Herta picture-perfect at St. Petersburg

Photo Credit:Chris Owens/IndyCar

Colton Herta delivered a beatdown on the field on the Streets of St. Petersburg to take his first street-circuit win in the NTT IndyCar Series.

The 21-year-old led 97 of the race’s 100 laps and rebounded from an early exit to last week’s season opener at Barber.

He kicked off the 100-lap event by blitzing outside polesitter Jack Harvey and building a comfortable two-second lead over 15 laps.

The early pace slowed as Jimmie Johnson’s spin in Turn 14 on Lap 15 brought out the first full-course yellow. A few drivers pitted before the caution in an attempt to gain track position including the Team Penske duo of Scott McLaughlin and Will Power along with Felix Rosenqvist and Romain Grosjean.

The strategy ended up being for naught as none of the leaders pitted when the pits opened.

Herta continued his swift pace ahead of Harvey and the Team Penske brigade of Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. The lead grew to 4.12 seconds by lap 30 while Newgarden overtook Harvey for the runner-up spot.

Newgarden made good use of the position as he shaved two seconds off Herta’s lead in three laps before the duo pitted on Lap 35.

That promoted Pagenaud and Herta’s Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi to the top two spots before they made their scheduled stops on Lap 36. Rossi hit trouble on his out lap on cold tires as he made contact with Graham Rahal in Turn 4 which sent both drivers into the tire barrier.

Rahal motored away but Rossi lost two laps as he staggered back to the pits.

Herta cycled back to the lead on Lap 38 and continued where he left off and grew his lead to over 10 seconds throughout the stint ahead of Newgarden while Pagenaud, Harvey and Scott Dixon trailed.

The final round of pitstops for the leaders occurred on Lap 67 and gave Newgarden a potential chance to move up as he needed to utilize the option red tires while Herta was jammed with using the primary black tires.

Herta’s massive lead gave him a cushion that allowed him to retain the lead after the pit cycle, but that evaporated when Jimmie Johnson spun in Turn 3 on Lap 73.

That played into Newgarden’s hands with the soft red tires proving advantageous on restarts. Herta was not to be denied and never gave Newgarden a shot heading into the tight first turn.

He couldn’t rest easy as the yellow flew once more on Lap 80 for the spin and stalled car of Ed Jones. The slowdown didn’t hinder Herta’s hopes as he pulled away once more on the restart and cleared Newgarden by 2.4933s at the finish.

Newgarden led Team Penske 2-3 sweep of the podium in second ahead of Pagenaud rounding out out the podium

Jack Harvey claimed his first top-five finish since his podium in the 2019 Grand Prix of Indianapolis with a fourth-place finish while Scott Dixon rounded out the top five.

Takuma Sato improved from a disappointing 15th on the grid to take sixth at the end while Marcus Ericcson took his second straight top ten finish in eighth.

Will Power was the biggest mover of the day by taking eighth after starting 20th while Rinus VeeKay took home ninth ahead of Sebastien Bourdais in tenth.

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