Colton Herta just might be human after all.
In what could only be described as a wild and chaotic day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 22-year old phenom earned his first victory of the season. Herta battled unpredictable weather conditions, varying tire strategies, and challenging driving conditions that put all of his talent to the test.
Herta started the race from the 14th position but ducked into pit lane on Lap 2 after the race was declared a wet start. The move allowed him to jump towards the front of the field, and he was able to maintain his position throughout the ever-changing conditions. It wasn’t easy though, as his drifting skills were needed on certain areas of the track.
Today’s win was the first of the season for Herta, the first for Andretti, and the first for Honda. After a frantic day behind the wheel, the driver of the No. 26 Honda was happy to have his seventh career win in the books. “That was the hardest race I think I’ve ever done,” Herta exclaimed. “Wet to dry, dry back to wet. And thank you so much for the Hoosiers for sticking around. I know you’re used to this kind of weather, so thank you so much. Love you guys.”
While Herta led 50 of the 75 laps on Saturday, there was constant pressure from behind. Simon Pagenaud also came from the back of the field, and improved 18 positions on his way to a runner-up finish. It is the first podium result for the Meyer Shank Racing driver since the Indy 500 last May. “I couldn’t see. I couldn’t drive at the end,” Pagenaud said. “The car felt really good in the wet, but I just couldn’t see. It was treacherous at the end. You have to say congrats to Colton because it was really tough to finish the race.”
Pagenaud was not alone in his thoughts about the race. His former teammate Will Power said much of the same after he collected another podium result on the IMS road course. “Cars were dropping like flies,” Power said. “It was such a hard choice on whether to get the slicks, or go for the wets. It’s so crazy, this place. When you look around, it can be completely raining on the frontstretch and you go around to the back and it’s completely dry. It was really anyone’s guess at what was going to happen.”
For the sixth time in his career, Power started this race from pole position. His five wins and 341 laps led are indicative on his dominance here, but even he knew that he just needed another solid finish. The Team Penske driver has not finished worse than 4th in the five races this season. That incredible consistency has him leading the points standings heading into the Indianapolis 500.
Leading the way for Chip Ganassi today was Marcus Ericsson, who has quietly having another outstanding season. Rounding out the top five was Conor Daly, who had his first top-five finish since 2017. The Noblesville driver had a sensational weekend at his home track after qualifying 4th yesterday.
“I truly don’t think I’ve ever been through anything like that,” Daly admitted. “It was raining, then it was sunny, then it was raining again and then you couldn’t see anything. I really wanted a trophy from here, but this is a great way to start the month. We wanted to rebound here, we knew we had a fast car, had a great qualifying, we executed all weekend, which is exactly what we wanted.”
Felix Rosenqvist finished right where he started – in 6th position. Considering that he hit his spinning teammate head-on during a restart, that is a great finish. Both Arrow McLaren SP cars were strong throughout the weekend, but the challenging conditions got the better of Pato O’Ward by the end of the day.
“I feel like the team deserved so much more today,” O’Ward said after finishing 19th. “Nobody was quicker than us with rain tires and we were really strong in the dry as well. We put ourselves in a position to challenge for the win after spinning but we made a gamble and didn’t make the right tire choice. Mother nature brought more rain and made it impossible to drive on slick tires. That’s how racing goes sometimes. It was a fun and entertaining race but the outcome was disappointing.”
Callum Ilott had a brilliant weekend for the single-car Juncos Hollinger Racing team. After finishing 2nd in practice, qualifying 7th, and 2nd again in the morning warmup session, the rookie driver dazzled in the rain in what was just his eighth IndyCar race.
Several drivers were not so lucky in their tire decisions. Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal were both counting on more rain to come as they gabled on rain tires, but the timing just didn’t work out. Many more drivers had contact or spins that sank them to disappointing finishes.
Reigning series champion Alex Palou was one of those drivers that spun, and although his was early, the driver of the No. 10 car was not able to get back to the front of the field. Scott McLaughlin and Juan Montoya also had promising results in the palm of their hand before disaster struck in the closing stages of the race.
The biggest moment of the race came on Lap 16 when Josef Newgarden got tangled with Jack Harvey and Rossi. The result was the No. 2 Penske machine coming to a halt and not being able to continue. Newgarden’s 25th place finish was not exactly the momentum he and the team were looking for heading into Tuesday’s Indy 500 practice.
There were eight cautions on Saturday with just 16 cars finishing on the lead lap. There were also 471 total passes during the race, which shattered the previous record of 269. The record for passes for position was 190 but that was also smashed to the tune of 362 passes for position in today’s race.
With this wild race now in the rearview mirror, teams and drivers can use the next couple of days to dry off and prepare for Indianapolis 500 practice next week. It all begins at 9 AM ET on Tuesday with veterans hitting the track for two hours. Rookies for Refreshers will run from 1:00 to 3:00 and the final three hours of practice will be open to all drivers.
The 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 is May 29.