ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta beat Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden by 2.4933-seconds to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Herta started on the pole position and dominated the race leading all but three laps to claim his 4th career victory, first win of 2021 and first win on a street course.
“What a great job by everybody,” said Herta, who finished 22nd in the season opening race last week at Barber Motorsports Park. “Coming into this weekend, we knew we needed to win. I’m so happy that we did this, so happy to rebound from Barber and get the momentum going for the season that we need.”
The victory was the first for Herta with his father Bryan as his race strategist. Bryan Herta spent the last few years as Marco Andretti’s race strategist.
“Super proud of him,” said Bryan Herta. “He did such a great job. We had a game plan, we executed really well. Colton didn’t put a foot wrong and we brought the Gainbridge car home in first place. I couldn’t be happier.”
Colton Herta’s victory ties him with Bryan for career INDYCAR victories in the family.
“When we first moved to INDYCAR people used to ask me if I thought he was better than I was,” said Bryan Herta. “Nobody asks me that anymore.”
Herta and Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey led the field into turn one with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud in tow followed by AJ Foyt Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais.
The first caution flag of the race came out on lap 18 when Jimmie Johnson went off track with the No. 48 Carvana Honda in turn 13. The AMR Safety Crew came to Johnson’s aid and he returned to the race, three laps down. Prior to the spin, Johnson had picked up two spots from where he started.
The race restarted on lap 21 with no changes in the top 5. Graham Rahal was up to sixth followed by Rinus Veekay, Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward.
Just after the first round of pit stops for the leaders wheel-to-wheel contact between Rahal and Rossi cut off Rossi’s valve stem sending him to pit road for a new Firestone and a front wing change. Rossi returned to action 2-laps down in 22nd place.
Herta remained out front building a lead of over 8-seconds by lap 60 of the 100-lap event as teams started pitting for the second and final time of the afternoon.
Just as teams finished pitting a full-course yellow came out on lap 74 for Johnson, who spun on Lap 74 in turn 3 and Dalton Kellett who was stopped on the track, bunching up the field and erasing Herta’s 11-second lead.
The green flag waved on lap 77 but it was short lived as Ed Jones made contact with James Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe was able to continue but Jones was sideways blocking the track to bring out a full course yellow on lap 80.
Newgarden was right on Herta’s gearbox following the last restart on lap 83 with Simon Pagenaud in third, Jack Harvey in fourth and Scott Dixon in fifth.
Herta and Newgarden started pulling away from third place with 10-laps to go, building a lead of 4-seconds over Pagenaud and extending it to over 5-seconds with 5-laps to go.
“Colton was really good,” said Newgarden. “I pushed really hard on those last two restarts but I really didn’t really have the run that I needed and I didn’t want to risk anything. I wish we could have fought a little bit more but were just lacking a bit.”
“The series is just at its highest level right now,” said Pagenaud. “The talent in the series is just incredible.”
Next up for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is a doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.
Jimmie Johnson to run the full 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series Season for Chip Ganassi
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Jimmie Johnson is adding the full 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to his racing activities for the upcoming year.
Johnson competed in 12-road and street course events for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021 and finished the season by testing on the ovals at Texas Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2021 experience and oval tests only served to ignite Johnson’s passion to compete in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.
“I’m really excited about this next chapter of my career,” said Johnson. “The safety of these cars has come so far, and after I tested the ovals at Texas and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I realized this was a challenge I wanted to undertake.”
— Carvana Racing (@CarvanaRacing) December 15, 2021
Online automobile retailer Carvana returns to sponsor Johnson and will be on the No. 48 Honda for the Indianapolis 500 and every race except Iowa, where associate sponsor the American Legion will be featured.
“I can’t wait to be part of the Indianapolis 500, it’s a childhood dream come true,” said Johnson. “Last season was so incredible for me and I made a lot of progress, so I know I can be competitive on tracks that I have experience on.”
— Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) December 15, 2021
Team owner Chip Ganassi is equally fired-up to see Johnson get back behind the wheel of one of his race cars.
“I am looking forward to seeing Jimmie get back on the track after having a year under his belt,” said Ganassi. “With all the experience he has on ovals from his NASCAR career and adding it to his 2021 experience in an Indy car, we think the IndyCar ovals will play right into his strength. I can’t wait for the 2022 season to begin.”
