AUSTIN, Texas--The INDYCAR Classic at the Circuit of the Americas turned into a historic race in its debut on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule with Colton Herta becoming the youngest ever winner at 18 years, 11 months and 25 days old in just his third IndyCar start.
The second generation driver put himself into position to benefit from the race’s sole caution which also proved the undoing of Matheus Leist who was on his way to his best finish of his young career.
Leist, who started 12th in the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet was stretching his fuel to make his final stop on lap 44 while teammate Tony Kanaan, who started last in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet, had to stop two laps shy of that mark. The decision proved pivotal in the outcome of the 60-lap race.
Contact between James Hinchcliffe and rookie Felix Rosenqvist on the final turn of the track brought out the yellow on the lap that Leist was heading into the pits for his final stop-lap 44. The full course caution meant the pits were closed until the field packed up. Leist had to make an emergency stop for fuel only on lap 45 or risk running out of it around the 3.41-mile track. He pitted for tires and the rest of his fuel a lap later.
However, the penalty for emergency service on lap 45 in a closed pit was to restart at the tail end of the pack. He was running 14th when the pit stop cycle began on lap 41, but there were at least seven cars that finished ahead of him that would not have made it to the end without another stop for a splash of fuel had the race gone caution free.
“Definitely not where we wanted to finish at COTA,” Leist said. “I think a lot of things went on in this race. For some parts I thought we had the pace and then other stints we were struggling a lot. In general, not a happy day here. We were doing a decent race to finish in the top 12 when that yellow came out. But there was nothing we could do, we just went to dead last and from there on with just 10 laps to go, there was nothing we could do. Unfortunately, a tough day here at the track but let’s see if we can