Quick Thoughts- Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

I am officially old. I saw Bryan Herta win races as an adult and have now seen his son win races.

Colton Herta put on a master driving clinic today., He led all but three laps and pulled away from Josef Newgarden on two late restarts.

Herta has tied his father Bryan on the career victory list with his fourth win today. He will pass his dad later this season.

The tire choices to start the 4ace made for some interesting tactic. The field was split evenly between primary and alternates. Hearts said after the race he didn’t notice much difference.

Still waiting for Alexander Rossi to have a decent weekend. Rossi expected to fight for the title but is mired in 16th place after two frustrating weekends.

While their finishes at Barber may hurt their championship chances a bit, both Herta and Newgarden did what they needed to do to get back in the hunt.

Pato O’Ward struggled in the morning warmup and was never a factor in the race. Fortunately, it is still early in the season, but he needs good results at Texas next weekend.

Will Power and Scott Dixon have shown early season consistency. Dixon is the only driver with two Top 5s. Power is one of three drivers with two Top 10s. Dixon and Power are tied for second, two points behind Palou. Palou’s lead is two because he led two laps today.

Sebastien Bourdais has brought the Foyt car home in the top 10 the past three races, going back to the 2020 season finale. It was a bit of a tough day, but if they can have a decent showing on the ovals, atop 10 points finish is possible.

Despite Herta being way out front most of the day, there was some great action back in the pack, Takuma Sato moved up nine spots from where hje started, and Power improved 12 positions.

Turn one was a festival of cars banging together. Only a few times did the collisions affect someone’s race. James Hinchcliffe was hit hard by Sato and fell back.

Chip Ganassi Racing is more than Dixon in 2021. Last Week Alex Palou won the race. Today Marcus Ericsson came from 16th to finish seventh. Paired with Dixon’s fifth place finish, Ganasssi ahs put two cars in the top 10 in both races.

While the youngsters have had fun these past two weekends, the ovals is where the veterans take over. Ovals are a veterans’ game.

Notes

The crowd seemed bigger than the 20,000 limit.

The social distance seating plan was not adhered to. In Grandstand 10,several rows were completely filled an consecutive rows had fans in them. None of the stand attendants monitored the situation. I hope IMS will have stricter policies about the grandstands in May.

It was nice to be back at the St. Pete Grand Prix. This the first event I have been to since 2019 that had more of a normal feel to it.

Thanks to everyone who followed along this weekend.

Quick Thoughts- Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

I am officially old. I saw Bryan Jetta win races as an adult and have now seen his son win races.

Colton Herta put on a master driving clinic today., He led all but three laps and pulled away from Josef Newgarden on two late restarts.

Herta has tied his father Bryan on the career victory list with his fourth win today. He will pass his dad later this season.

The tire choices to start the 4ace made for some interesting tactic. The field was split evenly between primary and alternates. Hearts said after the race he didn’t notice much difference.

Still waiting for Alexander Rossi to have a decent weekend. Rossi expected to fight for the title but is mired in 16th place after two frustrating weekends.

While their finishes at Barber may hurt their championship chances a bit, both Herta and Newgarden did what they needed to do to get back in the hunt.

Pato O’Ward struggled in the morning warmup and was never a factor in the race. Fortunately, it is still early in the season, but he needs good results at Texas next weekend.

Will Power and Scott Dixon have shown early season consistency. Dixon is the only driver with two Top 5s. Power is one of three drivers with two Top 10s. Dixon and Power are tied for second, two points behind Palou. Palou’s lead is two because he led two laps today.

Sebastien Bourdais has brought the Foyt car home in the top 10 the past three races, going back to the 2020 season finale. It was a bit of a tough day, but if they can have a decent showing on the ovals, atop 10 points finish is possible.

Despite Herta being way out front most of the day, there was some great action back in the pack, Takuma Sato moved up nine spots from where hje started, and Power improved 12 positions.

