Colton Herta

Colton Herta rides into the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 21 carrying a 30-race winless drought.

Herta’s last win came in May 2022 in a wet Sonsio Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course. Being winless with one podium finish, three top-five finishes and eight top-10 results relegated the second-generation driver to a disappointing 10th-place finish in the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver standings.

“It was, for sure, probably my worst season in INDYCAR,” Herta said. “It was the first time in my career that I haven't had a win in a year.”

Herta amassed four wins for Carlin in the 2015 MSA Formula Championship. A year later, he reached victory lane four more times in the Euroformula Open Championship. The 2017 and 2018 seasons led him to INDY NXT by Firestone, where he had six wins across two years. Herta won twice as an INDYCAR SERIES rookie in 2019, once in 2020, three more times in 2021 and had one trip to the top step of the podium in 2022.

Southern California native Herta already has found victory lane in 2024, but it wasn’t in his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda fielded by Andretti Global. He was victorious for Andretti’s joint entry with Wayne Taylor Racing in IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship’s 12 Hours of Sebring last month.

That euphoria of winning at Sebring in a sports car doesn’t translate to the INDYCAR SERIES for Herta.

“It definitely makes you feel good, but the INDYCAR side of things is very different,” he said. “So, I consider myself still winless because the INDYCAR stuff is my priority. The sports car stuff is awesome, and I love doing it, but it was a big team effort. Now back to INDYCAR, very different from the driving side of things. So, still winless.”

The city streets of Long Beach provide an ample opportunity for that drought to end Sunday (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network). Andretti Global has won four of the last five Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach races. Andretti driver Kyle Kirkwood earned his first career INDYCAR SERIES victory last April at Long Beach.

Herta won the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach from the 14th starting position. He could have won in 2022, leading 28 laps from the pole, but crashed coming to his second pit stop. Last season, he finished fourth while Andretti Global teammates Kirkwood and Romain Grosjean celebrated on the podium.

A win this weekend also could answer another nagging question – when can Herta, 23, who had signed a new long-term contract to remain with Andretti Global two seasons ago, take the leap as the unquestioned lead driver within the Andretti Global organization?

With Ryan Hunter-Reay departing following the 2022 INDYCAR SERIES season and Alexander Rossi moving to Arrow McLaren for 2023 and beyond, Herta became the longest-tenured driver within the Andretti Global walls.

Was Herta ready and seasoned enough to lead Andretti Global to its first INDYCAR SERIES championship since 2012 with Hunter-Reay? It hasn’t happened yet, but he’s confident in the team to deliver.

“Just having a more consistent weekend,” he said. “There were some things that were definitely out of our control, and there were a lot of things that were in our control. Kind of looking back at some of those races where we had mistakes, making sure that we note those down and stuff like that doesn't happen again.”

Herta was the top-finishing Honda driver, placing fifth, in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on March 10.

“Mentally, it does a lot more when you start the tempo off like that,” Herta said. “When you're doing well and everything is clicking, it just kind of sets it for the rest of the season.

“We've seen guys being able to win championships doing both, starting off the year and kind of running it down, and vice versa. Scott Dixon in 2020 when he won four races in a row. It can be done both ways.

“But I think for me mentally and personally, it helps a lot more if you can get it done early and you can kind of keep that tempo up.”

One other factor that bodes well for Herta this weekend: Three of his seven career wins have come in his native Golden State, as he also has two victories at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.