St. Petersburg IndyCar: Herta in control to beat Newgarden to victory

Colton Herta converted pole position into a controlled victory in the IndyCar race at St. Petersburg, holding off two late assaults from Josef Newgarden.

Herta had dominated proceedings at St. Petersburg, and although Penske’s Newgarden put the Andretti Autosport driver under pressure following two yellow flags in the final quarter of the race, Herta resisted his efforts to claim his fourth career IndyCar win.

From pole, Herta immediately began to clear the rest of the pack at the start and kept a healthy buffer between himself and Jack Harvey over the opening laps.

Herta was then able to control the early pace, and once more gapped Harvey after the opening yellow flag period for Jimmie Johnson – who came to a stop at the final hairpin and required roadside assistance.

But once Newgarden cleared Harvey approaching the first round of stops for the front-runners, Herta’s lead began to fall as his softer tyres began to wear compared to Newgarden’s harder tyres.

Newgarden remained on the hard tyres and Herta switched compounds to match his rival, who was seeking a third consecutive IndyCar win on the Floridian street circuit.

But Herta instead began to extend his lead throughout the middle period of the race, and built a stunning break over Newgarden.

Start, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport Honda, Jack Harvey, Meyer Shank Racing Honda, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet, Sebastien Bourdais, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet

Start, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport Honda, Jack Harvey, Meyer Shank Racing Honda, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet, Sebastien Bourdais, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

After extending his lead over Newgarden to 11s, Herta’s hopes of scampering further into the distance were dashed as Johnson brought out another caution period after spinning on the exit of Turn 3 with a quarter of the 100-lap race remaining.

Newgarden hustled Herta through the next three laps using his softer tyres, until his assault was paused by a further caution period as Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones was punted into a spin by Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward.

Once Jones got back on his way and green-flag racing returned, Newgarden restarted his efforts to pass Herta, spending some of his push-to-pass to try to clear the Andretti driver.

But with Herta on the more durable tyre, Newgarden dropped away in the final 10 laps and left Herta to clinch his first win on a street circuit – with the gap between the front two eventually clocked at 2.5s.

Simon Pagenaud, who had qualified alongside Penske team-mate Newgarden on the second row, claimed third position following a quiet race – with his only positional move being on Harvey to take the final step on the podium.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Harvey kept pace with Pagenaud, but could not return the favour and re-pass the Penske driver – finishing 1.9s adrift.

Scott Dixon put in a typically strong drive to claim fifth place, within a second of Harvey, while Takuma Sato was particularly lively in the early stages and made a number of swashbuckling moves to claim sixth.

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Sato’s only copybook blot was his tough move on James Hinchcliffe, which left the Andretti driver to drop a lap after suffering a puncture in the aftermath.

Chip Ganassi’s Marcus Ericsson was within touching distance of Sato by the end, but the Japanese driver held him off, while Will Power managed to recover from 20th on the grid to claim eighth following a measured race.

Rinus VeeKay took ninth, just half a second away from Power, with Sebastien Bourdais completing the top 10.

Bourdais had a fraught start, having sustained late repairs to his AJ Foyt-run car which meant he was only just able to take to the beginning of the race.

The Frenchman then tagged Newgarden at the start, adding damage to his nosecone and displacing a camera.

Scott McLaughlin was the highest-placed rookie in the race, finishing 11th for Team Penske ahead of Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist, with Romain Grosjean in 13th place for Dale Coyne Racing.

Graham Rahal and Alexander Rossi, who were in the fight for a strong top 10 result early on, fell down the order after the two tangled following their first stops.

Rossi, having completed his first stop to take on the red-walled softs, came to blows with Rahal who was looking to clear the Andretti driver with his warmer tyres.

Rahal tagged the defensive Rossi at Turn 4, and again coalesced at the Turn 5 run-off. Although both got going, Rahal fell down the order while Rossi was left with a burst tyre and had to escape to the pits.

IndyCar St. Petersburg results - 100 laps

Cla Driver Team Time Gap
1 United States Colton Herta United States Andretti Autosport 1:51'51.411  
2 United States Josef Newgarden United States Team Penske 1:51'53.904 2.493
3 France Simon Pagenaud United States Team Penske 1:51'57.561 6.149
4 United Kingdom Jack Harvey United States Meyer Shank Racing 1:51'59.494 8.083
5 New Zealand Scott Dixon United States Chip Ganassi Racing 1:52'00.361 8.949
6 Japan Takuma Sato United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:52'03.091 11.680
7 Sweden Marcus Ericsson United States Chip Ganassi Racing 1:52'03.350 11.939
8 Australia Will Power United States Team Penske 1:52'04.647 13.236
9 Netherlands Rinus van Kalmthout United States Ed Carpenter Racing 1:52'05.130 13.719
10 France Sébastien Bourdais United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 1:52'07.406 15.995
11 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin United States Team Penske 1:52'09.004 17.592
12 Sweden Felix Rosenqvist Arrow McLaren SP 1:52'09.975 18.563
13 France Romain Grosjean Dale Coyne Racing with RWR 1:52'14.139 22.727
14 United States Ryan Hunter-Reay United States Andretti Autosport 1:52'15.539 24.127
15 United States Graham Rahal United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 1:52'16.204 24.792
16 United States Conor Daly United States Ed Carpenter Racing 1:52'39.571 48.160
17 Spain Alex Palou United States Chip Ganassi Racing 1:51'51.251 1 Lap
18 Canada James Hinchcliffe Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 1:52'18.667 1 Lap
19 Mexico Patricio O'Ward Arrow McLaren SP 1:52'22.715 1 Lap
20 United Arab Emirates Ed Jones Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan 1:52'38.395 1 Lap
21 United States Alexander Rossi United States Andretti Autosport 1:52'19.059 2 Laps
22 United States Jimmie Johnson United States Chip Ganassi Racing 1:52'43.664 5 Laps
23 Canada Dalton Kellett United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 1:13'54.696 33 Laps
24 United Kingdom Max Chilton United Kingdom Carlin 25'26.704 82 Laps
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Herta "scratching my head" over tyres despite St. Petersburg pole
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