Turn one was a festival of cars banging together. Only a few times did the collisions affect someone’s race. James Hinchcliffe was hit hard by Sato and fell back.

Chip Ganassi Racing is more than Dixon in 2021. Last Week Alex Palou won the race. Today Marcus Ericsson came from 16th to finish seventh. Paired with Dixon’s fifth place finish, Ganasssi ahs put two cars in the top 10 in both races.

While the youngsters have had fun these past two weekends, the ovals is where the veterans take over. Ovals are a veterans’ game.

Notes

The crowd seemed bigger than the 20,000 limit.

The social distance seating plan was not adhered to. In Grandstand 10,several rows were completely filled an consecutive rows had fans in them. None of the stand attendants monitored the situation. I hope IMS will have stricter policies about the grandstands in May.

It was nice to be back at the St. Pete Grand Prix. This the first event I have been to since 2019 that had more of a normal feel to it.

Thanks to everyone who followed along this weekend.

Herta Expects to Contend Again; Hopes Father Knows Best

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

No one on the Indycar Content day zoom conference was surprised to hear Colton Herta make his intentions to be in position to win the series championship this year.

“I wouldn’t be in INDYCAR if I didn’t have the confidence in myself to perform. Yes, I believe I can. I think we showed it last year of what could have been. If I didn’t have that slip up at Iowa, mess that up for us, we could have been really good in the championship hunt going into the last round,” he responded when asked if he could win the championship this season.

Herta exuded his usual confidence during the conference. He seemed more focused and calmer than he has the last two years. . He knows he has the driving talent to win and the team to help him get there. What does he need to go from third to first in the title chase?

“… cutting out the mistakes, changing kind of those top fives, fourth and fifth places that we had last year, we had a bunch of them, into podiums, and some of those podiums we had into wins. We need to win a little bit more and we need a little bit more podiums, a tiny bit more consistency to really make a true championship run.”

One thing that will change on Herta’s team will be his race strategist. Bryan Herta, Colton’s father, will be in his ear during races. The elder Herta is one of the best strategists in the paddock. He managed fuel strategy for Alexander Rossi in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. Fathers as their son’s strategist has not worked well in the past. Michael Andretti was Marco’s strategist, which didn’t pan out. Bobby Rahal was on the radio for Graham one year. That was not a good situation Why will this arrangement work out better than the previous ones?

Colton explained, “I think you can tell by now that we’re both pretty mellow. We don’t get excited and we don’t get upset or very sad. We stay pretty even. Our emotions don’t really get the better of us. I think in that aspect, I think the other personalities will get heated at each other, where I don’t think it would happen with us because of how mellow we are.”

Winning more races and eliminating mistakes are what Herta believes will bring him the championship. He hopes he can bring his dad along for the ride to the top.


Herta Moves to the 26 and Other Notes

Image from Andretti Autosport Twitter

Colton Herta is moving his office down the hall at Andretti Autosport, moving from the Hardin Steinbrenner Andretti number 88 to the Gainbridge number 26 of Andretti Autosport. Herta essentially replaces Zach Veach, who brought Gainbridge sponsorship to Andretti in 2017. Gainbridge also is the presenting sponsor of the Indianapolis 500.

The multi year deal gives the three time winner beginning his third Indycar season the sponsor stability he has lacked his first two seasons. The number 26 was Herta’s number in his karting days, and it was also his father Bryan’s number when he drove the Andretti Green Acura LMP2.

The number 88’s driver will be named at a later date. Mike Harding and George Steinbrenner continue their association with that car. I’m expecting James Hinchcliffe to get that ride, and it is possible the car may carry a different number.

Ferrari-In or Out?

Conflicting stories abound about whether ferrari is still in talks with Indycar regarding their involvement as a third OEM. Saturday a published report said they were no longer involved. Penske immediately responded with a statement saying Indycar was still in discussion with the italian manufacturer. A report today seems to indicate that conversations are still ongoing.

