Midseason Writers’ Roundtable: Best Drive?

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Note: The INDYCAR Writers’ Roundtable is taking the opportunity of the summer break in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to analyze the first 10 races of the season and offer discussion and opinions about a variety of topics in the first half of the season. This multipart series will run regularly for the rest of July.

Today’s question: Who produced the best drive so far in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season?

Curt Cavin: Colton Herta in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He led 97 of the 100 laps from the pole. Scott Dixon was pretty dominant in the two races at Texas Motor Speedway, leading 369 of the 460 laps (80.2 percent), but that wasn’t as impressive as Herta in the second weekend of the season. What’s surprising is that Herta has led only 18 laps since then, and 13 of those came early in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Zach Horrall: I think it’s Josef Newgarden in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ most recent outing in The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the HPD Ridgeline. He led 73 of 80 laps from the pole, but it was no easy drive. He had to earn it in the closing laps as Marcus Ericsson closed the gap to just .8790 of a second by the time the checkered flag fell. Sure, statistically speaking, other drivers have put together just a smidge more dominant performances, but I think the context surrounding Newgarden’s drive on July 4 were more impressive: He had given up the lead late in the previous two races, had scored three consecutive poles, was winless through nine races and was being hounded by Ericsson. He’s a two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion for a reason, and he drove like one at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Paul Kelly: Colton Herta’s dominant drive at St. Petersburg came to mind immediately, for two reasons. One, it was ungodly hot that Sunday at St. Pete, yet Herta – smartly wearing a cool suit – drove flawlessly. Two, this has been a down year for Andretti Autosport, which makes Herta’s imperious performance for the team even more noteworthy. But the dominant performance I’m picking is Scott Dixon’s crushing victory in the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Dixie led 206 of 212 laps to earn his first and so far only victory of the season in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda. He was hooked up, but that race wasn’t as easy as it looked. Traction compound placed on the Texas oval made the high groove as slippery as black ice, so drivers had to walk the tightrope between the edge of the grippy lower groove and slick upper groove all race long. Nobody did it better than Dixon, who simply crushed a deep, talented field that evening on the 1.5-mile oval.

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