Colton Herta mastered the changing conditions that turned the GMR Grand Prix into a wet and wild mess of never-ending cautions and tyre strategy to take his first win of the 2022 season, with Simon Pagenaud and Will Power rounding out the podium.
After making an error on tyre choice at the last pit stops going onto the red tyres, Herta was the first to come in for wets. While Scott McLaughlin, Pato O’Ward, and Romain Grosjean all stayed out on slick reds, spinning under multiple cautions through the last 20 minutes of the race, Herta blitzed away to victory, winning under caution after a crash by Juan Pablo Montoya.
This race was the first full-wet race since the first race of the 2019 Detroit Grand Prix, and after a delayed start IndyCar decided that the race would end after 85 laps or 120 minutes, whichever came first. Very quickly after Power led the field to green, Herta made the gamble to pit on lap three for red tyres. With the race starting full-wet there were no mandatory black-wall tyres, the choice was easy to go onto the reds.
That move launched Herta from his fourteenth starting place into the lead, but was overcut by O’Ward who pit the next lap and took the lead back. With the advantage of warmer tyres, Herta made one of the most insane saves in history in turn eight before capitalizing on an O’Ward mistake to take the lead. From there, Herta navigated the carnage and take home the win.
“That was just awesome,” Herta said in Victory Lane. “That was the hardest race I think I’ve ever done.”
The first caution of the day came out on lap six for then championship leader Alex Palou, who lost control after a tank-slapper in turn ten. A rare, unforced error by the reigning series champ took him out of contention from the race early.
Herta led the field back to green on lap 10, bolting away from O’Ward and his teammate Felix Rosenqvist behind him. Ten laps later, another championship contender in Josef Newgarden was taken out after being sandwiched between Jack Harvey below him and Alexander Rossi above, who came down and spun Newgarden out in turn 11.
As they love to say, cautions breed cautions, and this race was by no means an exception. As soon as the race went back to green on lap 21, Rinus Veekay spun after contact with Callum Ilott entering turn three, sending the dutchman across the grass and into the path of the unsuspecting Devlin DeFrancesco, who he collected.
After the restart on lap 25 there was finally a period of on-track racing again, as Herta to re-establish the three-second lead he had before the flurry of cautions. O’Ward got within a half a second of Herta, the closest he had been to that point, before pit stops began for new red tyres . Herta and a few other leaders pit on lap 33, and clean track ahead meant he was easily able to beat O’Ward, who pit on lap 34. Rosenqvist however, who pit on lap 35, managed to jump his teammate and stick side by side with Herta on pit exit, but with cold tyres he relinquished the lead to the American.
The fourth caution of the day came on lap 36, as Dalton Kellett ended up in the tyre barriers ahead of the chicane turns five and six. Rain once again loomed over the track and some like Rossi and Palou decided to gamble onto the wet tyres under caution, while Marcus Ericsson and Kyle Kirkwood stayed out hoping for rain to come and potentially end the race.
That was not the case however, as things got going again on lap 42, but disaster struck the Arrow McLaren SP teammates and yellow flags flew once again. Trying to make a move to the inside of Herta, O’Ward spun ending up nose to nose with his teammate Rosenqvist. Both cars thankfully were able to continue, but after a solid day to that point had lots of ground to recover.
Yet another restart came on lap 46, and very quickly those on the rain tyres realized their gamble did not pay off, as they all had to come back into the pits. As the racing continued (yes, there was a period of time with no cautions where we actually saw racing), teams continued to debate on strategy as the rain got closer and began to come down harder. They had to make their decisions soon, as on lap 57 Jimmie Johnson brought out caution number six on the day after getting too much curb in turn nine sent him spinning.
When the pits opened under caution, teams switched back and forth multiple times on which tyres to go onto, and while McLaughlin managed to narrowly beat Herta out of the pits, in the end everyone chose reds and everyone chose wrong. Some drivers like Veekay and Grosjean already spun while under caution, forcing everyone to come right back in for wet tyres again.
Only three drivers took the gamble staying on slicks, McLaughlin, O’Ward, and Grosjean, and lined up first through third respectively. Evident that the race was not going to reach 85 laps, the final part of the race was put on a 20 minute timer to determine the finish. Those that stayed out on the reds regretted their choices almost immediately, as McLaughlin spun coming to the green which prompted more caution time, frustrating drivers.
It was in this caution period that both Graham Rahal and Harvey were handed penalties for avoidable contact (incident with Kirkwood) and contact in pit lane respectively, dealing crushing blows to two fantastic performances for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
The race finally resumed with 14 minutes to go as Herta swiftly got around O’Ward who led the field to green. And as has been the theme with this race, a caution flew once again as McLaughlin spun in turn three on his slick tyres. The field bunched up once again, and this time it was O’Ward who spun under caution, forcing more caution time and irritating drivers and fans alike with the lack of racing for cars that had spun and were immediately back racing again.
