It was a weekend of firsts in Austin, Texas for the NTT IndyCar Series.
For the Circuit of the Americas, Sunday’s IndyCar Classic was the first visit by the series to the 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.
For Harding Steinbrenner Racing, Sunday’s victory was the first in team history, and for their rookie driver, 18-year-old-Colton Herta, Sunday’s win is the first in his relatively short IndyCar career.
After qualifying an impressive fourth in only his third series start, Herta ran up front all afternoon, and through the luck of a late caution and a mechanical failure for leader Will Power, the young driver found himself leading the pack to the green flag in the race’s only restart with 11 laps to go.
Herta then maintained his lead through the checkered flag to become the youngest winner in IndyCar Series history at 18 years, 11 months, and 25 days. The previous record was set by Graham Rahal in the 2008 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, when Rahal was 19 years, three months and 2 days old.
“We were not expecting that,” Herta, who turns 19 on Saturday, told NBC Sports. “I think we were going to get a podium. We had the pace for that, but holy crap, man. I am worn out!”
Running as high as second to Power in the early moments of the race, Herta made his final pit stop on lap 43 under green. At that point, it had still appeared that Power was on his way to his first win of the season, as the Team Penske driver had led every lap up until then.
However, when James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist made contact on lap 44, Rosenqvist’s car hit the barrier and brought out the only caution of the race. Power, as well as Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon and others went into the pits under yellow to make their final stops, giving Herta the lead. Power’s drive shaft would also break when he attempted to leave his pit box, ending the Aussie’s chances of winning the race and collecting a $100,000 bonus offered by the track to any driver who could win from the pole.
“I just want to have a good run, man,” Power told NBC Sports. “I just want to have a normal run in a season without this sort of crap.”
Josef Newgarden, who won the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, finished second, with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal and Sébastien Bourdais rounding out the top five.
Positions six through 10 were filled by Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato, Patricio O’Ward (in his first start for Carlin), Alexander Rossi, and Jack Harvey.
Zach Veach finished 22nd after spinning off the track and into a gravel pit on Lap 1. Rosenqvist was credited with 23rd and Power was last after his mechanical issues caused him to be the only DNF of the race.
The next race on the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series calendar is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, with will take place on April 7 at Barber Motorsports Park. Coverage begins at 4:00 PM ET on NBCSN.