IndyCar: Herta masterful in the wet at Indy, proves he belongs in F1

Andretti Autosport driver Colton Herta showed why he belongs in F1 by schooling all the other IndyCar drivers in dry, partially wet and full wet conditions to win the rain shortened GMR Grand Prix at IMS, his seventh career INDYCAR victory, and first of the 2022 season.

Leading 50 of 75 laps, Herta beat fellow Honda driver Simon Pagenaud by 3.098s and polesitter Will Power by 4.056s in a race that hit the 2-hour time limit and was shortened by 10 laps.

Marcus Ericsson and Conor Daly rounded out the top-5.

“I’ve never been in a race like that in my life,” Daly said. “That was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced.”

It did not matter if it was raining hard, partially wet or dry, Herta had the bit between his teeth and even made an unbelievable 4-wheel slide in the wet on dry tires.

While the wankers lost control of their cars left and right, Herta was in his own class all race long, taking the lead from deep in the field early and losing it primarily only during pitstops.

“This is the hardest race I think I’ve ever done,” Herta said. “Wet to dry, dry back to wet. Thank you so much for the Hoosiers for sticking around. I know you’re used to this weather, so thank you very much. Love you guys.”

How the race unfolded

Rain sprinkles caused the race start to be declared wet, with all drivers on Firestone grooved tires. But it took Herta and Takuma Sato only two laps to realize there was enough traction to switch to the slick, grippy Firestone alternate “red” tires. The rest of the field quickly followed suit, with all 27 drivers changing to alternate slicks by Lap 5.

For the next 30 laps, this appeared to be a highly competitive but conventional NTT INDYCAR SERIES road course race, with three incidents triggering caution periods and mixing up the running order. But the strategic mind games began when Dalton Kellett spun off course in Turn 6 on Lap 36 in the No. 4 K-LINE/AJ FOYT RACING Chevrolet.

Leaden, threatening clouds approached IMS from the west, with the airwaves between pit boxes and drivers crackling with strategic chatter.

Darkness as rain hits. Penske Entertainment: James Black

Rookie Devlin DeFrancesco, Alexander Rossi and reigning series champion Alex Palou decided to pit for Firestone rain tires during that caution as light rain began to fall to varying degrees in different locations of the massive facility, with a handful of others following suit to switch to rain tires during another caution that started on Lap 42.

This dice roll came up snake eyes because the rain began to let up on Lap 45, when Herta passed Ericsson for the lead in Turn 4.

By Lap 52, the rain began to fall again at varying levels around the track, creating more head games for teams and drivers. During a caution period on Lap 60 with intermittent rain falling, all the contending cars came to the pits for Firestone alternate slick tires.

Two laps later, those plans became a soggy mess when hard rain began to fall. All the contenders tiptoed back to the pits for Firestone rain tires except for Pato O’Ward, Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean, who stayed out on alternate slicks.

The race restarted at the end of Lap 66, and Herta – on rain tires – easily devoured the slick-shod O’Ward to take the lead for good with an inside pass into Turn 1 after the field took the green.

Later that lap, the daring strategy of staying on slicks unraveled for McLaughlin. Struggling for grip, he spun in his No. 3 Snap-on Tools Chevrolet. O’Ward also spun out of second place on Lap 69 in his No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP.

Herta gradually pulled away from Pagenaud over the closing laps, as teams kept their eyes on the race clock and the skies. Herta led Pagenaud by 3.8256 seconds on Lap 72, and the race effectively ended when Juan Pablo Montoya went off course after making contact with the wall in his No. 6 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.

“It was treacherous at the end,” Pagenaud said. “You’ve got to say congrats to Colton because it was really tough to finish the race. We made the right calls on the tires. It was tricky. It was really tricky to decide.”

Select Quotes

Colton Herta (#26 Andretti Autosport Honda) Finished 1st: “This is awesome! That was the hardest race I think I’ve ever done.  [The early change to dry weather ‘slick’ tires] sure helped us a lot, we gained a lot of positions there.  And the other [strategy] calls came at just the right time, too.  Wet-to-dry; back to wet, incredible.  And thank you to all the fans for sticking around in this kind of weather.  Love you guys.”

