SALINAS, Calif – Colton Herta didn’t come to the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca as a championship contender. The young rookie also needed a lot of help to win the Rookie of the Year title for 2019 as well.
But, the California native stole the show this weekend around the 2.258-mile road course as he not only won the pole for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, he led all but six laps in the race itself too.
Herta, led the first 18 laps before hitting pit lane for the first time of the race in his No. 88 Honda. He’d then take back over the top spot a lap later and lead until his next pit stop on Lap 39. Again, like the first sequence, he’d take back over the lead a lap later.
The race was his to lose.
He’d stay ahead again until his final pit stop on Lap 64. When Will Power pit for his final time on Lap 67, Herta just had too much speed and passed him on the out lap. The 19 year old would lead the final 22 laps en route to his second career win in his rookie campaign as only Juan Pablo Montoya (7), Nigel Mansell (5), Teo Fabi (4), Alex Zanardi (3) and Sebastien Bourdais (3) had won more in their first year in the series.
That’s some elite company.
Herta, cruised to his third top five and eighth top 10 of the year including three straight top 10’s to close out his year.
Power, finished second in his No. 12 Chevrolet for his third top two finish over the final four races of the year. The Team Penske driver started seventh but his fast race car propelled him to his 76th career podium. He hit pit lane two laps later than everyone else which leap frogged him from fourth to second over the final stint.
Scott Dixon settled for third in his No. 9 Honda for his fifth podium over the last seven starts on the year. Dixon, started second but didn’t have the speed to close up to Power in the end to get back by.
How impressive was Herta there in holding off Power and Dixon in the end? This was Herta’s second podium while Power now has 76 and Dixon 115.
Simon Pagenaud would finish fourth in his No. 22 Chevrolet while Felix Rosenqvist charged from 14th to round out the top five in his No. 10 Honda.
Rosenqvist, would win the Rookie of the Year honors while Josef Newgarden by virtue of his eighth place finish won the season title.
Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey Results
88 Herta R
10 Rosenqvist R
7 Ericsson R
21 Pigot -1
30 Sato -1
25 Daly -1
20 Jones OUT
19 Ferrucci R OUT