Brad Keselowski and Colton Herta were the victors in their respective series this weekend as NASCAR and IndyCar visited Talladega and St. Petersburg.
Keselowski’s victory was the newest name in a growing list of one-time winners in 2021 in the stock car series while Herta’s fourth career win was in dominant fashion.
Here’s how both races unfolded and enjoyed their moments of drama throughout.
Plate racing always has the potential to throw up a surprise result or two and the ingredients were there at Talladega for a potential repeat following Michael McDowell’s shock-Daytona victory earlier this year.
While Keselowski might not have been a surprising face to see in victory lane, the top three drivers in the championship not finishing inside the top 30 just underlines the unpredictable nature of plate racing with stages.
That top three of Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr and Joey Logano were all taken out of contention in separate incidents but the latter’s was the most dramatic. The No22 driver was sent airborne on the final lap of stage one after contact with Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
From the first stage, the racing was as frenetic as expected with points on the line for each interval. Kyle Larson was one of the early names to fall by the wayside, his engine went bang after overheating due to debris in his grille opening.
Logano’s flip came at the end of Stage One as drivers ramped up the aggression. A bump from Hamlin behind unsettled the Ford and after spinning, a tap from Stenhouse Jr was enough to lift the rear of the Mustang and pitch it up and over onto its roof. Logano was able to emerge from the wreck unharmed as Matt DiBenedetto took the opening stage.
It was a similar story at the end of Stage Two as the three remaining Hendrick Motorsports drivers were involved in a wreck coming to the final lap of the segment. Hamlin and Truex were sent into the outside wall approaching the start/finish line and the concertina effect at 200mph took out several others. William Byron was pushed into the middle lane and team-mate Alex Bowman who then collected team-mate Chase Elliott on the bottom lane, pushing the No9 into the grass. The caution meant Bubba Wallace scored his first career Cup Series stage win.
DiBenedetto had lost the Talladega race last year due to a final-lap pass and the Wood Brothers driver suffered the same fate once again leading the pack in the final overtime restart. Coming to the line to begin the final lap, the No21 driver moved up to block Ryan Blaney just as Keselowski and Co. got organised on the bottom line to push past the leader.
Tyler Reddick could have revived a push for the outside line but opted to try and take things three-wide, killing any momentum and leaving the bottom line headed up by Keselowski to round the final two corners and win.
It was Colton Herta’s day at St. Petersburg as the 21-year-old took his fourth IndyCar win, equalling father Bryan’s tally.
Herta led from the start and pulled out a convincing lead over the chasing Jack Harvey before the first caution for Jimmie Johnson was thrown on lap 16. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion continued his difficult start to IndyCar with a visit to the barriers, locking up and sliding into the wall at the final hairpin.
As pitstops unfolded, Graham Rahal and Alexander Rossi came to blows. An ambitious move by the Andretti Autosport driver led to contact on lap 37 and resulted in a flat tyre for Rahal. He couldn’t make the next corner and both drivers skated off the racing line, bringing out the yellows once again.
Nobody was getting close to Herta out in front but another yellow for a Johnson mistake closed things back up again in the final 25 laps. The Chip Ganassi driver suffered a similar spin to his Barber one from the weekend before, dropping his car over the bumps.
Josef Newgarden tried to stick with the race leader on the restart but once more, Herta had things totally covered at the front of the pack before another quickfire caution closed the field up.
Both had similar levels of push-to-pass left available but the marbles off line in the opening corners made a potential dive-bomb move a very risky one, and Newgarden held back on the subsequent restart.
In the end, Herta accumulated a 2.5sec gap to win his first IndyCar race on a street course.