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Top Moments of 2018 - #9: The Herta Sweep

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of 10 vignettes in which IMS Senior Communications Manager Paul Kelly picks his top 10 moments of 2018 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Will Power was the toast of May 2018 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with good reason.

Power opened the Month of May by earning his third INDYCAR Grand Prix victory in five years, from the pole, for Team Penske. He then followed 15 days later by winning the 102nd Indianapolis 500, his first win in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

A great month, no doubt. But it can easily be argued that Power’s performance – while remarkable – was only the second-best of the month at the Brickyard.

The most dominant driver of May 2018 at IMS was Colton Herta.

Herta, son of former IndyCar driver and current IndyCar team owner Bryan Herta, displayed all the talent that has made him one of the hottest American open-wheel racing prospects of the last decade by winning all three Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires races last May at the Speedway.

It was an unprecedented sweep of three races in the same month at IMS by an Indy Lights driver.

Herta’s impressive month started with a stirring drive to victory May 11 in the first of two Indy Lights races in May on the IMS road course. He dropped from second to fifth at the start in his No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing car to avoid a collision between teammate Pato O’Ward and Victor Franzoni, but Herta stayed calm and surged past Santi Urrutia on Lap 16 of 30 to take the lead for good, powering away to a 5.1512-second victory.

The second Indy Lights road race of the month featured arguably the only controversy surrounding Herta’s sweep.

Urrutia led 31 of 35 laps and twice repulsed moves for the lead by Herta during the race May 12. But Herta refused to quit.

During his second attempt for the lead, he and Urrutia made contact while running side-by-side in Turn 1 on Lap 33. Urrutia spun and ended up finishing fourth, while Herta kept his car pointing forward and drove away to a 4.1968-second victory over Aaron Telitz.

Urrutia was livid, but Herta claimed Urrutia left him no room in the close-quarters, bare-knuckle fight for victory. The win showed Herta blended a certain ruthlessness with the pure speed that’s the hallmark of nearly every standout driver.

The final chapter of Herta’s sweep also featured another tough duel – this time with teammate O’Ward on the IMS oval in the Freedom 100 on May 25.

Herta dove under O’Ward in Turn 4 on the final lap of the 40-lap race, holding off his teammate by just .0281 of a second in yet another Indy Lights thriller on the oval.

The sweep helped Herta take a four-point lead over O’Ward exiting IMS in May. O’Ward eventually caught Herta and won the Indy Lights championship, but Herta made his mark with his dominant May.

And the news got even better for this dynamic duo – and IndyCar Series fans everywhere – in September when it was announced that O’Ward and Herta will climb to the IndyCar Series in 2019 with the new Harding Steinbrenner Racing team.

O’Ward is just 19, with Herta 18. They are among the most hotly anticipated new arrivals in the top echelon of North American open-wheel racing in quite some time.

No pressure, guys. But O’Ward’s title run and Herta’s May sweep proved both phenoms appear more than ready for the challenge.

 
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