Saturday September 26th, 2020 8:24PM

Herta leads Andretti Autosport Mid-Ohio podium sweep

By IndyCar Media
  Contact Editor

LEXINGTON, Ohio - After a challenging 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, Andretti Autosport finally broke through to Victory Circle in dominating fashion as Colton Herta scored his third career win in Race 2 of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio weekend doubleheader Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

NTT P1 Award winner Herta led an Andretti Autosport sweep of the podium in the No. 88 Honda, beating teammate Alexander Rossi to the finish line by 1.3826 seconds. Fellow Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third, 2.4965 seconds behind Herta.

Rounding out the top five behind the Andretti trio were Ohio native Graham Rahal and Marcus Ericsson.

“I’m so happy,” Herta said. “We’ve been knocking on the door almost every weekend. We’ve had the pace. But for some reason or another, one thing has gone wrong or this thing has gone wrong. We finally put everything together. We got the pole this morning, had a stellar car. Everybody on the Capstone Turbine crew gave me an incredible car.”

Heading into Sunday’s race, Andretti Autosport had just two podium finishes this season, third-place results by Rossi at Road America-2 and in Saturday’s Race 1 at Mid-Ohio. Andretti Autosport’s last win came when Rossi dominated the field at Road America in June 2019.

The last time Andretti Autosport swept the podium was in 2005 at St. Petersburg when Dan Wheldon scored the win and fellow Andretti teammates Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta – Colton Herta’s father – followed to sweep the top four finishing positions for what was known as Andretti Green Racing at the time.

“It’s so huge, so huge,” team owner Michael Andretti said. “Thank God we came here to Mid-Ohio. We were a little worried that we weren’t going to be able to get here, but Kevin Savoree and those guys did a great job getting this race on, and it paid off for us, man. One-two-three. The way things have been going for us this year, this is huge for us, the whole team.”

Herta led 57 of 75 laps from the pole after winning the pole in a thrilling qualifying session Sunday morning.

The race also got off to an action-packed start as Herta and second-place starter Santino Ferrucci went side-by-side into turn 4 of the 13-turn, 2.258-mile circuit. Ferrucci lost control of his No. 18 Honda and went into the grass. Ferrucci then returned to the track, where he collided with Dale Coyne Racing teammate Alex Palou and Felix Rosenqvist.

Ferrucci was assessed a penalty for avoidable contact, and Palou and Rosenqvist were eliminated from the race. Ferrucci finished 14th, while Rosenqvist and Palou finished 22nd and 23rd, respectively.

The action continued on lap 22 when points leader Scott Dixon made a costly mistake in turn 1 that led to a disappointing 10th-place finish after starting third.

Dixon powered through the fastest corner on the track and lost control of his No. 9 Honda, spinning on corner exit. Dixon didn’t hit anything, but the track remained under green flag conditions, and Dixon fell to 20th position.

“I think we kind of tried to have the tires a little bit better for longer in the run, so I think our cold pressures were really low,” Dixon said. “We really struggled on the restarts, especially the initial start and that restart. Plus, everybody behind me had reds on. So, I got aggressive, hit the overtake on the exit of (turn) 1, and just way too much Honda power there and spun the tires and spun the car.

“So, it totally caught me off guard. Total rookie mistake. I’m so bummed for the team. It’s just such a stupid mistake I shouldn’t have made. Obviously, the car was fast. We were able to fight our way through the pack. It should have been an easy points day.”

Dixon spent the rest of the race trying to rebound, running as high as fourth while on an alternate pit strategy. Dixon was forced to give up his track position on lap 59 when he pitted for the final time. With the freshest tires in the field, he rallied for his second 10th-place finish of the weekend.

The challenging day did no favors to Dixon’s standing in the championship. His lead over Josef Newgarden shrunk to 72 points, continuing a downward slide for Dixon in the last three races.

Since his most recent win in the first race of the doubleheader at World Wide Technology Raceway on August 29, Dixon has lost 45 points to Newgarden.

Newgarden, the defending series champion, had a quiet day, finishing eighth. He gained four points on Dixon after entering the day down 76 points.

“The easiest way (to win the championship) is going to try to win Race 1 at the Indy road course and then do the same in Race 2,” Dixon said. “It would be nice to go to St. Pete without having to worry about it. But the NTT IndyCar Series is so tight right now. The competition is super tough. Trying to rebound off days like this is super tough.”

The next event is the IndyCar Harvest GP doubleheader October 2-3 on the 2.439-mile IMS road course. The season ends with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, October 25.

NTT IndyCar Series
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – Lexington, OH
Honda Indy 200 Race 2 – September 13, 2020

1. (1) Colton Herta, Honda, 75, Running
2. (10) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 75, Running
3. (8) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 75, Running
4. (12) Graham Rahal, Honda, 75, Running
5. (15) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 75, Running
6. (6) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 75, Running
7. (17) Will Power, Chevrolet, 75, Running
8. (9) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 75, Running
9. (21) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 75, Running
10. (3) Scott Dixon, Honda, 75, Running
11. (11) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 75, Running
12. (19) Jack Harvey, Honda, 75, Running
13. (18) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 75, Running
14. (2) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 75, Running
15. (14) Oliver Askew, Chevrolet, 75, Running
16. (16) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 75, Running
17. (13) Zach Veach, Honda, 75, Running
18. (22) Takuma Sato, Honda, 75, Running
19. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 75, Running
20. (7) Marco Andretti, Honda, 74, Running
21. (20) Dalton Kellett, Chevrolet, 71, Running
22. (5) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 4, Contact
23. (4) Alex Palou, Honda, 2, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 107.763 mph Time of Race: 1:34:17.3968

Margin of victory: 1.3826 seconds

Cautions: 2 for 6 laps

Lead changes: 5 among 4 drivers

Lap Leaders: Herta 1 – 15; Sato 16 – 31; Herta 32 – 45; Rahal 46; Ericsson 47; Herta 48 – 75

Point Standings: Dixon 456, Newgarden 384, O’Ward 338, Herta 327, Power 306, Rahal 301, Sato 300, Pagenaud 277, Hunter-Reay 260, Ferrucci 249.

  • Associated Categories: NASCAR News, Other Motorsports
  • Associated Tags: motorsports, IndyCar, Open Wheel, Auto Racing, Asphalt, road course, NTT IndyCar Series
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