Colton Herta delivers Andretti’s first IndyCar victory of season at Mid-Ohio

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Colton Herta became the second consecutive NTT IndyCar Series driver to win from the pole position at MId-Ohio Sports Car Course, capping a podium sweep Sunday for Andretti Autosport as the team scored its first victory this season.

Starting first just like Saturday winner Will Power, Herta, 20, led 57 of 75 laps and finished 1.3826 seconds in his No. 88 Dallara-Honda ahead of teammate Alexander Rossi for the third victory of his career.

Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay finished a season-best third, followed by Graham Rahal and Marcus Ericsson.

“I’m so happy, we’ve been knocking on the door almost every week,” Herta told NBC Sports pit reporter James Hinchcliffe. “We’ve had the pace, but for some reason or another, something has gone wrong. We finally put everything together. Got the pole this morning, had a stellar car, and Honda Andretti 1-2-3.”

In the previous 10 races this season, Andretti Autosport had managed only two podium finishes, both third places by Rossi. Sunday’s trio of podium results marked the first 1-2-3 finish for the team in 15 years since a 1-2-3-4 finish in April 2005 at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s so huge,” team owner Michael Andretti told Hinchcliffe after his team’s 65th IndyCar victory. “Man, 1-2-3, after the way things have been going for us this year. This is huge for us, the whole team.”

Said Rossi after his season-best finish: “I’m just so happy for Andretti Autosport and Michael. It’s been a terrible year for us globally. To do this, huge hats off to Colton and the 88 guys but then to sweep the podium is very cool for us.

“The championship went away from us very early on, so we’re just focused on race wins and really trying to build a good foundation for next year, and we’re doing that now. It’s a step in the right direction. We’ll enjoy this one for sure.”

The rest of the top 10: Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Pato O’Ward and Scott Dixon, who nipped Rinus VeeKay on the last lap for 10th.

The championship race tightened after Dixon made a mistake and spun while running fifth on Lap 22.

Trying to chase down Herta while under pressure from Rossi and Hunter-Reay, Dixon clipped a curb off Turn 1 and lost 15 spots.

After entering the weekend with a 96-point lead over Josef Newgarden in the standings with five races remaining, Dixon’s lead shrunk by 24 points after consecutive 10th-place finishes in the Saturday-Sunday doubleheader at Mid-Ohio (which historically had been one of his strongest tracks with a series-high six victories).

“Got a little aggressive, hit the overtake (button) on the exit of (Turn) 1 and just way too much Honda power there, and it spun the tires and just spun the car,” Dixon told NBC Sports reporter Kelli Stavast. “Totally caught me off guard. Total rookie mistake. I’m so bummed for the team. Such a stupid mistake I shouldn’t have made. Obviously the car was fast and able to fight our way back, but it should have been an easy points day.”

Dixon said he won’t be laying back heading into the final three races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course doubleheader and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“The easiest way is to win Race 1 at Indy road course and same in Race 2 and be nice to go to St. Pete without having to worry about it,” Dixon said. “The series is so tight right now. The competition is super tough. Even trying to rebound off days like this is very tough.”

After a chaotic qualifying session, the first lap of Sunday’s race also proved eventful.

Santino Ferrucci, starting second, received a penalty for avoidable contact after running into Dale Coyne Racing teammate Alex Palou. The crash also collected Felix Rosenqvist.

Ferrucci attempted to pass leader Colton Herta on the outside into Turn 1 but skidded through the grass and then re-entered the track by hitting Palou.

“He was the outside, and I got halfway in front of him, so it was my corner at that point,” Herta said. “I tried to leave him as much room as I could, but he just wanted to stick on the outside, so I had to push him off.”

“I think we just have to look at the video,” said Palou, who is battling for rookie of the year with Rinus VeeKay. “I did a good start. I was just keeping the position I had. It was the first lap. Someone went out and just drove into me and Felix. Nothing we could have done.

“Disappointing because I couldn’t do anything, and it’s the first lap of the race. And we’ve had such a hard season to now with all the ovals and learning those. We’ll just look forward to the Indy GP.”

Ferrucci was sent to the rear of the field.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)