Colton Herta won the 2021 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with dominance

Starting from Car 26 Colton Herta Honda, won the 2021 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. This is his 4th NTT IndyCar Series win & 1st win of 2021. 2nd Car 2 Josef Newgarden Chevrolet, started from 3rd place. 3rd Place Car 22 Simon Pagenaud Chevrolet, started from 4th place.

Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta and Simon Pagenaud – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Owens

4th Place Car 60 Jack Harvey Honda, started from 2nd place followed by 5th Car 9 Scott Dixon Honda, started from 8th place. 6th Place Car 30 Takuma Sato Honda, started from 15th place followed by 7th place Car 8 Marcus Ericsson Honda, started from 16th place. 8th Place Car 12 Will Power Chevrolet, started from 20th place followed by 9th place Car 21 Rinus VeeKay Chevrolet, started from 7th place. Lastly in the Top 10 was Car 14 Sebastien Bourdais Chevrolet, in 10th place, started from 5th place. Canadian Car 29 James Hinchcliffe Honda, finished in 12th place. Canadian Car 4 Dalton Kellett Chevrolet, finished in 23rd place.

Colton Herta – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones

The race had 3 Cautions for 9 laps. Caution Summary: 1st Caution on lap 18 for Contact: Car 48 in Turn 13. 2nd Caution on lap 73 for Contact: Car 48 in Turn 3. 3rd Caution on lap 80 for Contact: Car 18 and 29 in Turn 4.

Jimmie Johnson – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Owens

The race had 3 Lead changes among 3 drivers. Leader Summary Driver Laps Led: 26 Herta, Colton 97, 10 Palou, Alex 2, 22 Pagenaud, Simon 1. Lap Leaders: Herta 1-34, Pagenaud 35, Palou 36-37, Herta 38-100.

Opening lap – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Owens

NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings: Palou 67, Power 65, Dixon 65, Herta 62, Pagenaud 54, Harvey 51, Bourdais 51, VeeKay 51, Ericsson 50, Newgarden 47.

The field takes the green flag – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones
Colton Herta – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones
AMR Safety Team – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Jones
James Hinchcliffe – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — Photo by: Chris Owens

Dominant Herta Grabs First 2021 Win at Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Sunday, April 25, 2021) – Colton Herta put the disappointment of a tough season opener behind him to dominate the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, earning his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory of the season.

NTT P1 Award winner Herta led a race-record 97 of 100 laps from the pole in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda to win by 2.4933 seconds over two-time series champion Josef Newgarden in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud finished third in the No. 22 Menards/Australian Gold Team Penske Chevrolet on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit.

Herta’s average speed was 96.552 mph in a race slowed by just three full-course cautions for nine laps. All 24 drivers in the starting field coped with air temperatures in the low 80s and high humidity, sapping every bit of their world-class fitness over one hour, 51 minutes in the cockpit.

“What a great job by everybody,” Herta said. “Sorry, I can barely talk; I’m so winded. I’m so happy we did this, so happy to rebound from Barber and get the momentum going for the season that we need, which is a championship season.”

Front-row starter Jack Harvey ended up fourth in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda. Six-time and defending series champion Scott Dixon finished fifth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

The strong finishes for Herta and Newgarden erased memories of a rugged season opener for both last Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park. Herta finished 22nd and Newgarden 23rd in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst after Newgarden spun on the first lap and collected multiple cars, including Herta’s machine.

Barber race winner Alex Palou finished 17th today in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda but kept the championship lead, 67-65, over Will Power. 2014 series champion Power rallied from a 20th starting spot to finish eighth in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet.

Herta, who started the race on the Firestone “red” alternate tires, chose Firestone “black” primary tires on his final pit stop on Lap 67. Newgarden was forced to use the “reds” on his final stop on Lap 67 since he started on “blacks” and used another set of primary tires on his first stop.

It appeared tire strategy would be moot three laps after those final stops, as Herta was on cruise control and led Newgarden by 9.4390 seconds on Lap 70. But rookie Jimmie Johnson spun and clipped the inside wall in Turn 3 with his No. 48 Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing Honda on Lap 73, triggering the second full-course caution and evaporating Herta’s big lead.

