By: Spencer Neff
April 25, 2021
Just six months after crowning a champion, the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida welcomed back the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Here is the latest from Race Day on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit.
Colton Herta dominates at St. Petersburg
Last week, he was unable to complete a lap at Barber Motorsport Park after being involved in an opening crash. This weekend, Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta started on the pole and dominated, leading 97 of 100 laps to win the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
His 97 laps led breaks Helio Castroneves’ 2007 record for most laps led in a single race at the track.Herta is just the third driver to win from the pole at St. Petersburg and the first since Will Power in 2010. The average speed of 96.552 miles per hour is also a race record, as there just three cautions for nine laps (fewest since 2017-8).
It is Herta’s first win since Mid-Ohio Race 2 on September 13 and his fourth career win. That matches the number of wins his father, Bryan earned in his career. Bryan is Colton’s race strategist this year as well.
Falling 2.4933 seconds short of a three-peat at the track, Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden also rebounded from the opening lap crash last weekend to finish second. Newgarden’s teammate Simon Pagenaud completed the podium.
Despite finishing a lap down in 17th, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou maintains the points lead and is up by two on Team Penske’s Will Power and teammate Scott Dixon.
From the start, Herta led the way after an impressive qualifying run on Saturday. On Lap 16, Jimmie Johnson went off track between Turns 13 and 14 and into the tire barrier. After the Chip Ganassi Racing driver was unable to get his car restarted on his own, the first caution of the afternoon was displayed on Lap 18.
On Lap 19, Carlin Racing’s Max Chilton became the first driver out of the race after mechanical issues ended his day.
As is the nature of street course racing, there were several on-track collisions, including one between Graham Rahal and Alexander Rossi. Although there some flat tires and minor damages, no cautions or retirements were due to the early contact.
While the race continued under green, Herta built up a lead of more than 10 seconds before the second and final pit stop. Although he got away cleanly, the drama ramped up from there. On Lap 74, Johnson spun in Turn 3 and brought out the second caution flag of the day.
Six laps later, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Ed Jones made contact with James Hinchcliffe and Pato O’Ward. After Jones was unable to restart on his own, the yellow flag flew again. During the Lap 84 restart, Herta was able to get the jump on Newgarden and Pagenaud.
From there, Newgarden remained close but was unable to catch Herta.
Herta leads Final Warmup
After an impressive performance in qualifying, Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta led the Sunday morning warmup. The pole sitter ran a best time of 1m00.6632 (106.819 mph), .0136 of second ahead of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato.
With hotter temperatures and increased humidity expected during the afternoon race, teams began experimenting with possible cooling solutions on the cars. Among those was a “scoop” mounted on the aero screen of the cars. Despite the benefit, there was the slight disadvantage of extra drag on the cars.
Following a natural terrain road course and a temporary street circuit, the NTT IndyCar SERIES runs its first oval of 2021 next weekend.
The doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway begins with a 90-minute opening practice at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, May 1. Two-lap qualifying (Lap 1 determines Race 1 start, Lap 2 does so for Race 2 will be run at 4:00. The 212-lap Genesys 300 broadcast will begin at 7:00 p.m.
On Sunday, the 248-lap XPEL 375 broadcast begins at 5:00 p.m. Stay with IndyCar1909 for the latest on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and beyond.
Header Image By Chris Jones/INDYCAR