In what has been a tough season for Andretti Autosport, Colton Herta has been the team’s biggest star in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES sky, contending for a run at his first championship.
Herta, driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda for Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, earned his fourth career victory by winning the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 25. But then he slipped into a dry spell, with just one top-10 finish in his next five starts.
But Herta recently escaped from that funk by finishing fourth in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on June 13 and by qualifying second and finishing in that spot in the REV Grand Prix presented by AMR on June 20 at Road America.
“The results are coming now,” Herta said. “It makes everybody want to work harder. When you're doing well and you're in a fight for the top positions every weekend, everybody wants to push harder.”
Herta stands alone as the only race winner nine events into a disappointing season to date for Andretti Autosport. His teammates, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe are 13th, 15th and 20th in the standings, respectively.
“I think it's a lot of luck, just weird things happening for them,” Herta said of his counterparts. “Obviously, I think the rest of the team is in a little bit of a slump.”
Herta is Andretti’s best hope for a title in 2021. He’s seventh in the standings, 107 points behind leader Alex Palou, but he is ready to make his push with seven races to go.
“We got to make up the points gap, and we have to jump all the guys,” Herta said. “We just have to have really good weekends from here on out. Now, we just need to refine everything in the next few weeks and really dial in.”
Herta is confident in his abilities not only due to his recent success but because of past glory at Mid-Ohio. He won the second race of a doubleheader last September at the challenging track near Columbus, Ohio.
“I'm hoping we can come with the same car and do it all again,” Herta said. “We had a good basis off last year,” Herta said. “Obviously, things have changed a lot since then. Really looking forward to getting back there. It's going to be an amazing weekend, especially for the fans.”
The race on America’s Independence Day, July 4, should be a huge one for Herta on his path to achieving his goal of two more wins to finish the season.
But even if that goal isn’t reached, Herta has found plenty of enjoyment working this season for the first time with his father, Bryan, as his strategist. Bryan was a four-time race winner during his 12-year INDYCAR SERIES career and has won the Indianapolis 500 twice as a team owner.
The match of a father on his son’s radio sometimes isn’t made in heaven, as the family ties are hard to break, leading to emotion. But Bryan and Colton share a laid-back California cool that serves them well during races.
“It's been really nice,” Colton Herta said. “He's done a really good job this year so far. I think we've had good strategy pretty much everywhere we've gone. Yeah, I really enjoy working with him. So far, it's been a lot of fun.”
But don’t mistake that calm demeanor for lack of passion. Colton can get salty on the radio with his father, at times, including during a caution in Detroit when yellows didn’t fall his way and he found himself deep in the field.
“I yell at everybody all the time,” Herta said, joking. “I get heated in the races. But I think everybody understands that it's just during the race. No, I mean, obviously if things aren't going well, everybody's frustrated, so...”
There won’t be much more frustration if Herta stays consistent, a hallmark of his young career. He finished his first full season with eight top-10 finishes, and last season he had 11 top-10 finishes in 14 races. He has four top-10 finishes in nine starts this season.
“Three race wins at the end of the year,” Herta said. “I think that should be enough if we finish on the podium a majority of the other times. It should be enough to kind of get us in the hunt.”