Colton Herta won a surprisingly chaotic Indianapolis Grand Prix, after Scott McLaughlin lost a late lead while on bail.
Herta was running first when the race ended under his eighth caution period on a pinpoint 75 lap, having held that position for the majority of the contest, officially or at least effectively.
The Andretti Autosport driver with Curb-Agajanian was more than five seconds from the end when this final yellow flag period was called, a development that locked out Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud in second and Team Penske’s Will Power in third.
It is the latter who now leads the IndyCar series, with a margin of 16 points over McLaughlin and Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing), although these two finish 18th and 20th respectively.
The previous rain had led to the declaration of a wet start, then to a tricky period of navigation in the transition to the slicks as the track had already dried considerably by the time the peloton took the green.
However, that was just the beginning of the chaos, most of which was caused by ever-changing weather conditions.
While the complexion of the race changed countless times, the cautionary sixth period was arguably crucial in the end result.
Herta was leading from McLaughlin when the pit lane opened up after Jimmie Johnson (Chip Ganassi Racing) spun onto the grass and got stuck there.
Some crews, including the #26 Honda in the lead, had originally put on wet tires when this yellow was called, but everyone was eventually put on slicks as the rainfall continued to fluctuate.
It seemed like a crucial moment when McLaughlin managed to jump Herta as he came out of his box, but the latter then made another save under the Bail to get wet after all.
Everyone joined him, except McLaughlin, Pato O’Ward (McLaren SP) and Romain Grosjean (Andretti Autosport), and these three therefore occupied the podium places with less than 20 laps to go at most.
However, as it looked like the restart was about to happen, McLaughlin lost top position when he spun at Turn 10 and was forced into fifth.
In terms of track position, it was O’Ward’s new race leader of a lapped Johnson, with Herta second to Pagenaud, Power and McLaughlin when they finally came back to green on lap 66.
Herta wasted no time in eliminating the two ahead of him on the road, but McLaughlin spun on his slicks again at Turn 3, and several sprayed into the gravel in what appeared to be evasive action.
This triggered Caution 7, during which O’Ward became the last to spin despite yellow flag conditions and dropped to fourth.
He dropped his slicks on the next restart at the start of lap 71, by which time he had 6:15 seconds left on the clock.
Herta quickly brushed aside Pagenaud and Power, and continued to pull away despite a jittery moment when he ran wide and hit the grass at turn 12.
He looked relatively comfortable, although he could hardly have been too comfortable under the circumstances, when Caution 8 was called due to Juan Pablo Montoya being stopped with damage on his entrance McLaren SP #6.
It was the last action under the green flag, with the race being timed as the peloton once again followed the Pace Car.
Just behind the podium, Marcus Ericsson (CGR) finished fourth thanks to a Lap 72 pass at Turn 7 over Conor Daly (Ed Carpenter Racing), who finished fifth.
Highlighting the chaos, Felix Rosenqvist finished sixth despite damage when he met McLaren SP teammate Pato O’Ward on the fourth restart.
The Mexican rushed over Herta to take the effective lead at turn 1, but only managed to run out of steam.
Takuma Sato also spun in that incident when he had to take the grass in an evasive action, but the Japanese driver slipped back to seventh at the checkered flag in his Dale Coyne Racing entry with RWR.
Callum Ilott (Juncos Hollinger Racing) took eighth, one place ahead of Christian Lundgaard (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), whose No. 30 Honda was seen troweling against the pit wall after the finish.
Scott Dixon went from 21st on the grid to 10th at the end, although he crawled into the pit lane on lap 35 when his #9 Honda CGR nearly ran out of fuel.
A mid-race gamble on rain proved too early for Alexander Rossi (Andretti) but he eventually finished 11th, ahead of David Malukas (DCR with HMD Motorsports), Jack Harvey (RLLR), Helio Castroneves (MSR) and Tatiana Calderon (AJ Foyt Racing).
Graham Rahal (RLLR) was 16th, having been another who spun during a cautious period, while O’Ward came home in 17th and McLaughlin 18th.
Grosjean, who found himself off-road on lap 51 after contact with Harvey in a battle for third place, finished 19th.
Palou, who led the series at the start of the day, led briefly on lap one but was never really a factor after his spin on lap 5 that prompted the first Caution of the race.
Another series leader during the season so far, Josef Newgarden (Team Penske), retired early following contact with Sato, Rossi and Harvey.
Next up is the Indianapolis 500, for which practice begins this Tuesday (local time).
Every IndyCar race is streamed live and ad-free on Stan Sport.
Series points to follow
Results: Race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road course)
|Pos||Number||Driver||THIS||Race time/Share||Pit stops||Status||grid pos|
|17||28||Romain Grosjean||J/M/F||+1 turn||4||Working||ten|
|18||ten||Alex Palou||J/M/F||+1 turn||7||Working||2|
|19||5||Pato O’Ward||D/C/F||+1 turn||4||Working||5|
|20||3||Scott McLaughlin||D/C/F||+1 turn||4||Working||11|
|21||29||Devlin De Francesco||J/M/F||+2 turns||5||Working||17|
|22||48||jimmy johnson||J/M/F||+2 turns||6||Working||27|
|23||21||Rinus VeeKay||D/C/F||+2 turns||5||Working||15|
|24||6||Juan Pablo Montoya||D/C/F||+3 turns||4||Contact||23|
|25||2||Joseph Newgarden||D/C/F||+15 rounds||5||Working||3|
|26||14||Kyle Kirkwood||D/C/F||+22 rounds||5||Contact||22|
|27||4||Dalton Kellet||D/C/F||+41 rounds||2||Contact||26|
Race winner: 75 laps