Simon Pagenaud (#60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda) Finished 2nd: “Visibility was a real problem at the end, it was really difficult to drive at the end. It was really unfortunate, as the car was really good to drive, but it was so hard to see. I was looking at the [signaling] lights on the side [of the track] to find my braking points at the end.  It was really tough to even finish the race. Congrats to [winner] Colton [Herta], and it was an amazing job from everyone at Meyer Shank Racing.  We made the right calls on the tires, even though it was tricky, really tricky to decide.  But overall, a great day for us, a really good job.”

Race Results

Pos No Name Laps Diff Gap Led ST Engine Team
1 26 Colton Herta 75 0.000s 0.000s 50 14 Honda Andretti Autosport
2 60 Simon Pagenaud 75 3.0983 3.0983  0 20 Honda Meyer Shank Racing
3 12 Will Power 75 7.1538 4.0555  0 1 Chevy Team Penske
4 8 Marcus Ericsson 75 7.8193 0.6655 10 18 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
5 20 Conor Daly 75 9.6535 1.8342  0 4 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
6 7 Felix Rosenqvist 75 11.0949 1.4414 4 6 Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
7 77 Callum Ilott 75 11.4814 0.3865  0 7 Chevy Juncos Hollinger Racing
8 51 Takuma Sato 75 11.5104 0.0290  0 13 Honda Dale Coyne Racing w/RWR
9 30 Christian Lundgaard 75 11.8047 0.2943  0 8 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
10 9 Scott Dixon 75 13.9916 2.1869  0 21 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
11 27 Alexander Rossi 75 16.7300 2.7384  0 16 Honda Andretti Autosport
12 18 David Malukas 75 17.9817 1.2517  0 24 Honda Dale Coyne Racing with HMD
13 45 Jack Harvey 75 19.5748 1.5931  0 9 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
14 06 Helio Castroneves 75 24.4881 4.9133  0 19 Honda Meyer Shank Racing
15 11 Tatiana Calderon 75 31.9259 7.4378 1 25 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
16 15 Graham Rahal 75 41.8037 9.8778  0 12 Honda Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
17 5 Pato O’Ward 75 45.9585 4.1548 5 5 Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
18 3 Scott McLaughlin 75 53.1982 7.2397 5 11 Chevy Team Penske
19 28 Romain Grosjean 74 1 LAPS 58.7249  0 10 Honda Andretti Autosport
20 10 Alex Palou 74 1 LAPS 25.1823  0 2 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
21 29 Devlin DeFrancesco 73 2 LAPS 1 LAPS  0 17 Honda Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
22 48 Jimmie Johnson 73 2 LAPS 7.2796  0 27 Honda Chip Ganassi Racing
23 21 Rinus VeeKay 73 In Pit 9.9917  0 15 Chevy Ed Carpenter Racing
24 6 Juan Pablo Montoya 72 Contact 0.6052  0 23 Chevy Arrow McLaren SP
25 2 Josef Newgarden 60 15 LAPS 12 LAPS  0 3 Chevy Team Penske
26 14 Kyle Kirkwood 53 Contact 2.2794  0 22 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises
27 4 Dalton Kellett 34 Contact 2.0912  0 26 Chevy AJ Foyt Enterprises

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 90.008 mph
Time of Race: 02:01:56.3273
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 8 for 31
Lead changes: 10 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders:
O’Ward, Pato 1 – 2
Rosenqvist, Felix 3 – 4
Herta, Colton 5 – 31
O’Ward, Pato 32
Rosenqvist, Felix 33 – 34
Calderon, Tatiana 35
Ericsson, Marcus 36 – 45
Herta, Colton 46 – 59
McLaughlin, Scott 60 – 64
O’Ward, Pato 65 – 66
Herta, Colton 67 – 75

Power 170, Palou 156, McLaughlin 152, Newgarden 140, Dixon 133, Herta 132, O’Ward 126, Ericsson 117, Grosjean 114, VeeKay 113.


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