Rookies Colton Herta, Santino Ferrucci show promise in St. Pete

IndyCar Photo by James Black
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The season-opening IndyCar race on the streets and runways of St. Petersburg saw one rookie challenge for the win, two others finish in the top 10, and another wondering what might have been.

Felix Rosenqvist stole the show by challenging for the lead immediately after starting third and settling into a comfortable fourth-place running position. He finished there, wedged between veterans Will Power (who won the championship in 2014 and finished third in the standings the past two years) and Alexander Rossi (who finished second to Scott Dixon last year).

But as Rosenqvist stood on pit road and patiently took every question the media directed at him, two other freshman drivers headed to the garage with top-10 finishes.

Colton Herta (eighth) and Santino Ferrucci (ninth) had bigger obstacles to overcome during the afternoon. Herta started just outside the top 10 in 11th. Ferrucci’s day was much less promising when the green flag first waved over the field.

He crashed in the first round of qualification, brought out a red flag and had his time disallowed. Ferrucci started on the back row and had to meticulously work his way through the field. He did so by staying on the lead lap and out of trouble. By the time Ed Jones and Matheus Leist exited with crash damage on Lap 25, Ferrucci was up to 18th.

Santino Ferrucci finished ninth in the St. Petersburg Grand Prix. Joe Skibinski, IndyCar

It took a little strategy to climb all the way into the top 10, but once the checkers waved over Josef Newgarden at the end of 110 laps, Ferrucci was ninth.

“We found something in morning warmup that was unexpected, and we made it work in the race,” Ferrucci said. “Our engineer, Michael Cannon, called a brilliant strategy, and I had to do a lot of fuel saving, to say the least. We kept it clean and in the top 10, and that was the goal. I’m really happy with today’s result, especially considering where we started.”

Ferrucci’s first IndyCar top 10 came in his fifth race. He came close last September with an 11th at Sonoma Raceway.

Herta had a less consistent race. Making his second IndyCar start, he scraped the wall early. That caused him to drop through the field until he was running only one spot ahead of Ferrucci at the time of the Jones accident.

“What an up and down race,” Herta said. “We had a pretty poor start to the race. I bumped the wall after a restart and lost quite a bit of positions. We were all the way down in 17th position at one point. After that, we just had really great pace and were able to start making up positions when everyone was in the pits. An eighth-place finish isn’t too bad for the first race of the season.”

Lost in the box score was the strength of Marcus Ericsson’s run. For most of the first half of the race, he was the second-best rookie. Prior to his retirement for an engine failure, he was running 12th – two spots ahead of Herta and four in front of Ferrucci.

“It was a great race up until the end. We started quite far back, farther back than what we think we should’ve started. It was going well and we were well inside the top 10 when we had the problem (mechanical issue). Looking at what’s happening now, we were definitely going for a top eight in the Arrow car. It was just a shame because it was a really great race up until then.”

Marcus Ericsson retired from the St. Petersburg Grand Prix on Lap 54. (IndyCar photo by Chris Owens)

Eli Tomac wins Houston Supercross: Hunter Lawrence takes early 250 East lead

Tomac Supercross Houston
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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With his 47th career victory and third of the 2023 season in Houston, Eli Tomac closed to within one win of tying Ricky Carmichael for third on the all-time Monster Energy Supercross list.

Tomac rebounded from last week’s crash by earning the holeshot in both his heat and the Main. At the start of the big show, he couldn’t shake Aaron Plessinger in the first four minutes and actually was in the process of losing the lead as a red flag waved for a crash involving Tomac’s teammate Dylan Ferrandis when he overjumped an obstacle and landed on Ken Roczen’s back fender as they raced for eighth.

“That was a tough race,” Tomac told NBC Sports’ Will Christien, referencing his loss to Chase Sexton in the heat. “And honestly, I was just beat down after that heat race and was searching quite a bit and was basically losing speed everywhere. I just rode better, straight up in the Main. I felt better.”

In their heat, Sexton passed Tomac at the two-minute mark and then simply rode away from the field. At the end, he had an almost eight-second gap on Tomac.

“It wasn’t great by any means,” Sexton told Jason Thomas. “I feel like the strengths I had all day, I really lagged in the Main event between the whoop and the sand section. I think I could have walked through it faster. It was still a good ride; it wasn’t great. I expected after the heat race he would be fired up.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Jason Anderson scored his second consecutive pole, but he was not happy to finish third behind the two points’ leaders.

“We should be thankful every time we get to be up here,” Anderson said. “They’re making it tough on me, but all I can do is give my best.”

Tomac had to withstand a red flag and the distant second place finish in his heat to win the Houston Supercross race. In the post-race conference, he indicated that he did not make any changes to the bike and simply rode better.

Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb rounded out the top five.

Ferrandis was fitted with a neck brace, but still able to walk to the medical cart. He was still being evaluated by the medical staff as the night came to a close.


In 250s Hunter Lawrence entered the 250 East opener as the consensus favorite to win the championship this year with Christian Craig making the move into 450s and his brother Jett Lawrence in the West division. He answered quickly with a huge lead in Heat 1, but it almost went awry in the Main.

Lawrence got a good start, but he was passed early in the race by two-time MXGP champion (2020, 2022) Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut this week. Vialle passed Lawrence on the first lap. When Lawrence tried to pass him back, Vialle scrubbed speed off a jump and pushed Lawrence wide, over the Tuff Blox.

Championships are made out of Lawrence’s response. He kept his composure and did not overcorrect before methodically working his way to the front.

“We had a little off track excursion. I wasn’t sure how hard across Tom was coming so I thought I’ll just go left, but then saw that was the side of the track. Thankfully I didn’t hit the Tuff Blox and got back on track safely. … Good start; put myself in position.”

Click here for full 250 East Main Results

Making a move from the 450 class to 250s, Max Anstie had immediate success. He finished second in his heat behind Jordon Smith and lined up with a great gate pick. He had to overtake Vialle in the opening laps and lost ground on Lawrence, that cost enough time to keep him from pressing Lawrence. This is Anstie’s first podium in the United States

“Honestly, I’ve dreamed of this for a long time to come up on these steps and man it’s a great feeling. I’ve really enjoyed the day and being on this 250, I feel like an 18-year-old kid. Everyday I’m learning.”

Smith backed up his heat win with a podium finish.

“It feels good to be back up here again,” Smith said. “It’s been a long time; a lot of injuries.”

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his debut in the 250 class was not unfounded. He finished fourth in his heat to advance to directly into the Main. During the early laps, he was circling the track in a podium position until a minor mistake sent him off the box. In the closing laps, he narrowly made an aggressive pass on Jeremy Martin and narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish.

Martin held on to round out the top five.

Vialle was running in a podium position when went down with a 1:30 left on the clock. He ended his night seventh.

Chance Hymas was also making his 250 debut and scored a top-10 in eighth.

2023 Race Recaps

Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Houston coverage

Houston by the numbers
Supercross unveils 16th edition of a Ricky Carmichael designed Daytona track
Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list