Note: The INDYCAR Writers’ Roundtable is looking back at a fantastic, entertaining 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule to offer discussion and opinions about a variety of topics. This 10-part series will run regularly in October.
Today’s question: What was the best drive in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season?
Curt Cavin: There are several in consideration, led by Helio Castroneves winning the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Also: Colton Herta’s dominating drives at Long Beach and Laguna Seca where he combined to lead 188 of the 195 laps, winning both races from the pole. Scott Dixon dominated the first Texas Motor Speedway race, too, and of course Marcus Ericsson’s Nashville comeback after nearly flipping is worth of inclusion. But for my money, give me Alex Palou’s win from the pole at Portland International Raceway. His weekend started with an off at Turn 11, but he delivered in the pressure to take control of the championship, which he clinched two races later.
Zach Horrall: Insert any of Colton Herta’s winning drives here. But more specifically, I’m going with his winning performance at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. He started from the pole and led 91 of 95 laps, relinquishing just four laps to Romain Grosjean during pit cycles. I chose this over the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where he delivered a similar performance, because he took this drive out west and parlayed it into another impressive drive at Long Beach, where he only led 50 percent of the race en route to his third win of 2021. I think his drive at Laguna Seca is about more than Laguna Seca, which is why it’s my pick for best drive of 2021.
Paul Kelly: Colton Herta is a popular pick here, and it’s a measure of his speed that we have a few races from which to choose. I’ll stick with his dominating performance at St. Petersburg, where he led 97 of 100 laps from the NTT P1 Award for his first win of the season in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. I picked this race over similar dominant performances for a few reasons. One, St. Petersburg is a far more unforgiving circuit than WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. While Long Beach also is a merciless street circuit like St. Pete, it’s easy to forget it was brutally hot the final weekend in April when the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg took place. Colton was absolutely whipped when he climbed from the car in Victory Lane, with a cool suit hose smartly dangling from the waistband of his driver’s suit. He crushed the field in perhaps the hottest race of the season on one of the toughest tracks of the season. Nobody else had a chance that weekend.