On the ensuing restart on Lap 76, Newgarden and his grippier alternate tires made a run at Herta but couldn’t get close enough to pass. But then the No. 18 SealMaster Honda of Ed Jones, the No. 29 Genesys Honda of James Hinchcliffe and the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of Pato O’Ward made contact in Turn 4 on Lap 79, triggering the final full-course caution on Lap 80.

Two-time defending St. Petersburg race winner Newgarden got another chance to make a run at Herta on the restart on Lap 83, but Herta held him off. Newgarden stayed close to Herta in a gripping, all-American duel for the next 10 laps, but Herta kept his California cool and pulled away gradually for victory over Tennessee titan Newgarden.

“He’s so good around here,” Herta said of Newgarden. “I was nervous because he was on those new red tires. I thought they were going to be better. But they ended up being similar (to the primary tires), so I was able to hold him off.”

Said Newgarden: “We lost a little too much ground on that second stint to capitalize on the reds. Then we had the caution, which almost gifted us another chance. I just didn’t want to overextend myself today. I felt like I had close to an opportunity, but Colton was really good. He was doing a great job on the restarts.

“Congrats to Colton. It’s a great rebound for both of us. I felt bad about what happened last week, so really happy he got back on it today and had a very deserved victory. I wish we could have fought him a bit more. We were just lacking a little bit.”

It was the fourth career victory for Herta, 21, in his third season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. He matched the INDYCAR SERIES win total of his father, Bryan Herta, who competed from 1994-2006 and now calls race strategy for his son for Andretti Autosport.

“That was awesome,” Herta said. “I love that he’s on my radio.”

The first oval events of the season are next on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule, with a doubleheader next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. The Genesys 300 is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ET) Saturday, May 1, with the XPEL 375 set for 5 p.m. Sunday, May 2.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Race Results

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Results Sunday of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg NTT INDYCAR SERIES event on the 1.8-mile streets of St. Petersburg circuit, with order of finish, starting position, car #, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. 1. Car 26 Herta, Colton Honda, 100, Running
2. 3. Car 2 Newgarden, Josef, Chevrolet, 100, Running
3. 4. Car 22 Pagenaud, Simon, Chevrolet, 100, Running
4. 2. Car 60 Harvey, Jack, Honda, 100, Running
5. 8. Car 9 Dixon, Scott, Honda, 100, Running
6. 15. Car 30 Sato, Takuma, Honda, 100, Running
7. 16. Car 8 Ericsson, Marcus, Honda, 100, Running
8. 20. Car 12 Power, Will, 100, Running
9. 7. Car 21 VeeKay, Rinus, Chevrolet, 100, Running
10. 5. Car 14 Bourdais, Sebastien, Chevrolet, 100, Running
11. 14. Car 3 McLaughlin, Scott (R), Chevrolet, 100, Running
12. 17. Car 7 Rosenqvist, Felix, Chevrolet, 100, Running
13. 18. Car 51 Grosjean, Romain (R), Honda, 100, Running
14. 13. Car 28 Hunter-Reay, Ryan, Honda, 100, Running
15. 9. Car 15 Rahal, Graham, Honda, 100, Running
16. 19. Car 20 Daly, Conor, Chevrolet, 100, Running
17. 10. Car 10 Palou, Alex, Honda, 99, Running
18. 12. Car 29 Hinchcliffe, James, Honda, 99, Running – Canadian
19. 6. Car 5 O’Ward, Pato, Chevrolet, 99, Running
20. 21. Car 18 Jones, Ed, Honda, 99, Running
21. 11. Car 27 Rossi, Alexander, Honda, 98, Running
22. 23. Car 48 Johnson, Jimmie (R), Honda, 95, Running
23. 24. Car 4 Kellett, Dalton, Chevrolet, 67, Off Course – Canadian 
24. 22. Car 59 Chilton, Max, Chevrolet, 18, Mechanical

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 96.552 mph
Time of Race: 1:51:51.4115
Margin of victory: 2.4933 seconds
Cautions: 3 for 9 laps
Lead changes: 3 among 3 drivers

Next Event: Genesys 300 Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, May 2

Graphics & Photos Courtesy of INDYCAR

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