Rookie Huertas surprise winner of race 1 in Houston|
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Rookie Carlos Huertas pulled off a stunning
upset in Saturday's Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston
weekend doubleheader, leading a Colombian sweep of the podium.
Having rained before the start and therefore forcing a slight delay, IndyCar
Series officials turned this scheduled 90-lap race at Houston's NRG Park into
a timed event of 1 hour, 50 minutes.
Huertas, who hails from Bogota, Colombia and drives the No. 18 car for Dale
Coyne Racing, was one of several drivers who opted not to pit during a late-
race round of stops. His teammate, Justin Wilson, did not pit as well and took
over the lead for the restart. Wilson was forced to pit for fuel with seven
minutes to go (seven laps left), allowing Huertas to grab the top spot.
Huertas then benefited from a caution for an incident involving Sebastian
Saavedra with four minutes remaining. Officials had planned on a one-lap
shootout to the finish, but just before the restart, fourth-place runner
Graham Rahal slammed into the back of third-place Tony Kanaan, putting Kanaan
into the barrier.
The race ended under caution, with 23-year-old Huertas scoring his maiden
IndyCar win in his just his ninth career start. He also became the seventh
different winner in the first nine races this season.
"The races are so long, but you always have a chance to win if you do the
right things at the right time," said Huertas, who drove the final 39 laps
around this 1.683-mile, 10-turn temporary street circuit without a pit stop.
"Today was really tough. I was really struggling. I had no pace in the first
half of the race. But I reminded myself just to stay calm and do what you have
to do and I did that. The team called it perfectly with the fuel, and it's a
Huertas started this race in 19th. His seven laps led were the first in his
"The kid has been getting better all year, and he showed a lot today," team
owner Dale Coyne said.
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya finished second, his best finish since returning
to the series following the 2013 season.
"We were forced to do something different [fuel strategy], and it paid off,"
Montoya said. "We did a timed race and with 35 minutes to go, I'm counting
laps and thinking, 'We can make it. Why are they not stopping?' Our [car] was
very good. I thought we had a chance to win, but at the end, the tires went
Montoya's fellow countryman, Carlos Munoz, also a rookie this year, placed
third. Munoz had crossed the finish line in fourth, one spot behind Rahal, but
officials assessed a 30-second penalty to Rahal for avoidable contact with
Kanaan, who ended up finishing 13th. Rahal dropped to 11th place.
"I finished third, so what can I say, but it's good points for the
championship," Munoz said. "Now we have to focus on tomorrow."
Sebastien Bourdais finished a season-best fourth, followed by James
Hinchcliffe, who led a race-high 32 laps before he pitted from the top
position during the last round of stops.
Championship points leader Will Power started 18th and made it up into the
top-10 just before he spun out after hitting a wet spot on the circuit and
then plowed into the tire barrier on lap 58. Power finished one lap down in
14th. His lead was trimmed from 39 points to 33 over second-place and Team
Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, who finished ninth.
"Hard day today, but if we could have hung in there a little longer we could
have been in good shape," Power said. "I made a mistake there and I feel bad
for the [team] after I went into the wall. That's racing. We'll try it again
tomorrow and go for a better result."
Rookie Jack Hawksworth, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti finished sixth
through eighth, respectively. Wilson completed the top-10.
The start of Sunday's Race 2 in Houston is scheduled for 3:50 p.m. ET.
Qualifying for the event is slated for 11 a.m. ET.
06/28 22:04:26 ET