Colton Herta of Valencia was hoping to make a second big splash in his IndyCar Series rookie year Sunday, but he found the wall instead in the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Last month, Herta won the series’ inaugural race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, at age 18, becoming the youngest winner in series history. He turned 19 a week later.
At Long Beach, Herta started 10th and mostly continued running in the top 10 until Lap 50, when he came too hot into the ninth turn of the 11-turn, 1.97-mile street course.
Herta’s No. 88 car slammed into the wall, crumpling the left front wing. He managed to get the car to the pits, but his day was over and he finished last in the 23-car field.
“Feel very bad for the team,” Herta said on Twitter about his Harding Steinbrenner Racing team. “We were on good strategy and had great pace.”
Scott Dixon was running third about midway through the race when a botched pit stop cost him valuable spots.
When Dixon pitted his No. 9 car on Lap 56, there was a problem with the fuel hose that resulted in Dixon sitting on pit road for a lengthy 18 seconds.
That dropped the Chip Ganassi Racing driver back to fifth, but the five-time IndyCar Series champion managed to finish third. The pit stop “definitely killed us,” he said.
There are spots on the track where the drivers come within an inch or two of the wall, lap after lap. Before the race, Josef Newgarden was asked what goes through his mind when he’s that close to disaster.
“It's kind of like when you're pulling out of a parking spot and it's tight on both sides and you back up and you start to turn and you're like, ‘Man, am I going to miss that car in front of me?’” said Newgarden, who was the 2017 IndyCar Series champion and placed second in Sunday’s race.
“And your nose is like right there, and like 50% of the time I'm just like, well, I think I'm going to make it,” he said. “If I don't, I hit him.