NTT Indycar Series arrived at a completely new track, when the second round was run at Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
Will Power had secured Pole Position ahead of Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist and Scott Dixon.
Championship leader Josef Newgarden missed the last part of the qualifying with only 0,0363 second.
The track would give an extra incentive, if a driver could take both Pole and victory, so Power had a bit extra motivation to drive.
It was a highly dramatic start, with lots of zig-zag action going into Turn 1.
Scott Dixon had won a couple of positions in Turn 1, but he lost them again before Turn 2. Herta exploited the confusion and snatched the third place from him.
Zach Veach went off the track in the quick Turn 5 combination, after a contact with Graham Rahal and had to crawl back to the pits. He came back out but drove several seconds slower than the rest of the field.
On lap three Rossi attacked Power and tried to overtake him from the outside in Turn 2, but he had to pull back.
Marcus Ericsson did the same strategy that he did in St. Petersburg, where he would pit early and change tires. The team knew they had to try something different in order to get a top result. His teammate James Hinchcliffe pitted one lap later, as did Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato and Spencer Pigot.
The majority of the field pitted in the next few laps, except for the drivers in top five.
Zach Veach, Sebastien Bourdais and Spencer Pigot had a close duel on lap 10, where they drove side by side down the back straight. It was a bit odd for Veach to get involved in the battle, since he was one lap behind due to the problems earlier in the race.
Herta pitted from P3 on lap 13 and forced the other drivers in top five to pit as well, or else they could get overtaken.
Power, Rossi and Dixon all pitted in the next lap. Rossi came out almost side by side with Herta, but he made a mistake and locked both wheels into Turn 1. It meant that Herta could sneak past and took the actual second place.
Rahal came out of the pits on the cold, black tires and couldn’t match the majority of the field that were on warmer tires – and not the least the red, softer compound. He duelled side by side with Patricio O’Ward through Turn 13, 14 and 15, before O’Ward got past.
Jack Harvey, Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon had a bit of contact in Turn 15, but they all could continue without any damage on the cars. The stewards saw it as a racing incident.
Marcus Ericsson was flying and drove past Felix Rosenqvist, in the duel for sixth position. Ericsson gave his experienced teammate Hinchcliffe a run for his money – but Ericsson was also the driver in the field who had done the most laps on the track, from his Formula 1 time. Rosenqvist fell back, where Hinchliffe and O’Ward also got past him.
Herta did an amazing job on the black tires, where he kept himself ahead of Rossi on the red. He had to, however, give up on lap 22, when Rossi closed up behind him and used a bit of Push-2-Pass to get past.
Rosenqvist was the first driver to take his second pitstop after only 23 laps, when he complained about his tires over the radio.
Some others also dived to the pits, so that they wouldn’t risk getting caught behind the wrong train, in case of a Safety Car period.
The distance in front between Power and Rossi varied between one and one and a half seconds, where Rossi didn’t really try anything. The two drivers were on different tire strategies, where Rossi was on the soft compound, while Power was on the hard one.
Ed Jones and Santino Ferrucci fought for 17th place, and the latter flew after hitting one of the curbs but landed quickly on the asphalt again.
Halfway into the race, Power was in front, ahead of Rossi, Herta, Newgarden, Ericsson, Hunter-Reay, O’Ward, Hinchcliffe, Rosenqvist, Rahal and Dixon.
The problems for Rosenqvist came back on lap 34, where he lost three positions on the same lap to Dixon, Rahal and Hinchcliffe, when the Swede spun in Turn 12.
Dixon finally got a life in his car in the third stint, where he overtook O’Ward and Ericsson in just two laps. The two had problems with their used tires.
Marco Andretti was progressing and fought himself past Sebastien Bourdais in the battle for 15th place.
Rahal overtook Ericsson quickly at the end of the stint – who chose to pit a few laps afterwards.
Ericsson and Pigot were millimetres from colliding in the pits, but they escaped by the skin of their teeth.
The first accident of the day came with 17 laps left, where Felix Rosenqvist hit the armco, just before the pit entry. The Swede was in a duel with James Hinchcliffe, where he cut in before the Canadian, who then innocently sent the blue NTT Chip Ganassi Racing car across the track and out of the race. It also gave Hinchcliffe a puncture and thus he was out of top ten.
There was a problem on the horizon for the three drivers at the front – Power, Rossi and Dixon. The three of them still had to do their third pitstop, while Herta, Newgarden and Hunter-Reay didn’t.
The day only got worse for Power, who couldn’t get the car started again. Power himself said the drive shaft was broken, when he couldn’t even drive a metre and the car stood still without any traction.
From being dominant in front to retire from the race – but it had happened so many times for Power over the years.
Rossi and Dixon came out to the track on 14th and 15th positions respectively.
Marcus Ericsson’s day just got worse and worse, when he had to fall back to last in the field due to his unsafe release from the pits. So the SMP team will have a long way home to Indianapolis.
The race was restarted with ten laps left.
Herta had a nice gap to the cars behind him, while Hunter-Reay and Rahal drove side by side through Turn 1, in a close duel for third place.
Bourdais overtook O’Ward with the help of Push-2-Pass, but Rossi and Pagenaud hit each other twice – first in Turn 5 and later Turn 12. The second time was so hard that Rossi’s car jumped before it landed back on the asphalt.
Zach Veach completely misjudged his distance to Scott Dixon and brushed the New Zealander’s rear tire with his front wing, which gave Veach a puncture and defect front wing. No damage to Dixon’s car.
Newgarden had much more Push-2-Pass left than Herta, but the 18 year-old still could pull away from the rest of the field by a few seconds.
Ed Jones encountered a huge problem and just dropped down the field like a stone. Jones drove with a broken finger that he got in St. Petersburg two weeks ago, when he hit the concrete wall.
Rossi really tried to make up for the lost time and pushed so hard that he drove sideways through several corners while chasing the competitors.
But nobody could catch Colton Herta, who claimed his first Indycar victory, in just his third race in the top American class. At the same time he became the youngest winner ever in the history of the series.
Josef Newgarden finished second, while Ryan Hunter-Reay was the last person on the podium.
Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais, Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato, Patricio O’Ward, Alexander Rossi and Jack Harvey completed the top ten.
Today’s result means that Josef Newgarden extends his lead in the championship, while Colton Herta jumps up to second place, ahead of Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Graham Rahal and Will Power.
The next round of NTT Indycar Series will be run on 7 April at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.