By: Spencer Neff
March 24, 2019 | 4:09 PM
In just his third NTT IndyCar Series start, Harding Steinbrenner Racing driver Colton Herta made history. The Valencia, California native won Sunday’s inaugural IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, and with the win, he became the youngest race winner in series history.
Herta broke the record previously held by Graham Rahal who won in 2008 at St. Petersburg. Two weeks ago, the 18-year-old recorded a previous best finish of eighth at St. Petersburg. Herta is also the first driver under the age of 19 to win an IndyCar race, as he will celebrate that birthday on March 30.
It is also the first win in the series for Harding Steinbrenner Racing. The team made their debut as Harding Racing at the 2017 Indianapolis 500. At Texas Motor Speedway in June of 2017, Gabby Chaves recorded the team’s only other top five by finishing 5th.
Despite showing speed throughout testing and Friday’s opening practice at the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course, Herta’s team faced a setback early on as they worked feverishly to replace a blown engine from Friday’s first practice.
After starting a career-best fourth, Herta ran near the front most of the day. However, he would need some luck to turn his way to earn his maiden victory. IndyCar’s debut at Circuit of The Americas saw action throughout the field during the day.
From the start, there were a few movers toward the back half of the top ten. In his 2019 debut, Carlin Racing driver Pato O’Ward moved from eighth to sixth, while Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci moved up two spots after starting 11th.
Soon after the first round of pit stops, Herta overtook Rossi for second and set his sights on Power.
The front-runners had stayed the same for the early part of the race. Meanwhile, the action between the midpack runners was fast and furious. During the start, Andretti Autosport driver Zach Veach spun, but was asble to continue on.
Less than halfway through the race, Anders Krohn of IndyCar Radio relayed that there had already been 113 passes for position. By the halfway point, Firestone Racing’s Twitter reported that number increased to 127. At the end of the race, there were 188 passes (144 for position).
The green-flag stretch that had started the race ended on Lap 43. In Turn 19, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe made contact with Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist.
Rosenqvist spun off of the nose of Hinchcliffe’s Honda and crashed into the inside retaining wall, prompting the race’s first full-course yellow flag. Rosenqvist would finish the day five laps off the leaders after an impressive showing throughout his first two starts. Hinchcliffe suffered a flat tire from the contact.
During the caution, the top three of Power, Rossi and Dixon pitted. As he left pit road, Power stalled. The No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet never lost engine connection, though early diagnosis from Power thought it was a parts failure.
Power informed NBCSN’s Marty Snyder that driveshaft issues put him out of the race, and out of contention for the $100,000 bonus available from the track if he were to win from pole.
On the restart, Herta took off and pulled away from Newgarden. There were several battles for position further back. This included another series of unfortunate events for Veach, as the Andretti Autosport driver made contact with Scott Dixon and sustained right-front tire and front wing damage. Veach continued on to finish 22nd.
Up front, Herta continued to pull away. On Lap 54, he turned the quickest lap of the day (1m48.8953s), and in the end, Herta would finish 2.7182 seconds ahead of St. Petersburg winner Josef Newgarden.
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal completed a 1-2-3-4 for American-born drivers. Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan driver Sebastien Bourdais rebounded from another tough-luck qualifying session in 2019 to finish fifth.
After two races, Newgarden holds an 18-point advantage over Herta in the standings.
The NTT IndyCar Series will take a week off before returning to action April 5-7. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama from Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham Alabama will be run. The race is scheduled for a live broadcast on NBCSN and the IndyCar Radio Network on April 7.
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels as we provide the latest recaps from Circuit of The Americas and previews headed to Barber Motorsports Park.
Header image courtesy of INDYCAR Media.