An announcement on the role of Tony Kanaan, who drove the No. 48 Honda in the oval races in 2021, is expected after the Holidays.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou Wins NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship
LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – In just his first year with the team Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is your 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion.
Palou’s 4th-place finish in Sunday’s season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach guaranteed the 24-year-old native of Spain his first INDYCAR Championship in his second season and the Ganassi team their 14th title since 1996.
“This team is amazing,” said Palou. “I’m super proud to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing, all our partners. I’m super proud to be a champion and for the opportunity these guys gave me. What a race, what a year, what a season.”
“People win Championships,” said team owner Chip Ganassi. “The driver, the team, and especially the people behind the scenes, leaving the shop in the winter when it’s dark out and snowing, that don’t get the notoriety.”
Palou started the race in tenth position in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. Palou’s closest Championship rival, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, started the race in eighth position. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden started on the pole position with Palou’s CGR teammate Scott Dixon alongside in second place in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.
Newgarden took the lead in turn one with Dixon in tow as the field took the green flag. The race wasn’t even 2-laps old when Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan’s Ed Jones made an ambitious attempt to pass James Hinchcliffe, but made contact with O’Ward with Palou right behind Jones!
📲: INDYCAR APP – https://t.co/vyuISIyifv
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 26, 2021
O’Ward brought out the caution flag a short time later on lap 20 when the right rear driveshaft failed on the front stretch.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) September 26, 2021
The caution flag shuffled the field as some cars went to pit road for service while other cars stayed out to gain track position, giving the lead to Helio Castroneves, who took a turn at the front of the field until he went to pit road on lap 34, giving the lead to Colton Herta.
Herta earned his turn at the front as he was making moves through the field throughout the race and following the last restart, it was Newgarden and Dixon giving chase. Palou was behind Dixon in fourth doing what he needed to get the car to the checkered flag in one piece.
Herta pulled away in the end to a .5883-second victory, his ?? win of 2021. Newgarden finished second to jump O’Ward for second in the Championship, 38-points behind Palou.
Dixon finished third followed by Palou in fourth. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud rounded out the Top 5.
Alexander Rossi, Jack Harvey, Sebastian Bourdais, Takuma Sato and Will Power made up spots 6 through 10.
Honda claimed the Engine Manufacturer’s Championship for the fourth straight year.
Josef Newgarden wins pole position for INDYCAR Acura Long Beach Grand Prix
LONG BEACH, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Newgarden’s fast lap of 1-minute, 8.2241-seconds around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit was .2181-seconds faster than Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon’s best lap in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.
The pole position and valuable Championship point is exactly what Newgarden needs to do to win his third series title. Newgarden enters the race in third position in the standings, 48-points behind leader Alex Palou, and must win, lead the most laps and hope Palou finishes 25th or worse.
“It’s very improbable for us to win this championship,” Newgarden said. “So, our goal is to win the race tomorrow. Let’s finish our season on a high note, and we’ll see what happens. I think it’s pretty unlikely, but you never say never in this sport.”
The only other driver with a shot at the Championship is Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, who will start eighth in the 28-car field. O’Ward also needs to win and hope for Palou to finish 25th or worse.
“Our car has been good,” said O’Ward. “We didn’t roll off the best, but I think we made some really good changes, just kept improving. We had enough for the Fast 6.”
Palou will start 10th in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Palou and O’Ward were on flying laps when they were forced to slow for a local yellow for Will Power, costing both valuable lap time which eventually cost both the ability to advance to the final round of knockout-style qualifying.
“That yellow flag didn’t help us at all,” said Palou. “I think we were going to be easy through, but racing stuff, right? I’m happy because the car’s good, a bit better than yesterday and this morning.”
“Kind of sucks to get hosed by a very odd call,” added O’Ward. “We should have been in the Fast 6.”
Palou must finish 12th or better – or 13th or better if he leads a lap – to clinch his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship and CGR’s 14th title since 1996!
Live coverage of the 85-lap race starts at 3 p.m. (ET) Sunday on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute warmup starts at noon (ET), live on Peacock Premium.