The 2021 IndyCar Series returned to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the second race of the season. It was the first race at St. Petersburg since the 2020 season finale where Scott Dixon clinched his sixth championship. Colton Herta dominated Sunday’s race to pick up his first win of the 2021 season.
Herta started on the pole and built a lead over Jack Harvey, who was looking for his second-career podium in IndyCar.
Sebastien Bourdais suffered some damage on the opening lap after colliding with Josef Newgarden but the race remained green for the next 17 laps. As Herta continued to lead the race, rookie Jimmie Johnson crashed into the wall and couldn’t reverse, bringing out the first caution flag. Johnson brought out the second caution flag on lap 73 after crashing again.
On lap 31, Newgarden, who won the previous two races at St. Petersburg, passed Harvey for second place with Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud battling Harvey for the next several laps before green flag pit stops began. As Herta and the leaders pitted, Alexander Rossi and Graham Rahal crashed on lap 37. Rossi resumed racing but with a lot of damage to his car.
As the pit cycle concluded, Herta built a six-second lead over Newgarden on lap 42. Pagenaud led over Harvey a few laps later. Dixon, who started eighth, worked his way up to fifth place halfway through the race.
After the second caution, Herta’s 10-second lead over Newgarden vanished and Herta had to hold off Newgarden on the restart. He maintained his slim lead on lap 81 until Ed Jones brought out another caution, allowing Newgarden and Pagenaud to get another chance at passing Herta for the lead.
However, Herta had a strong restart on lap 85 to maintain his lead. He held off Newgarden and won at St. Petersburg by about 2.5 seconds.
This is Herta’s fourth-career win in IndyCar and his first since winning the second Mid-Ohio race in 2020. Newgarden finished second after winning the previous two races at St. Petersburg, allowing him to climb up the standings after his wreck on the first lap last week at Alabama.
Pagenaud finished third to get his first podium since winning the first race at Iowa last season. Harvey finished fourth, his best result since finishing third in the 2019 Indianapolis Grand Prix. Dixon finished fifth for his second top-five finish this season.
Takuma Sato and Marcus Ericsson finished sixth and seventh. Will Power worked his way up from 20th to finish eighth, giving him two top-10 finishes to start 2021 after a second-place result at Alabama last weekend.
Rinus VeeKay and Bourdais rounded out the top 10.
Alex Palou, who won last week at Alabama, finished 17th after having to pit late due to damage.
The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series will return for a doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway next Saturday and Sunday.