No matter the status of the talks, I don’t ever expect to see a Ferrari in any form running in an Indycar race. Ferrari is known to tease companies an organizations to use as leverage for something more.

Ferrucci to XFinity?

Santino Ferrucci reportedly has signed a deal to run 20 races in the NASCAR XFinity Series in 2021. Ferrucci, who drove for Dale Coyne racing with Vasser Sullivan the last two years, has not resigned with the team. This deal might make a full Indycar season difficult.

Ferrucci was Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year in 2018. He finished 13th in the standings in 2020.

Herta Leads Warm Up

Colton herta led an incident free morning warmup session for this afternoons’ Firestone Grand Prix of St. petersburg, the final NTT Indycar Series race of the season. Points leader Scott Dixon was second, and runner up Josef Newgarden finished ninth.

Pole winner Will Power was focused on fuel runs and was 16th in the session.

The race may be a fuel saving two stop race. The Pit Windows are expected to be between laps 30-35 and 60-65. I anticipate many teams to start on reds, hope for a yellow to be done with them for the day, and rub the rest of the race on the primary tires.

Race coverage begins at 2:30 Eastern on NBC, with the green flag at 2:32.

The top six:

Herta Leads Practice; McLaughlin Shows Speed

Colton Herta was fastest in the lone practice session for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. James Hinccliffe was second, followed by Alex Palou. Scott McLaughlin, in his first Indycar session, finished 10th, although he was in second place for a while.

Championship contenders josef newgarden and Scott Dixon had so-so results. Newgarden ended in 8th and Dixon 15th. Dixon hit the wall mid session and may have damaged a toe link on the right rear. he led the session for a short time.

Alexander Rossi also hit the wall at the exit of turn 2 and damaged a toe link. He returned to finish 6th.

Sebastien Bourdais was 5th in his third drive of the year for A. j. Foyt Racing.

The practice period was clean until Felix Rosenqvist spun in turn 12 with just over five minutes left. There was no damage and the session restarted with 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining. Before anyone could get a hot lap in, Oliver Askew and Scott McLaughlin went off track with about 30 seconds left, ending the practice time.

The top 12:

Herta Seeks to Build on Momentum from Mid Ohio Win

Photo: Colton Herta celebrates his win at Mid Ohio. Indycar, Chris Owens

Colton Herta hopes to convert the momentum gained from his race 2 victory at Mid Ohio into at least one win this weekend in the Harvest Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A sweep would help him in his bid to overtake Josef Newgarden for second place in the point standings. Herta trails points leader Scott Dixon by 118 points. Newgarden trails by 72 points.

“I mean, I think if you’re not going for the championship, you’re kind of mindset is to win races. That’s really the mindset. Obviously don’t overextend it and throw a good result away. I have a little bit to lose.Obviously we need to do well. If we really do want to get second place in the championship, we need to win another race. I think we do need a little bit of help from Josef on this weekend., ” Herta told media this morning.

For the races this weekend, in cooler temperatures than Indycar normally encounters at IMS, Herta is unsure what to expect.

“I’m not really sure what it will do for the racing. I think there’s a possibility that guys will try different downforce options if it’s that much cooler. This is a place you can sometimes get away with trimming if it’s a little bit cooler because how long the straights are, no major high-speed corners. It might be interesting in the race tosee what people go for with downforce options that might open up the passing a little bit.”

Herta has been impressed with the rookies this year. Although this is his second year in the series, he is already looking over his shoulder. He commented on the rookies.

“…it just seems like the series is getting tougher and tougher. Another really good crop of rookies. Definitely makes you work harder. You know there’s a lot of guys coming in that are really fast and can take your seat. Yeah, definitely makes you work really hard.”

Herta would like to see IMS change the track configuration for Race 2.

