By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The recurring theme continues for both rookies Marcus Ericsson and Colton Herta, the only retirees in Saturday’s epic INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Their days ended in separate accidents while having stellar runs in the early portions of the race before rainy conditions played a pivotal role, neither whom dealt with due to their exits.
Ericsson was the first victim of the 85-lap contest as he was on a charge to catch Will Power for the ninth position until the back of his No. 7 ARROW Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda snapped out of control in Turn 14, sliding into the grass and hit the wall.
It brought out the first of three full-course cautions as he sustained heavy right side suspension damage. Ericsson radioed in that he simply lost it, and brought his wounded car into the pits.
The bent suspension was too much to repair and Ericsson’s afternoon was done after 11 laps. Four laps later, Ericsson was officially credited with a 24th-place finish when Alexander Rossi, who pitted to repair suspension damage after contact early on, took over 23rd.
It marked the Swedish driver’s first last-place result in his young NTT IndyCar Series career and his second retirement of 2019.
Ericsson explained that his front downforce went awry and once the car began shifting from under to oversteer, it was too late to correct the error.
“We were struggling a bit to get close on the straights,” said Ericsson. “We were trying to get as close as possible through (Turn) 14, and I think I just got a bit too close and lost a bit of front downforce, understeer then snapped into oversteer and I just couldn’t catch it.”
After the caution ended on Lap 16, chaos ensued heading into the treacherous Turn 1 and saw its biggest incident of the race.
Restarting in fourth, Herta was looking to chase down Jack Harvey for third until the two made slight contact, which sent Herta around in front of the field. His green No. 88 GESS RNG Biogas Honda stayed stationary until Ericsson’s teammate James Hinchcliffe, who was running low, clipped Ryan Hunter-Reay, sending him around.
Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 DHL Honda would hit the right rear of Herta’s car as he slid backwards and continued his race where he settled for 17th. Meanwhile, the damage Herta sustained from Hunter-Reay sealed his fate and for the third straight race, he didn’t see the finish.
Hinchcliffe would be penalized for avoidable contact and finished ahead of Hunter-Reay, but for Herta, it’s yet another nightmare result since his maiden win at Circuit of the Americas three races ago. His 23rd-place result knocked him out of the top-10 in points, putting him 13th in the standings.
With another retirement, Herta was disappointed but continued being optimistic about the tremendous effort his Harding Steinbrenner Racing team have done this weekend that’ll likely translate into a stronger month that lies ahead.
“Today was another disappointing day on the racetrack,” said Herta. “The No. 88 GESS International guys can keep their heads up high because it wasn’t anyone’s fault. The guys worked flawlessly all weekend again and provided me a great car for the INDYCAR Grand Prix. I’m tired of not finishing a race, so hopefully, we get a good finish for the Indianapolis 500 at the end of the month.”
Both rookies are now looking for a strong turnaround as their preparations now shifts into next weekend’s qualifying, eyeing to make the 33-car field for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 May 26. While Ericsson has never competed at the 2.5-mile circuit, Herta has experience as he won the Freedom 100 last year and was one of the fastest cars during the April 24th test at IMS.