LEXINGTON, Ohio – Driving an open-wheel race car at speed is hard enough. Add in a hand injury and it only creates more of a challenge to drive, let alone try to win.
Yet that’s exactly what Colton Herta is facing in this weekend’s Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Herta, driver of the No. 98 Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing Mazda/Dallara IL-15, sustained a non-displaced fracture in his left thumb when he crashed in qualifying two weeks ago on the streets of Toronto. It was the start of a nightmare weekend for Herta as he nursed the injury while still trying to drive. He crashed in the race and again in qualifying for the second race of the Toronto weekend.
Herta saw an eight-point lead in the Indy Lights standings heading to Toronto turn into an 18-point deficit to Andretti Autosport teammate Patricio O’Ward. Following a week off to rest his thumb, Herta said it felt better on Friday at Mid-Ohio.
The proof was in the results. Herta was fastest in the morning practice and qualified third later in the day for the first race of the weekend, scheduled for Saturday. The 18-year-old said he’s feeling more comfortable driving with the injury.
“I’ve tried a couple different splints to help out my thumb, but right now I’m just taping it up and it already feels a lot better. The pain isn’t that big of a deal at the moment,” Herta said.
Herta is looking to recapture the form that saw him win four straight races earlier this season to take the points lead. With five races remaining including the two this weekend, there’s no time like the present.
“I just need to keep the momentum up that we have here so far,” Herta said. “It’s going to be tough, though.
“If we can get more points and even win these races, that’s going to be huge going into Gateway with the bigger points gap on the ovals. It’s very crucial we have a good weekend here at Mid-Ohio.”
O’Ward won the pole for Race 1 with a lap of 1 minute, 11.3118 seconds (113.990 mph) in qualifying. Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Norman was second (1:11.7350) with Herta third (1:11.8219).
Race 1 starts at 3:05 p.m. ET Saturday, preceded by qualifying for Race 2 at 9:20 a.m. The second race starts at 1:05 p.m. Sunday. All will stream live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.