With Marco Andretti focusing on the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge this season, veteran race strategist Bryan Herta didn’t have an assignment for the other NTT INDYCAR SERIES events in 2021.
The request for his services came from an interesting source – his son, Colton.
The elder Herta, who won four INDYCAR SERIES races as a driver and two Indianapolis 500s as an owner and race strategist, was asked to call his son’s races at Andretti Autosport this season.
This is news not only because Colton should be a championship contender but because it’s rare at the highest level of motorsports. The Hertas have never worked together in this form, and not many father-son combinations have made it work.
Bryan has always been a hands-off father when it came to his son’s racing career. Confident that Colton was in good hands with Carlin in European junior formulas and under the Andretti umbrella in INDYCAR, Bryan was always happy to focus on helping other drivers.
“I don’t think he’s ever heard me talk on the radio before,” Colton said.
Actually, it happened once last year. When Andretti retired early from the first race at Iowa Speedway, Bryan switched his Andretti Autosport radio to Colton’s channel.
“I’ve always tried to maintain (professional) separation between us,” Bryan said of his middle child. “I’ve always been available to him, but I wouldn’t get in his head. But sometimes he’d text me (on a race weekend) and ask if I wanted to go to hospitality, I’d say, ‘Oh, yeah, heading that way.’”
But Bryan acknowledged it was always a challenge to be so close and yet so far away.
“Any parent will understand that,” he said. “It goes against every instinct you have.”
Colton’s instinct to want Bryan as his strategist is another sign of how savvy the youngest race winner in INDYCAR history is – he turns 21 on March 30. It’s particularly smart as Colton pursues his first Indianapolis 500 victory.
Bryan was on Dan Wheldon’s radio in 2011 when Wheldon won his second “500” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Five years later, Bryan again went to victory lane with Alexander Rossi. It was Bryan’s calm voice that kept saying “clutch and coast” as Rossi, then a series rookie, effectively milked his remaining drops of fuel.
The new pairing of Hertas has occurred at a couple of tests so far in 2021, but their first live action together will be the season-opening Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst on Sunday, April 18 at Barber Motorsports Park. They both expect this pairing to work.
“Obviously, neither of us would do it if we didn’t think we could do it,” Bryan said. “We’re well aware of the potential pitfalls, and we’re going into this with our eyes open to avoid (any).”
Said Colton: “I think you can tell by now that we’re both pretty mellow.”