AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Rookie Colton Herta became the youngest winner in IndyCar history Sunday when he captured the inaugural IndyCar Classic after a late-race crash near the entry to pit row helped him steal past the leaders to the checkered flag.
Team Penske’s Will Power, who started from pole position and dominated through 45 laps, was caught out by the crash still needing a tire change when pit row was closed. Power’s race was doomed when he finally got to pit but his car’s drive shaft failed and he couldn’t get out.
Once the yellow flag was cleared, Herta powered away from former series champions Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay over the final 10 laps to get the win for Harding Steinbrenner Racing.
Herta also won a class victory in January in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The previous youngest IndyCar winner was Graham Rahal in 2008 at age 19. Herta turns 19 on Saturday.
When it was over, several drivers waved congratulations toward Herta and he got a big hug from his father, former driver Bryan Herta.
The victory left Colton Herta exhausted.
“We were so quick. It was spectacular,” he said. “I need a nap, man.”
Herta was well behind Power and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi as the two leaders waited as late as possible for their final tire change. The strategy backfired when James Hinchliffe clipped the back of rookie Felix Rosenqvist’s car in a wide turn, spinning Rosenqvist to a smashing stop at the entry to pit lane.
IndyCar didn’t enforce track limits through the turns, which created some sweeping runoffs, particularly in Turn 19 where the deciding crash happened. Indy cars don’t have the same grip as the Formula One cars the track was built for, and Rosenqvist and Hinchcliffe had both run well wide and were returning to the track when they collided.
With the race under a yellow flag, the field closed up behind Power and Rossi, who were still waiting to pit and Herta didn’t need to stop again. It only got worse for Power when he finally pitted and his engine failed when he tried to exit. Rossi finished ninth.
Power could have earned a $100,000 bonus if he had won the race from pole position, and he was in position to cash in until disaster struck.
“Massively disappointed man. (To) lead so many laps,” Power said. “The yellow didn’t get us, the drive shaft did.”
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