Colton Herta at age 12. (Photo courtesy PR1Motorsports)

Colton Herta to make his first Indy-sanctioned race Saturday — at the age of 14!

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When we read Dave Lewandowski’s story on about Colton Herta, son of team owner and former IndyCar driver Bryan Herta, we had to re-read the lead paragraph four or five times before it sank in.

To wit:

“BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Here’s one for the record books: Colton Herta will make his Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda debut this weekend, becoming the first driver born this century to compete in an INDYCAR-sanctioned race.”

If you still haven’t figured it out, the key words are “the first driver born this century to compete in an INDYCAR-sanctioned race.”

Let’s see, it’s 2014, so if our math is right (which it is), that makes young Colton just 14 years old – and he’s already racing in one of the feeder systems to the IndyCar Series.

Doesn’t that make you feel really, really O-L-D?

Herta would have made his USF2000 debut nearly a month ago at St. Petersburg, Fla., but he wasn’t old enough at the time (his birthday is March 30, and the minimum age to compete is 14).

But this weekend’s event isn’t the first for the Valencia, Calif., native. Even at such a precocious age, he’s already a seasoned and successful racer, as Lewandowski points out, having won the Pacific F1600 Championship last season and was runner-up in the Skip Barber Racing Summer Series.

Now, Herta’s eldest son is on the his biggest stage yet, competing in Rounds 3 and 4 of the season on Saturday.

“It’s a ginormous step in my career,” Herta told Lewandowski. “I’m very excited.”

So far, Herta seems up for the task. In practice Friday, he was sixth-fastest in the morning session and seventh-fastest in the afternoon session around Barber Motorsports Park’s 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course.

“Everybody has been here before us (competing in the Mazda Road to Indy Winterfest) so the biggest issue was learning the track,” Herta said.

Lewandowski, one of our favorite writers on the IndyCar scene, put Colton’s age in great perspective:

“Herta, driving the No. 98 car for JAY Motorsports, was too young to compete in the March 29-30 opening doubleheader at St. Petersburg, Fla., according to the rulebook. Some other things he’s still too young to do:

* Sit in the exit row of an airplane.

* Hold a driver’s license – for a passenger car to get to the racetrack.

* Get a work permit.

* Give blood.

* Join a trade union.

* Pilot a glider.

* Buy a lottery ticket.

* Apply for a passport without parental consent.”

At the rate he’s going, Colton could potentially set two more records in the coming years, according to Lewandowski:

“Nelson Philippe — at 17 years, 8 months, 25 days — is the youngest driver to compete in an Indy car race (April 18, 2004, at Long Beach sanctioned by Champ Car) in records dating to 1946.

“Graham Rahal — at 19 years, 3 months, 2 days — is the youngest race winner (April 6, 2008, at St. Petersburg sanctioned by INDYCAR).”

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Check out the video below of Colton in an F1600 race last year at Button Willow Raceway:

Zach Veach confirmed with Belardi to start 2016 Indy Lights season

Photo: Belardi Auto Racing
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Two-year Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series veteran Zach Veach will return to the series in 2016 following a year’s hiatus. At the moment, it’s for the start of the season only but with the intended plan of making it a full-season effort.

The young American joins the Belardi Auto Racing team, which he narrowly lost out to in his last full-time campaign in 2014 when he finished third in the points.

Veach, who turns 21 next month, is Brian Belardi’s first confirmed driver for the 2016 season. Perhaps one of the single most experienced drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy, Veach has been on all three rungs (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000) since 2010 and spent 2015 as a color commentator for the IndyCar Radio Network.

He tested for the team last month at Sebring, and will have several other tests before the St. Petersburg season opening weekend March 11-13.

“I’m very thankful for this opportunity that Brian Belardi has given me,” Veach said. “After racing against his team for so many years, I’ve always had a ton of respect for him, his crew, and of course, his cars. Belardi Auto Racing competes to win championships and I would love to give them their second Indy Lights title.

“Right now, we only have a partial program in place, but with a great amount of effort on both sides. We will be doing everything possible to try to get funding together for an entire season, so we can put a championship fight in place. I look towards winter testing, and 2016, with a lot of hope and excitement.”

