I’m writing this literally the morning after the night before. I’m teetotal and this still feels like a hangover. IndyCar’s GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis was a literal shitstorm and I’m still processing everything that went down in that two hour race, where we didn’t even get all 85 laps in due to the race’s slow pace and multiple cautions. So forgive me if I miss something as I try to make some sense of how we got to the point that Colton Herta eventually took home his first W of the season. Here goes… something.
Colton Herta is a special talent. I know it may not have looked like it recently, but Motorsport, like a lot of other sports, always plays a strong game of “What have you done for me, lately?” And with Pato O’Ward winning at Barber alongside the rampant speculation of his future we’ve had since March, combined with Herta’s sloppy errors there, as well as Long Beach and Nashville last year… I get it. We’re down on CH26, and winning tends to solve all of those problems.
It’s hard NOT to compare the two. Both were outstanding in Indy Lights. They came up together and became teammates. They went their separate ways but both became elite drivers in the field at virtually the same time and they’ve been Top 5 in the Championship ever since. And now, they’re both in the McLaren development umbrella and have been opening in wanting to give F1 a go.
Herta hasn’t got the consistency that O’Ward has shown. But Herta might have the even higher ceiling because that was a spectacular, career-defining drive from the 22-year old Californian. He started from 14th on a damp track, was the first to gamble on slicks and leapt up to the front of the field, where he essentially stayed for most of the race.
This included nursing the slippery conditons in a similar fashion to Marco Andretti in Detroit the last time IndyCar had a wet race. And one of THE great open wheel saves I’ve ever seen. Full opposite lock and brake control on a slippery track, with slicks and he keeps it on the island. I’d compare that one to Marc Marquez, but his whole race was Marquez-ian in how he handled some of the most treacherous conditions seen in recent IndyCar. Simon Pagenaud was 2nd on the day, a man who has also won here before in spectacular wet conditions, and he didn’t have an answer for Colton. At all.
This was a reminder to the field of the class of Colton and why he’s been so gassed up since he was 19. And a reminder to us that maybe we’ve all gone a bit “Football Twitter” in how we evaluate talent. In that realm of the Internet, one of the most common errors we make as an audience is we like to have short-term hottakes solve long-term questions and that never works out. I’ve fallen into that trap myself on numerous occasions. But as I said, winning solves everything. Colton Herta is still an outstanding racing driver and belongs in that top-tier conversation.
The Collective Shitshow
Not everyone left Indy smelling of roses, mind you. The driving standards at times were just downright silly. Jack Harvey got away with a big one when he dipped into a three-wide coming out of the infield with Josef Newgarden and Alex Rossi. It’s now seemingly become socially acceptable in the series to run someone off the road like we saw with Callum Illot on Rinus Veekay, or Jack Harvey again when he ran Romain Grosjean off the road in the infield. Alex Palou deliberately parking his car on the track to force a caution. A lot of what I call “online lobby” racing for all you gamers out there.
Also, I get that weather is often really hard to predict, but it was obvious from the start that a storm was brewing. We changed start times twice due to said weather. It was only ever going to get worse over the course of the afternoon and yet we had teams put wets on too early, and then at the end, Scott McLaughlin and Pato O’Ward were trying to survive the final minutes on SLICKS. Silly behaviour from the strategy departments and cost them dearly, with McLaughlin in particularly losing out on a chance to retake the Championship lead with Palou and Newgarden having very bad days.
IndyCar has to take some accountability for this too. Seeing McLaughlin and O’Ward aquaplane at Safety Car speed was headache inducing. I’m sorry, but letting cars spin out under caution retake their restart position is a horrible look. And I’ve already seen pictures from the event on drivers Instagram’s that showed visible lighting at the track in the middle of the race. That should be an automatic red. It seems the series was desperate to get to at least Lap 43 at half distance so they could call a result with full points, otherwise the whole race would be null and void. As much as I understand that approach, the safety of your fans should take precedent.
The (Literal) Lightning Round
A good day for the rookies on the whole. Callum Illot with a career high 8th. Christian Lundgaard 9th, despite that weird crash after the flag. David Malukas with an error free 12th. And to hell with it, lovely to see Tatiana Calderon led her first lap in the series and came home in 15th.
Conor Daly, the “Bad Luck Brian” of IndyCar – Cracked the Top 5 for the fourth time with a great recovery after an early hit. Good for him, he’s been due a good day again in the series. Turns out the secret is hiring a hot tub for the weekend. Glad to see it was put to good use.
Have to mention this again, but the poetic karma of last round’s Alabama beef was hilarious. Graham Rahal complains about how he’s been raced, ploughs into Kirkwood a round later in a clumsy misjudgement on the brakes. And Romain Grosjean, who has absolutely gotten away with being a barger himself since joining the series, got ran out on the grassy infield by Jack Harvey. The self-policing of IndyCar’s aggressive driving coming to roost almost immediately there. Ha.
Will Power’s average finish this season is 3.6. I don’t think people realise how ridiculous that is.
Scott Dixon qualified in 21st. He still cracked the Top 10. He’s hardly stood out all season and he’s only 37 off the Championship lead. Only three things in life are certain: Death, Taxes, Dixon.