SPEEDWAY, Ind. — In a race that saw conditions walk a tight rope between running wet tires or dry tires, Colton Herta rose to the occasion with some gutsy strategy calls to take his first win of the season.
It’s Herta’s seventh career win in the NTT IndyCar Series, and his first since winning the session finale at Long Beach last season.
Simon Pagenaud flew under the radar all day long to take second, and Will Power, after starting on pole and dropping back because of the unpredictable weather, came back to finish third.
Power’s finish puts him in the overall lead in the championship standings.
The race was designated a wet weather race at the start after a brief shower moved through before the start, requiring each driver to start on wet weather tires. But, with the rain having moved out, the track dried out quickly and Colton Herta was the first to bite at putting on faster dry tires.
That strategy allowed Herta to lead a majority of the race
“It sure helped us,” said Herta. “That was the hardest race I think I’ve ever done, going from wet to red, red to wet, it was nuts. Fortunately, we were in the right position. We went from 15th to first!”
Herta nearly spun out a couple of laps after pitting but kept the car under him in a miraculous save that looked like he drifted the car through a turn.
But, Herta had to fight both mother nature and lady luck to stay in first. Through the middle section of the race, the threat of rain and severe weather returned.
The radar was not looking promising, but as luck would have it, IndyCar never issued a stoppage of the race with no lightning to speak of in the area. Still, the threat kept drivers and strategists on edge about whether to put on wet tires or keep faster slick tires on a modestly wet track.
Herta and the rest of the field stayed on slick tires up to the very edge.
“We thought it was going to dry out a little bit,” Herta said. “We stayed on slicks, and when we got out there I knew it was going to be tough. We made the wrong choice, but luckily everyone followed in our direction.”
It got wetter instead, with the whole field eventually going on wet tires again to finish the race. Because of the long caution periods, the race exceeded its time limit to get all 85 laps in. Instead, the race finished on time, with 75 laps completed and Herta leading the final one.
A late spin and crash by Juan Pablo Montoya forced the final caution to fly and secured the win for Herta.
Marcus Ericsson overcame an altered strategy to finish fourth. Conor Daly came back from dropping to near the back and finished fifth, his best finish on a road course since placing second at Detroit in 2016.
Drivers will take the next two weeks preparing for the Indianapolis 500.