“We’re really happy to have Zach confirmed with us for next year, and we’ll work closely with him to make sure that we can get the funding we need to run him all season,” Belardi added.

“He’s a supreme talent both in and out of the car, and his initial test outings in the car were just as we expected.  Zach was on-pace very early in Sebring after familiarizing himself with the new Indy Lights car, and I know that we’ll challenge for race wins and the championship next year.”

ARCA releases 2016 schedule; Mobile out, Madison (Wisc.) returns

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The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will have only minor changes to the 2016 season, the sanctioning body said Wednesday after revealing next season’s schedule.

The biggest change is Mobile, Alabama is off the schedule, to be replaced by a return to Madison, Wisconsin.

As ARCA enters its 64th consecutive year of racing, the schedule will once again feature 20 races for the third consecutive year, starting at Daytona International Speedway on February 13 and ending on Oct. 14 at Kansas Speedway.

ARCA 2016 sked



All told, there will be nine races on short tracks, eight on superspeedways, two on dirt and one on a road course.

“We are pleased to announce our full and complete schedule,” ARCA President Ron Drager said. “We feel we have once again put together a schedule that highlights the diversity of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. We are excited for the start of the new season.”

Other changes include:

* The annual Chicagoland Speedway race will be moved to Thursday night, Sept. 15, kicking off the opening weekend of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

* The road course race at New Jersey will be moved to Saturday, May 28, rather than its previous Sunday afternoon date.

* The annual dirt race at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois will shift from an afternoon to an evening race.

* The series will mark milestone events with the 75th series event at Toledo Speedway and the 99th and 100th races at southern Indiana’s Salem Speedway.

* The series will have companion races with all three of NASCAR’s pro touring series, as well as one weekend as the undercard for the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway in July.

* As for the return to Madison, Drager said, “It was important for us to schedule a race in the Menards market. Last year, we did not have a race in either Minnesota or Wisconsin and this year, we decided to go back. We are definitely looking forward to racing again at Madison and the upper Midwest.”

* The annual awards banquet takes place Dec. 12 in Indianapolis.

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Ecclestone has ‘no doubts’ Monza will remain on F1 calendar

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MILAN (AP) Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone is confident the Italian Grand Prix in Monza can find the needed cash to stay on the calendar.

Ecclestone tells the Gazzetta dello Sport, “We will find the right solution – I no longer have doubts – to provide a future for the Italian GP.”

No circuit has hosted more F1 racing than Monza, but officials at the track outside Milan have had trouble producing the estimated 25 million euros ($26.6 million) per year that Ecclestone seeks to keep the race in place after the current contract expires next year.

Ecclstone says, “Things have been cleared up and there is only one go between, (Angelo) Sticchi Damiani, the president of the Italian Automobile Club.”

The Italian GP next year is scheduled for Sept. 4.

Alternative engine solution rejected by F1 Commission

Nico Rosberg

Plans to introduce a new alternative, cheaper engine into Formula 1 for 2017 – hypothetically a 2.2-liter V6 similar to what is seen in IndyCar – will at least temporarily go on the backburner.

The F1 Commission has rejected the so called “alternative engine solution,” where several companies submitted proposals to be that alternative supplier.

“The F1 Commission voted not to pursue this option at this stage — however, it may be reassessed after the Power Unit manufacturers have presented their proposal to the Strategy Group,” the FIA said on Wednesday.

“The parties involved have agreed on a course to address several key areas relating to Power Unit supply in Formula One,” the statement added.

Meanwhile the statement outlined four things the current manufacturers – Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault and Honda – would be tasked with improving on the current 1.6-liter formula:

Those are:

  • a guarantee of supply to teams
  • the need to reduce the engines’ cost
  • simplification of the specification
  • “improved noise”

Further meetings between the manufacturers and the governing body are scheduled, including one this weekend at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale.

As F1 heads into the final weekend of the season, political/paddock items such as Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s respective power unit futures, whether Renault’s takeover of Lotus will finally become official and what will happen with Manor’s team leadership stake – this marks Graeme Lowdon and John Booth’s final weekends although ex-McLaren man Dave Ryan has been hired as the team’s new racing director – are among the talking points.