IndyCar: Colton Herta dominates at St. Petersburg, denies Josef Newgarden three-peat

Colton Herta led all but three laps in the Firestone Grand Prix at St. Petersburg to win his first-ever street course race in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Despite a pair of late-race cautions, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was never in doubt. Colton Herta drove a precise and flawless race to win the second race of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season.

Herta started on the pole with soft compound tires and he wasted no time in putting a gap between him and the rest of the field. His day was relatively stress-free until an incident on Lap 73 caused a full-course caution and evaporated Herta’s 10-second lead over Josef Newgarden.

Herta was thought to be at a disadvantage when the race resumed on Lap 76. He switched to the hard compound tires a few laps before the caution, while Newgarden was on the soft tires which were better on short runs. Despite Newgarden being quicker, Herta never gave him a chance to pass.

He wasn’t out of the woods yet because another incident brought out the yellow flag on Lap 80. Herta had to fend off Newgarden one more time starting. The race restarted on Lap 84, and for the first few laps of the run, Newgarden was better through every turn except for turns 13 and 14. Herta drove the final two curves perfectly to prevent Newgarden from developing a run on the long front stretch. Eventually, Newgarden’s tires wore out and Herta cruised to a 2.5-second victory.

The podium finishes were huge for Herta and Newgarden as both drivers failed to finish at Barber Motorsports Park. Newgarden finished 23rd and Herta finished 22nd in the 2021 season opener. Herta leaped all the to sixth in the points standings thanks to the victory. Newgarden jumped 13 spots to 10th-place.

Herta matches father’s IndyCar win total

The victory is the fourth of Herta’s career. He matches his father Bryan Herta’s win total across CART and the Indy Racing League. However, Colton Herta won his fourth race at a much quicker pace. The Firestone Grand Prix was his 34th start in his third full season. Bryan Herta won his fourth race in his 158th start and was 10 years into his IndyCar career.

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