O’Ward dived into the pits coming to green, and with nothing in Herta’s way anymore he put his foot to the floor and took off once again, the visibility awful in the roost of other cars thanks to how wet the track had become. One last caution sealed Herta’s victory, as with one minute remaining, Montoya slammed the wall in turn twelve, ending a stellar day that saw him running in the top ten.
Pagenaud improved 18 spots from his starting position to finish second, his best finish to date with Meyer Shank Racing. After contact between Harvey and Grosjean in turn seven battling for the lead, Pagenaud pounced on both to take third, jumping up a spot after O’Ward hit pit lane. Power’s third place keeps his streak of top-four finishes this season alive, and also hands him the championship lead as others around him fell victim to the chaos.
After replacing the rear assembly on his car and still fighting through damage, Ericsson wasn’t quite sure how he finished in fourth (a sentiment I’m sure many drivers in the top ten shared), but fought hard for his second top five finish of the year. Conor Daly was another driver with a rollercoaster day, starting fifth but plummeting to fifteenth on his first set of reds. After that set of tyres he found his pace again, and clawed back for his fourth career top five and first top ten finish since Gateway in August 2020.
After contact with his teammate, Rosenqvist fought his way back to finish in a fantastic sixth place, his first top ten of the season. With his contract expiring with AMSP at the end of this season, this was a much-needed result for the Swede. Takuma Sato finished seventh, a stellar result for the Japanese driver, his best since joining Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.
Two rookies finished in the top ten, with Ilott and Christian Lundgaard finishing eighth and ninth respectively. Although Lundgaard rear-ended Ilott at the line thanks to the poor visibility, the two rookies had stellar weekends that culminated in career-best results. Fellow rookie Tatiana Calderon also achieved a career-best finish of her own with her fifteenth place finish.
Rounding out the top ten was Scott Dixon, who struggled for pace in qualifying and ran out of fuel before his pit box early in the race, but being one of the first to make the final switch onto wet tyres helped him make his way into the top group.
With a new leader atop the points standings in Power, the field now looks to the crown-jewel of the calendar, the double-points Indianapolis 500 on 29 May.
GMR Grand Prix – Official Results
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||NAT.||TEAM||TOTAL TIME|
|1||26||Colton Herta||USA||Andretti Autosport||02:01:56.3273|
|2||60||Simon Pagenaud||FRA||Meyer Shank Racing||+ 3.0983 sec.|
|3||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||+ 7.1538 sec.|
|4||8||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 7.8193 sec.|
|5||20||Conor Daly||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||+ 9.6535 sec.|
|6||7||Felix Rosenqvist||SWE||Arrow McLaren SP||+ 11.0949 sec.|
|7||51||Takuma Sato||JPN||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing||+ 11.5104 sec.|
|8||77||Callum Ilott (R)||GBR||Juncos Hollinger Racing||+ 11.5105 sec.|
|9||30||Christian Lundgaard (R)||DEN||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 11.8047 sec.|
|10||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 13.9916 sec.|
|11||27||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Autosport||+ 16.7300 sec.|
|12||18||David Malukas (R)||USA||Dale Coyne Racing w/ HMD Motorsports||+ 17.9817 sec.|
|13||45||Jack Harvey||GBR||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 19.5748 sec.|
|14||06||Helio Castroneves||BRA||Meyer Shank Racing||+ 24.4881 sec.|
|15||11||Tatiana Calderon (R)||COL||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||+ 31.9259 sec.|
|16||15||Graham Rahal||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 41.8037 sec.|
|17||28||Romain Grosjean||FRA||Andretti Autosport||+ 1 lap|
|18||10||Alex Palou||ESP||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 1 lap|
|19||5||Pato O’Ward||MEX||Arrow McLaren SP||+ 1 lap|
|20||3||Scott McLaughlin||NZL||Team Penske||+ 1 lap|
|21||29||Devlin DeFrancesco (R)||CAN||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||+ 2 laps|
|22||48||Jimmie Johnson||USA||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 2 laps|
|23||21||Rinus VeeKay||NED||Ed Carpenter Racing||+ 2 laps|
|24||6||Juan Pablo Montoya||COL||Arrow McLaren SP||Crash|
|25||2||Josef Newgarden||USA||Team Penske||+ 15 laps|
|26||14||Kyle Kirkwood (R)||USA||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Crash|
|27||4||Dalton Kellett||CAN||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||Crash|