INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens

Colton Herta was the showstopper at Texas

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FORT WORTH, Texas – Apparently, nobody told rookie driver Colton Herta about the high-speed intimidation battle that is the NTT IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway.

The 19-year-old never flinched in Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 before his race ended in a crash just 19 laps from a potential victory. He tried to pass Scott Dixon for second place by diving to the inside of Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. Dixon tried to protect his line and squeezed Herta’s No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda toward the white line.

Once Herta’s car barely dipped into the white line that separates the apron from the racetrack, the rear of his car broke loose. Herta slid into Dixon, sending both cars in a crash that began in Turn 3 and ended in Turn 4.

Dixon, a five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion who has won 45 races, apologized for the racing incident. Later, however, his wife Emma said he felt differently after watching the replay on NBCSN’s telecast of the race.

“I just heard them saying (Herta) was looking inside, and I started to track down to try and close it off,” Dixon explained after both drivers were checked and released from the Texas Motor Speedway Infield Care Center. “It was towards the end of the race. As I was doing that and looking down, I could still see his shadow there on the apron, and I knew it wasn’t going to work out there.

“Sorry if that was my fault. I was just really pushing and trying to get the most out of it toward the end of the race in the PNC Bank car.”

Herta may have not been the winner, but he certainly put on the show. He was fast and fearless at the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval, out-dueling such racing rivals as Alexander Rossi with some fantastic passes on the outside.

Rossi is considered the most aggressive driver in the NTT IndyCar Series, but there were a few moments in Saturday’s race where Herta “out-Rossied” Rossi.

Herta became the youngest winning in NTT IndyCar Series history when he won the March 24 IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas. In a return trip to Texas, Herta could have scored win No. 2.

Instead, he was left explaining his part in the crash that set up the final dash to the checkered flag – ultimately won by Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.

And he had no problem taking issue with Dixon’s move.

“(Scott Dixon) apologized and that’s what it seemed like from my point of view,” Herta said after he was checked and released from the care center. “He just turned down on me from my point of view. I was there, and he put me on the apron.

“I was more than enough ahead. He didn’t need to do it. That outside lane was there, and he could have run the outside. He must not have known (I was there).”

Herta started 10th and finished 18th.

Dixon is the most respected driver in the paddock and is often the voice and conscience of everyone else in it.

There’s a good chance Dixon will help Herta use Saturday night’s incident as a learning experience.

One thing is certain, though – Herta has proven to be a fast learner.

“I’m really happy with how the car was,” Herta said. “The GESS Capstone car (and) all the boys did an amazing job. Big congrats to IndyCar for bringing the updates to the front wing and the new tires because it made the racing a hell of a lot better.

“We’ll keep trucking. This is a DNF (did not finish) that I’ll take because I was really happy with my performance.”

Eli Tomac wins Budds Creek, clinches 2019 championship

Vanessa O'Brien (KawasakiUSA)
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Last week Eli Tomac suffered through his worst race of the season and gave Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin a glimmer of hope were the championship was concerned.

On Lap 1 of Moto 1, Tomac did his best to dash that hope. Justin Bogle grabbed the hole shot, but Tomac swept past him immediately and surged to victory.

Moto 2 was much the same. Tomac grabbed the early lead and set his sights on earning maximum points for the weekend. By the end of Moto 2, Tomac had a 15 second lead over Jason Anderson to score his third perfect victory of the season. Tomac also scored a 1-1 at Pala and Washougal.

That was not Tomac’s only victory, however.

With two minutes remaining in Moto 2, Anderson and Marvin Musquin passed Ken Roczen.  That dropped Roczen to 54 points behind Tomac at the time and only elevated Musquin to a 50-point differential. Musquin needed one more position to be able to deny Tomac the championship for one more week, but he was 10 second behind Anderson and unable to make up the gap by the end.

“I didn’t know (I had won the championship) until the last lap,” Tomac said after the race. “I thought I needed one more spot on everyone. I’m just in complete shock right now. All we did today was put our head forward (and) put last week in the past. … Gosh what a way to finish it off. 1-1; it was so cool.”

Tomac is the first rider to win three consecutive championships since Ricky Carmichael won six in a row from 2000-2006.

In Moto 1, Tomac narrowly edged his two points’ rivals. Roczen finished second in that race with Musquin in third.

“It was so special,” Tomac said after he was handed the No. 1 plate that he will affix to his Kawasaki throughout next season. “So many things had to go our way this weekend with having a 1-1 and beating the two guys behind us in second and third (in Moto 1).