“I think I would love to maybe see — I think you could do it each day, do a different track each day where you can have the turn one like the Formula 1 cars used to use, I think that might make overtaking a little bit better. The other day you can do the normal track. You can practice on the normal track, run it Sunday, shouldn’t be a huge adjustment to run the track Sunday.”

He likes the shortened format that has been used on the short ovals this year, but still thinks road courses should stay with the full weekend program.

Herta is happy that he got a victory this season. It will help him approach the final three races a bit more relaxed.

“I think just a bit of relief that we got the win in this year. I think it’s important for me to win at least once a year. I think for a lot of guys, they feel the same way. It was nice to get that win done, kind of take it off my shoulders, kind of push forward.”

Practice for the Harvest Grand Prix negins Thursday at 2;25 PM Eastern time.

Quick Thoughts- Mid Ohio Race 2: The Weekend Andretti Needed

Photo: Matt Fraver, Indycar

Andretti Autosport took out their season long frustration on the Mid Ohio track this weekend. Outside of Marco Andretti’s  pole at Indianapolis and a third place for Alexander Rossi at Road America in Race 2, not much has gone right for the team. This weekend’s team record: four of the six podium spots, including a podium sweep yesterday; a pole, a victory, two front row starts, and 66 laps led.

Colton Herta owned yesterday. He edged Santino Ferrucci for the pole, and drove a clinical , masterful race similar to his win at Laguna Seca last year. Herta has moved to fourth in the standings with his third career win. Ferrucci’s fast lap in the first qualifying group was amazing. The track was still very wet, yet he easily topped the rest of his section.

Seventh place for Will Power yesterday had to seem like a win for him. After his Saturday dominance, Power spun on his qualifying out lap and started 17th. He could have started further back had  other drivers not had issues as well.

Scott Dixon’s drive after his spin was the most exciting thing to watch the last 50 laps. His last lap pass on VeeKay, who has made some incredible passes himself this year, was a beautiful inside move in turn 4. Dixon got just 1 more point for the effort, but he needs every point he can get. Newgarden has gained 44 points on Dixon in the last three races. Dixon still has a 72 point lead with as many as three races to go.

While there wasn’t much drama at the front of the field, there was again some very entertaining action behind the leaders.

I understand the need to shorten the races on a double header weekend this season, but 5 more laps might have made this pair of races more interesting. It was  obvious they would be two stop races with little room for strategy. The lack of yellows Saturday and the the two very early yellows Sunday didn’t allow for any changes to teams’ original plans.

Ferrucci may be a decent driver ( I’m still not completely sold on him) , but he needs to be a little less impulsive. Coming back on the track the way he did could have made the first lap incident much worse than it was.

Rinus VeeKay was just half a lap short of getting two top tens. Dixon’s pass on the last lap knocked him back to 11th Sunday after his 8th place finish Saturday. Overall, this was one of Ed Carpenter racing’s strongest rtoad course weekends in awhile. Conor Daly was in position Saturday fora top ten until a fuel issue droped him back in the last couple of laps.

Alexander Rossi finally had a decent weekend. Perhaps the most frustrated driver on the Andretti Autosport team, Rossi move in to podium spots quickly both days and didn’t yield his position. I hope he can continue this weekend’s strong run into the Harvest Classic.

Mid Ohio Sports Car Course did a great job with COVID protocols. people kept their distance, staff not only enforced the mask requirement, they also enforced the number of people per square limit. I only saw one group with more than the four person limit in a square, and a staff member asked them to split up. They complied. The track hopes to get clearance for a larger crowd for the IMSA race in two weeks.

I didn’t understand why the grandstands were closed. I thought that have in some of them open would allow the crowd to spread out even more. It seemed as if the majority of the 6,000 spectators were in the esses.

Was this the last Indycar weekend where fans will be allowed? there is no word yet on the situation for the Harvest Classic at IMS. I am still not optimistic about St. Pete happening. With the success that othet tracks have had with limited crowd sizes and the plan IMS produced for the 500, I think a limited number of fans could attend. We should know soon.