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.

 

Herta Wins Pole, Ferrucci on Front Row

Colton Herta survived a wet and wild qualifying session to take the pole for Race 2 at Mid Ohio. Yesterday’s pole winner Will Power spun on his out lap, causing a red flag . He will start at the rear of the field.

Jack Harvey spun and crashed into the there’s causing some damage to the rear of the car. Pato O’Ward also spun but his car was not damaged.

Both group sessions were disjointed with red flag interruptions.

Points leader Scott Dixon will start 3rd. Josef Newgarden, who trails Dixon by 76 points, starts 9th.

Starting Lineup coming in a bit.

Update: Herta Transporter Catches Fire; Car Okay

Andretti Autosport issued the following statements on Twitter @FollowAndretti around 11 am ET:

At this time, damages to the 88 car appear to be minor and cosmetic, caused by heat, smoke and/or water. We have no current reason to believe that any competition or mechanical aspects of the 88 car have been damaged or compromised. (cont.)

Andretti Autosport
@FollowAndretti
Our Indy Lights team is in Florida for testing and is now in route to St. Pete to help evaluate and assess. Additionally, we are sending a team of INDYCAR crewman from Indianapolis to St. Pete today – in advance of the full team’s arrival tomorrow morning. (cont.)

Andretti Autosport
@FollowAndretti

We are also preparing backup pit equipment at our Indy race shop, this equipment & a spare transporter will depart Indianapolis today as well. Again, we would like to express our gratitude to our transport drivers & local fire departments for their quick responses & support.

 

The transporter carrying Colton Herta’s number 88 car to the Firestone Grand Prix caught fire early this morning just about 15 minutes from the track. An update just a few minutes ago reported that the car was not damaged, but there is extensive damage to the pit equipment.

Herta is expected to be a contender for the NTT Indycar Series championship. Follow along all day for updates.

My guess is the fire was caused by brake failure. A similar incident involving a Penske transporter happened in the early 2000s. I believe it Helio Castroneves’ car, but I’m not sure. He went on to win the race.

Update from Nathan Brown if the Indianapolis Star:

Quick Thoughts- Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

I always wish that that there is still one more race after the season ending event. This year it seems I wish that even more. After a race like that, I’m really sad to see this year end.

If it’s September, a Herta is succeeding at Laguna Seca.

I’m not sure what the race looked on television, but here at the track there was lots of action and intrigue. There were great battles at the front of the field all day.

A masterful job by Colton Herta, who has learned how to manage tires. He should be in the conversation for the title next year. It was a nice way to end the season for  his current team.

Great rebound for Felix Rosenqvist after his qualifying penalty. His fifth place finish sealed Rookie of the Year.

Four poles and two wins is an outstanding record for this rookie class. More on the rookies next week.

All seven winners this year won multiple races.

I saw lots of action from my viewing spot in turn 2. It’s another spot here where most of the track can be seen.

Josef Newgarden has two titles in three years. Could he be the next Scott Dixon?

Simon Pagenaud said, “Do not repave the track. Leave it as it is. It creates the perfect racing. I hope nothing changes. It is the perfect format.”

I don’t remember a season when the contenders going into the final race had all had finishes below 15th at some point in the year.

It will be nice to see a car carrying the number 1 again next season. I think it should be mandatory for the champion to carry it on his car the following year.

 

I have lots of people to thank for making this season  a great one for The Pit Window. I will expand on that next week. But today I will thank everyone for reading all season. I still have some big things coming the next few months.

Some photos from today.

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Quick Thoughts- Laguna Seca Qualifying

Photo: Kyle McInnes

It was a strange grouping to have all the title contenders in Group 1. They all advanced.

Felix Rosenqvist may have thrown the pole away with his incident. He had the fastest lap but was not allowed to advance. We may have missed a great battle between two rookies for the pole.

Herta’s pole is to Newgarden’s advantage since none of the drivers chasing him earned the bonus point.

If Herta can win poles with his current team, imagine what he can do with the full force of Andretti behind him next year.

It was nice to see Max Chilton make the second round.

Newgarden just needs to hold his starting position tomorrow to win the championship.

Will Power missed the Fast Six by just 0.0055 seconds.

Herta’s pole continues the family history of poles at Weather tech Raceway Laguna Seca. His fATHER bRYn won the pole in 1997, 1998, and 1999, Bryan also won the race in 1997 and 1998.

Rookies now have four poles this season.

I look for Newgarden to be a bit conservative tomorrow at the start. he doesn’t necessarily have to finish ahead of Rossi to wrap up the title.

Save your liver- don’t make your drinking game word iconic.

Back tomorrow morning with a quick preview. Thanks for following along this weekend.

 

Herta Leads Rookie Parade in Practice 1

Colton Herta continues to be the fastest at Weather Tech Raceway as he led two other rookies in the NTT Indycar Series first practice. Herta’s fast lap of 1:10.7235 was just a tick slower than his fast time yesterday. Felx Rosenqvist was second and Santino Ferrucci was third. Rosenqvist leads Ferrucci by 26 points for Rookie of the Year. Herta is 49 points behind Rosenqvist.

Alexander Rossi completed just 4 laps and had the slowest speed in the session. Simon Pagenaud in 6th was the quickest of the title contenders.  Points leader Josef Newgarden was 9th.

There was one red flag during practice for Tony Kanaan who spun off the track and could not restart. Colton Herta spun in the corkscrew as time expired.

The top 12

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I talked to some local fans this morning who told me they were very happy that Indycar has returned to this track. One said he attended every CART and Champ Car race. The fans reminded me of the fans at Road America in 2016 when the series returned to Wisconsin.

Back after a press conference with Mark Miles and Jay Frye.