Anderson’s pass on Roczen late in Moto 2 was significant for another reason. With a 4-2, he scored a second overall to stand on the podium for the fourth time this season. In doing so, he matched his best finish from RedBud.

“For me, I’m just trying to build my base going into the next Supercross season,” Anderson said afterward. “I feel like I’m getting better.”

Finishing third in both motos was bittersweet equaled a third overall for Musquin. He climbed to second in the points with that finish and if he is able to stay there following next week’s Ironman, it will be the third straight year that he has finished behind Tomac.

Roczen faded to seventh in Moto 2 and with his 2-7 he finished fourth overall. It was a fitting end to his championship hopes because Roczen has faded at the ends of events all season long.

Zach Osborne (5-4) rounded out the top five.

450 Moto 1 Results
450 Moto 2 Results
450 Overall Results
Points Standings

It’s fair to call Shane McElrath’s 1-1 victory a surprise. Perhaps one can even go so far as to call it a shocker. Entering Budds Creek, McElrath had not stood on the podium yet this year. In fact, he has only one top-five finish that came at Spring Creek two weeks ago.

McElrath got off to an early lead in Moto 1, passing then-leader Ty Masterpool on Lap 3 and refusing to look over his shoulder. It was his first moto victory since Washougal last year and there was speculation about whether he could match that performance. If anything, McElrath looked even better in Moto 2 and he cruised to a 7.7 second lead at the checkers.

McElrath may have been the only rider who was not surprised by the performance and he summed up the drastic uptick in his post-race interview.

“One word: just perseverance,” McElrath said. “It’s been a real test of our faith this year. A real test of our strength. It’s been humbling for sure. … My results this year haven’t been what we wanted, but we just kept at it.”

With a 2-5, Adam Cianciarulo finished second overall despite a disappointing second moto.

He was much better in Moto 1, but even that race had drama. Four minutes into Moto 1, Cianciarulo rode off course and high sided on a berm. He dropped from second to fifth. He climbed into third by Lap 6, but it took the entire race before he would reclaim second.

At the end of Moto 1, Cianciarulo was optimistic about his weekend.

“I’m just doing the best I can,” Cianciarulo said on NBC Sports Gold. “I just want a good result on the day and that’s how I’m looking at it, taking it moto by moto. I’m just disappointed in how I rode there at the beginning.

“Masterpool was riding really good and I just got out of my rhythm. The track’s really slick so you can’t override it – and I really was – I just wasn’t riding good. But I’m glad I was able to calm down and take a breath, make some passes back – get to where I needed to be.

“Championship aside, I really want to do the best I can every moto. … If I leave it all out there, whether I win or lose, I can go to bed at night and sleep just fine.”

Justin Cooper ended the day with a 6-2, which was good enough for third overall. It was not good enough to keep his title hopes alive, however. Ending the day 60 points behind Cianciarulo, he has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

Dylan Ferrandis is now the only rider who can challenge Cianciarulo, but he needs to make up six points in Moto 1 at Ironman Raceway next week to keep the pressure on. Like Cianciarulo, Ferrandis’ day was not without incident. In Moto 2, Mitchell Falk got turned around early in the race and knocked Ferrandis down while he was running 11th at the time – one position behind Cianciarulo.

The two points leaders were able to slice through traffic and Ferrandis eventually prevailed over his rival, but he could manage only a fourth-place finish at the checkers. With a 4-4, he finished fourth overall.

RJ Hampshire (3-8) rounded out the top five.

In Moto 1, Masterpool led his first professional laps. He paced the field five times before McElrath overtook him. Masterpool maintained a top-three spot for the next three laps. He finished seventh in that race and 11th in Moto 2 for an eighth overall.

250 Moto 1 Results
250 Moto 2 Results
250 Overall Results
Points Standings

Moto Wins

450MX
[10] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & Pala II, Thunder Valley II, WW Ranch II, RedBud I, Washougal I & II, Budds Creek I & II)
[5] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, Unadilla I & II)
[3] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch I, The Wick I, RedBud II)
[2] Cooper Webb (Spring Creek I & II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)
[1] Zach Osborne (The Wick II)

250MX
[7] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, The Wick I, Spring Creek II, Unadilla I)
[7] Dylan Ferrandis (WW Ranch II, The Wick II, RedBud I & II, Washougal I & II, Unadilla II)
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[2] Hunter Lawrence (High Point I, Spring Creek I)
[2] Shane McElrath (Budds Creek I & II)
[1] Chase Sexton (WW Ranch I)

Next race: Ironman Raceway, Crawfordsville, IN, August 24

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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