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 IndyCar.com 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).”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.