Colton Herta’s ‘Bump and Run’ helps determine IndyCar outcome at Long Beach

LONG BEACH, California – Colton Herta brought the “Bump and Run” to Sunday’s 49th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, but the IndyCar driver claimed it was not intentional.

The incident with seven laps to go in the race ruined Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden’s bid to track down Scott Dixon for the checkered flag.

Newgarden had trimmed Dixon’s lead to 0.3621 seconds with 14 laps to go.

With seven laps to go, Dixon encountered traffic and that appeared to be the moment when Newgarden could make what he hoped would be the race-winning move.

But Newgarden’s No. 2 Chevrolet got tagged in the rear by Herta’s No. 26 Gainbridge Honda for Andretti Autosport in the hairpin – the final turn on the 11-turn, 1.98-miles street course.

The rear-end contact sent Newgarden’s Chevrolet into anti-stall mode, momentarily cutting the power. Herta moved into second place, and Newgarden lost two positions and was immediately behind Herta and Alex Palou.

“How is that not a penalty?” Newgarden screamed to his team on the radio. “One hundred percent, that’s a penalty.”

Herta radioed to his crew that Newgarden had stopped in the middle of the corner and that caused the crash.

The two drivers had a conversation on pit road after climbing out of their race cars.

“He wasn’t happy,” Herta answered to a question directed by “Would you be upset if that happened?”

When asked his reaction to Newgarden's comment, Herta responded, “I won’t say, other than he wasn’t happy with me.”

“I wouldn't have been happy if it went down. Ultimately, it is what it is. I just misjudged it. I apologized to him, yeah.”

Ironically, both Herta and Newgarden live in Nashville, Tennessee – the only two drivers in the series that live in the famed entertainment city.

“It seemed pretty obvious,” Newgarden said afterwards. “He just misjudged it and ran into me. Once I got lifted off the ground, it went into anti-stall, and I couldn’t get going. I had to wait for the clutch to disengage and reset so I was stalled there for a second.

“I’m not going to say we were going to get Dixon because it was tough to get a run going there. He was really quick, but we had a great car, and I was proud of my strategy.

“I’m not sure about the Herta deal. They (IndyCar Race Control) need to take a look at it. That seems pretty black and white to me, but I’d ask the question to everybody else. If it were in the reverse, I’d expect to be penalized.”

The “Bump and Run” is a NASCAR technique often used on the short tracks when a driver will bump the car in front of him to loosen it up just enough that he can be passed for the position.

But that is not what Herta had in mind as the Andretti Global driver explained his side of the incident and accepted responsibility.

“I misjudged it a little bit, but he set up a pretty wide, and was cutting back in so he was a little bit slower at apex,” Herta said. “Ultimately, it was up to me to carry the right speed into the corner and not run into the back of people. I just misjudged it.

“It is something in the back of mine. I don’t like racing like that, especially to a guy like Josef Newgarden. I have a lot of respect for him.

“Overall, I’m happy with the Gainbridge Honda and what we were able to do today. We want wins, but to be in the top five every race, we have to keep putting up points like that.

“Once we have the car to win and everything is right for us, the wins will come.”

Meantime, it was Dixon celebrating the win in Victory Lane, the 57th of his career that leaves him just 10 wins behind AJ Foyt’s all-time record of 67.

“This was huge,” Dixon said. “Josef was coming strong, and I didn’t know how good he would be once he got behind us. But he burned his tires off, too.

“Chip Ganassi told me to just go for it, and that is what I did.

“This win is up there because the stress level was high. Those guys were coming fast and strong. I saw Josef coming and I knew, man, this is going to really be tough. I knew Colton was going to be strong, but those last few laps, we had plenty of fuel and we just went for it.”

Dixon was able to use a fuel-saving strategy to win the race, the second Acura Grand Prix win of his career. He also won on the streets of Long Beach in 2015.

“I still don't completely know how Dixon made it to the front,” Herta said. “That was pretty impressive.

“From where we were, we thought the best option was staying out there. I think we made the most out of that strategy. I was happy with how the car was. We were super-fast.

“Sometimes you need a little bit more than just speed in IndyCar racing. We saw that today. It's always a tough one to lose at the home race, but I'm happy with second.

“Can't complain too much.”

Herta couldn’t complain, but Newgarden had reason to. When pressed further on the situation, Herta gave a description of how they should have made it through the hairpin without contact.

“Ideally you want to exit the corner as straight as possible to get the best run onto the straight,” Herta explained. “You do that by opening up the entry. But it slows down your speed so much on the entry, if you're not doing that every lap, it's tough to kind of gauge on how fast he was going to be going there.

“He opened it up.

“Ultimately, it's his right to do that. It's my right to not run into the back of him there. But that's why he did it. He went wider. He did a different line to get a better exit to hopefully get a run on to Scott.

“In doing that he was a lot slower mid corner.”

From that point, Dixon was able to maintain his advantage and cruise to the impressive victory.

Dating back to last season, Dixon has won four of the last six IndyCar Series races. He led 49 laps in the 85-lap race.

“That was fun,” Dixon said. “I think it was definitely a bit sketchy in the fact that the pressure is coming hard and strong.

“I think we could have had the status quo there with Josef. We had over 100 seconds of push-to-pass left. I think he was down to the 20s by the time he even got to me. Even to get that out, they weren't trimmed out, we were trimmed, that would have made it difficult to pass.

“Obviously, the incident between Colton and him backed him up a little bit. We were OK once we got past a couple people in traffic.

“With two laps to go, they came on the radio saying, go flat out, mix one, overtake, whatever you need. That was definitely nice to hear at that point because the stress level was pretty high.

“To get after it for the last two laps without a concern was big.”

Thanks to Herta’s “Bump and Run” Dixon was able to celebrate in Victory Lane for the 57th time in his IndyCar career.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500