Colton Herta leads 1-2-3 Andretti sweep at Mid-Ohio

Colton Herta leads 1-2-3 Andretti sweep at Mid-OhioColton Herta leads 1-2-3 Andretti sweep at Mid-Ohio

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Colton Herta (88) holds the lead during an IndyCar Series auto race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Lexington, Ohio. (AP Photo/Phil Long)

LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Colton Herta led an Andretti Autosport resurrection as the struggling team swept the podium Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and earned its first victory of the season.

Herta started on the pole and cleanly made it through a dicey opening turn as the 20-year-old won for the third time in his career. He led teammates Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay in a sweep for the Andretti group.

”It’s so huge. So huge,” team owner Michael Andretti said. ”Man, 1-2-3, after the way things have been going for us this year, this is huge.”

Rossi finished third a day earlier in the Saturday-Sunday doubleheader for what was just the second podium finish all year for Andretti. The other four Andretti drivers had failed to manage inconsistent pace and bad luck this season before Sunday.

It was the first Andretti podium sweep since 2005.

”I’m so happy for the team. It’s been a terrible year for us,” Rossi said. ”We’re just focused on racing at this point and we’re really trying to build a good foundation for next year.”

Hunter-Reay, in a contract year with Andretti, said the day was decided in qualifying and Herta won from the pole.

”It was nice to have a solid day with no hiccups,” Hunter-Reay said. ”It was a big day for Andretti.”

The trio was aided by a rare mistake by five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, who won last year for a sixth career victory at Mid-Ohio. Dixon is IndyCar’s winningest driver at the 13-turn, 2.258-miles course.

He arrived at the track with a chance at mathematically clinching his sixth IndyCar championship with a strong weekend but instead had an unusually poor showing. He qualified 17th for Saturday’s race and couldn’t make up enough positions to stop Josef Newgarden from slicing 20 points from his 96-point lead in the standings.

On Sunday, Dixon spun off course while running between Rossi and Hunter-Reay 22 laps into the race. Dixon rallied to finish 10th while Newgarden finished eighth and cut Dixon’s lead to 72 points. There are three scheduled races remaining on the overhauled 14-event IndyCar calendar.

”I got a little aggressive, total rookie mistake,” Dixon said. ”I’m so bummed for the team, it was such a stupid mistake.”

Graham Rahal finished fourth for the second consecutive day at his home track.

Herta, meanwhile, coasted away from the field on a chaotic start at the front. He’d won the first pole of his career earlier Sunday in a rain-delayed qualifying session that put him on the front row alongside Santino Ferrucci.

”We finally put everything together,” Herta said.

Ferrucci dipped deep into the grass racing side-by-side with Herta, and he jammed his way back onto the course. His forceful shove caused Ferrucci to bounce into teammate Alex Palou’s car, which then snagged and spun Felix Rosenqvist.

”It was my corner,” Herta said.

Rosenqvist wound up in a tire barrier with his car draped in large white wrapping that had broken free. The race was ruined for both Rosenqvist and Palou, and Ferrucci wasted a front row starting spot. He had started second and finished 14th in the 23-car field.

”Somebody went out and just drove into me,” the Spanish rookie said. ”It was very disappointing because I couldn’t do anything and it’s the first lap of the race.”

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