from where we started. Overall it was a successful race. The team did an excellent job in the pits. We had really clean pit stops and I learned a lot. I really hope we can continue and expand with this program and be back at a couple of more events this year. A huge thank you to NFP for their support and making this all possible.”

MAX CHILTON: “Another long day at the office for us. It was just an extremely unlucky day for the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet. We lost a few spots right out of the gate and then we had a very long pit stop trying to get the car going again after running out of fuel. It just wasn’t our day at all, but I’m a big fan of the track at Barber, so I’m looking forward to hopefully finding a little bit of luck and coming out with a good result.”

JACK HARVEY: “The whole team did a great job to make up all those positions. It was nice to be on the good end of the yellow flag, which put us in a competitive position with about 10 laps to go. If you had asked me this morning, I wouldn’t have thought we would have finished 10th. Towards the end I thought we had great pace and I think we showed that we belong in the top 10. For me, I just want to keep getting these types of results. So far it’s two races and two top ten (finishes) so I can’t complain.”

COLTON HERTA: (About what it means to be not only the youngest race winner in Indy car history, but a race winner in general): “Just to be up with the names of people that have won a race, I’m going to live and die an NTT IndyCar Series winner, which is spectacular in itself.” (About if his strong performance in qualifying gave him a sense that he might win today): “I didn’t think it was going to happen. Seems like Will (Power) and (Alexander) Rossi had a bit of a pace advantage on us. I thought the max we were going to get was third (place) without a caution. Caution came out. We did our best. On the restart, we were quick. We kind of sprinted off. I know we got the quickest lap on that first lap, which was pretty crazy to have the tires up to temp and everything ready.”

MARCO ANDRETTI: “It was just too little, too late. I think the car took a stint or two to spool up, but once we got there, the car was great. We were able to get gain track position, and ultimately, ended up sixth. I knew in the warmup we were cruising – we knew the race car was going to be good, but the red flag in qualifying caught us out. I think if we could have qualified our car, we would’ve had a better starting position and the U.S. Concrete car could’ve been further up at the checkers. We just need to keep up this pace and move on to Barber.”

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