Colton Herta won Saturday’s (May 14) GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course after weather, tire strategy and a flurry of cautions consistently threatened to upend the race.
Standing in Indy’s famed victory circle after all was said and done, Herta became a man of few words.
“That was the hardest race I think I’ve ever done. Wet to dry – dry back to wet,” Herta told NBC Sports reporter Marty Snider after earning his first NTT IndyCar Series victory this year and the seventh of his career.
Then, the driver saluted the fans for sitting through the downpours.
“Thank you so much for the Hoosiers for sticking around,” he exclaimed. “I know you’re used to this kind of weather, so thank you very much.”
While Herta won the race, the points lead has changed to the hands of Will Power.
Power finished third behind Herta and Simon Pagenaud, recording his fifth straight finish of fourth or better. That streak, coupled with poor results from Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou and Scott McLaughlin leaves Power with 16-point lead over McLaughlin heading into the Indianapolis 500.
With the race starting under wet conditions, Herta and Scott Dixon were the first drivers to risk moving to Firestone’s red-walled slick tires, ice skating around the circuit while fickle weather left everyone scratching their heads in terms of strategy.
Herta’s closest threat early on was Barber Motorsports Park winner Pato O’Ward. O’Ward kept Herta in his sight for the first half of the race, especially during the multiple dry spells which showed a proper advantage in straight-line speed for the McLaren driver.
While McLaren teammate Felix Rosenqvist kept Herta and O’Ward honest with a comfortable run to third position, O’Ward’s spin in turn 1 on lap 42 resulted in nose-to-nose contact for both McLaren cars. While Rosenqvist ultimately finished sixth, the rest of O’Ward’s day was not so simple.
Herta and the other leaders briefly switched over to slick tires on lap 60, but while under caution for a spin by Rinus VeeKay on lap 61, much of the field opted to switch back to wets as the rain finally arrived in force. Among those who gambled on being able to make it to the end on slick tires were O’Ward and Romain Grosjean.
Just in case the chaos unfolding regarding tires and weather was not enough, with just over 20 laps remaining race control decided to move toward a time limit rather than running to the planned 85-lap mark. That meant 20 minutes remained in the race, with no clear sign of who would navigate the chaos for the win.
Leader and red tire holdout McLaughlin spun on the restart with 13 minutes to go, triggering another caution in the process. At this point, the fates of O’Ward, Grosjean and McLaughlin became clear.
Had those who stayed out on the reds hoping for a dry track pitted, they would rejoin in the low 20s positions. As it became clear that keeping the car intact on slick tires in such conditions was a pipe dream, O’Ward assessed the situation with his pit crew over the radio.
“This is going to be really tough. So, we’re f***d right? We can’t go into the pits?”
O’Ward, Grosjean and McLaughlin finally conceded their strategy and pitted for wet tires as the race restarted with approximately three minutes remaining. All of them wound up outside the top 15.
They weren’t the only drivers reeling from misplaced strategy. With rain posing a constant threat to the race, Alexander Rossi pulled the trigger and opted for wet weather tires while under caution approaching lap 40. Rossi briefly looked set to pull a major upset on the field as those who did not pit for wet tires were expecting rain to arrive at any moment, effectively leaving Rossi out front.
When the green flag flew on lap 41, the level of moisture falling was nowhere near enough to justify wet weather tires and Rossi’s strategy quickly fell apart. The American dropped back from the red tire runners by more than three seconds per lap before finally conceding slick tires were the way to go for the time being.
Grosjean, for the second week in a row, was involved in an on-track incident that resulted in contact and a radio tirade.
Chasing Jack Harvey for third place on lap 51, Grosjean attempted a swing around Harvey’s outside into turn 7. Harvey aggressively pushed Grosjean to the right-hand side of the track to defend his position. When the pair swung left toward the apex of the corner, Harvey slid wide, sending Grosjean spinning into the grass.
“What an idiot… What an idiot!” Grosjean lamented to his team.
This incident came after Grosjean was involved in controversial contact – twice – last time out at Barber.
Speaking of rivalries — if not just hard feelings — Callum Ilott and VeeKay found one another early on when VeeKay ran Ilott wide through the exit of turn 13. Ilott managed to keep himself out of major trouble but lost measurable time and position as a result of his unplanned run through the grass.
When lap 21 came around, Ilott was once again attacking VeeKay into turn 1. As the pair worked through turn 2, Ilott took the chance to run VeeKay wide, sending the Dutchman spinning back onto the track between turns 3 and 4. Innocently passing through the scene was Devlin DeFrancesco.
There was little the Canadian could do to avoid the nearly stationary VeeKay, so DeFrancesco’s Andretti Autosport Honda impacted VeeKay square in the gearbox. Both drivers’ days were effectively ended by the incident.
This year marks the third time that two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya has returned to IndyCar for the month of May.
Montoya previously contested the two Indianapolis rounds of the season in 2017 and 2021, managing three top-10 finishes in the process; sixth in the 2017 Indy 500 and ninth in the 2021 Indy 500. Montoya was on track for an impressive seventh-place finish after a quiet day when, with just over two minutes remaining in the race, his Arrow McLaren SP machine came grinding to a halt between turns 11 and 12 with heavy front end damage, having slid off the track in turn 10.
The resulting yellow flag sealed the race’s fate, ending it under caution and securing Herta’s first win of the season.
The IndyCar camp will stay put at the Brickyard for the next round on the calendar: the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. Coverage will begin on May 29 at 11 a.m. ET on NBC.
2022 GMR Grand Prix – Unofficial Results
4. Marcus Ericsson
5. Conor Daly
7. Takuma Sato
8. Callum Ilott
9. Christian Lundgaard
12. David Malukas
13. Jack Harvey
14. Helio Castroneves
15. Tatiana Calderon
16. Graham Rahal
21. Juan Pablo Montoya
22. Devlin DeFrancesco
23. Jimmie Johnson
26. Kyle Kirkwood
27. Dalton Kellett