For highly touted rookie Colton Herta, the Indianapolis 500 was over moments after it began Sunday.
Herta, a 19-year-old from Valencia, had started fifth and completed only a few laps when his No. 88 car suddenly slowed because of a gearbox malfunction.
“It didn’t want to change gears,” said Herta, son of former racer Bryan Herta. “Once I went down to fourth [gear] and back up to fifth a few times it completely depleted it, and there was nothing left so the engine just died.”
The damage couldn’t be fixed and Herta finished last in the 33-car field. “It’s just really sad,” he said.
“Very disappointing start,” his Harding Steinbrenner Racing team tweeted afterward.
Earlier, as the race was about to start, the team also reported that Herta had said on his radio: “Wow, there are a lot of people here.”
Another rookie, Santino Ferrucci, drew praise from the likes of NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr., who’s now a television racing analyst, after Ferrucci finished seventh, the highest finish of the six rookies in the Indy 500.
Ferrucci treated the result almost as a victory as well, hugging his crew members at Dale Coyne Racing after he climbed from his car.
He avoided disaster at one point by driving on the infield grass as he threaded his car through a multicar wreck ahead of him. “I was so happy to come out of that clean,” he said.
A 20-year-old native of Woodbury, Conn., Ferrucci spent three years as a development driver for the Haas Formula One team before returning to the United States to drive in the IndyCar series.
Another year, another frustrating Indy 500 for Ed Carpenter.
Carpenter is a team owner/driver from Indianapolis and the 500 long has been his main pursuit. But with his sixth-place finish, he’s now yet to win in 16 attempts.
Carpenter qualified second and was running in the top five for much of the race but he faded in the closing stages.
“At the end, we just didn’t have anything,” he said. “I am pretty disappointed for myself and for the team. I didn’t come here for sixth.
“I really don’t know what to make of it because we were so bad at the end compared to what we had been.”