Dale Coyne Racing driver Carlos Huertas has well and truly taken the title of rapid rookie as he won the first race of the Verizon IndyCar’s double header in Houston.
It was a close shave for the Colombian though as his pit stop strategy saw him run close on fuel towards the end of the wet/dry race, thankfully a late race caution saw Huertas safely home ahead of fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya.
That yellow flag was for Graham Rahal, who had stalled at the start but made his way up to fourth, after he rear-ended Tony Kanaan. That incident put the Chip Ganassi Racing driver out but Rahal managed to struggle over to third, although a post-race penalty demoted him down to 11th.
At the start of the race, which was considerably wet after a decent sized rain storm had passed through the Reliant Park area of Houston, it was Frenchman Simon Pagenaud that had the lead after scoring his first IndyCar pole position.
Unfortunately for him the 110 minute race, shortened from 90 laps because of the rain, was not kind and he ended up finishing 16th – the last of the cars classified as running.
The man who had led most of the middle of the race was James Hinchcliffe and he was confident in his lead until the flow of the weather disrupted race interfered with his fuel plan and a late stop ruled him out of a race win. He eventually finished in fifth position.
Thankfully for Huertas, who will no doubt have been buoyed by his national team’s success in the World Cup, led the race when it counted – the last six laps – after his Dale Coyne team mate Justin Wilson had to have a quick splash for fuel.
“It was a really long race and I really struggled on the wet. I had no pace, so I decided to stay very calm, and normally I’m calm but today I had to stay more calm because people were passing me, and I just didn’t have any grip. Then when it started drying up, I thought maybe we had a chance, and then I kept asking how many laps to the end of the race because I thought we could make it on the fuel,” commented Huertas.
“Funny enough, before the race on the strategy meeting, I asked the team if it was possible to do the race with just one stop, and they started laughing, and they said, if you have a pace of 80 seconds, then for sure, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”