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Bryan Herta’s son, Colton, ready to follow in dad’s footsteps and tire tracks in Indy Lights

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There’s following in a father’s footsteps, but Colton Herta is taking things one step father, so to speak, also following in the tire tracks of father and former racer turned team co-owner Bryan Herta.

The younger Herta is preparing to follow another path his father blazed, that of racing in the Indianapolis 500. The elder Herta is also a two-time Indy 500 winning car owner, including the car 2016 500 winner Alexander Rossi drove.

To follow his father’s path, Colton – who turns 17 on March 20 – is preparing for this year’s 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season.

Colton has a lot to live up to. His father was the 1993 Indy Lights champion. Colton also has prior MRTI experience in 2014, but was unable to compete in the Cooper Tires USF2000 championship due to age requirements – even though he still earned six top-10 finishes in his rookie year.

After two years of living by himself – and racing – in Europe, the younger Herta is back in the U.S. for 2017. He will compete in the Indy Lights Series for a new team that is a joint effort between his father’s Andretti Autosport organization and George Michael Steinbrenner IV, grandson of late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

“My dad raced against his stepdad in Barber Saab, so George Michael came to one of my Skip Barber races at Lime Rock Park,” Colton Herta said, in an interview with the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires. “We really clicked and he came to all my USF2000 races in 2014.

“He was working with my dad on the Andretti Autosport Global Rallycross team and gaining experience, and decided he wanted to do this full time. Michael Andretti was on board, so it all came together pretty fast.

“I hope we’ll see some of the Yankees players at the St. Pete race – their spring training facility is in Tampa and they’re in town Saturday and Sunday. And maybe Watkins Glen.”

Moving to Europe by himself was a big challenge, but Colton quickly developed not only a good support system overseas, he also raced for the noted Carlin team.

“I’d always wanted to race in Europe, so when I got the chance with Carlin, I took it,” he said. “It was a big eye-opener. I moved over there when I was 14 and lived on my own for two years. It was a big step but it really did mature me – sort of like going to college, if you went to college when you were 14 years old!

“Carlin is a really powerful team and they’re very good at what they do. Trevor Carlin and the whole team made the transition really easy for me. The engineers are particularly good at adapting drivers and I got into a ton of different cars – FIA F3, Formula F3, British F3, F4. It will be interesting racing against them this year!”

While his father remains at the center of Colton’s career as both an inspiration and supporter (and now co-team owner), Colton almost seemed destined to be a race car driver from almost after he was born.

“I did the normal kid sports like baseball and soccer, but everything always came back to racing,” he said. “That’s always been the main focus! I remember being in the motorhome and going to almost every race when my dad was driving for Andretti.

“I suppose I wanted to race because my dad did, and I was around it my whole life which amplified that. I started racing dirt bikes before I was 4 years old then raced karts from age 5 to 12. I’m not sure when it really got serious: it started with club racing, then some national championships then international racing. It just clicked. I really enjoyed working with the mechanics and working on the kart. I loved to see the progress.”

Being part of the Mazda Road to Indy will not only offer Colton additional experience in further developing his racing career, there is also one other key benefit: Indy Lights races at most of the same tracks and on the same weekends as the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“You can talk to so many of the IndyCar drivers, the guys who have been racing on those tracks for 20 years,” he said. “You have them as a resource.”

Being back on American racing soil for the first time in two seasons, the younger Herta is keeping expectations low for a start. But he definitely has higher expectations as he gets more comfortable as the season progresses.

“I don’t really have too many expectations,” Herta said. “I just want to see how it goes. We have a good car so I know we’ll be quick in preseason testing. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and not making too many rookie mistakes.”

As for how long he plans to compete in the Indy Lights Series, Colton has a very clear plan for both then and beyond.

“I think two years in the series is reasonable,” he said. “Hopefully I can do well, win a championship and move up to the Verizon IndyCar Series.”

Colton is also like his father in another way, both having a unique sense of humor. For example, when asked if he has a “hidden talent,” Colton reflects to one of the things while he raced in Europe.

“I am a good cook, since I’ve had two and a half years of experience cooking for myself! I can make a mean steak, but chicken teriyaki is my best dish.”

And when asked if he wasn’t driving a race car, Colton was very matter of fact of what he would be:

“Broke! I don’t know what else I could do. My talent pool is a little shallow, so it’s race car driver or bust.”

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Robert Hight extends Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons

Photo: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery
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MORRISON, Colo. (AP) Robert Hight beat Tommy Johnson Jr. on Sunday in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway to extend his Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons.

Hight topped Johnson with a 3.995-second pass at 317.57 mph in a Chevrolet Camaro SS for his 38th career victory.

“We definitely struggled through the first few rounds and we were lucky to get those round wins, but I have a great team who figured things out and helped get me to the winner’s circle,” Hight said. “It’s definitely a long-time coming and we hadn’t had much luck, but today we had some luck and we hope this continues throughout the Western Swing.”

Antron Brown won in Top Fuel, Drew Skillman in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Brown edged teammate and No. 1 qualifier Leah Pritchett with a 3.792 at 319.82. He has three victories this season to push his career total to 64.

Skillman raced to his second straight victory and the fifth of his career, beating points leader Bo Butner with a 6.916 run at 198.15 in a Camaro.

Krawiec topped Matt Smith with a 7.145 at 188.28. The Harley-Davidson rider has two victories this season and 38 overall.

Sauber confirms Matsushita for Hungary test as well

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Honda junior driver Nobuhiro Matsushita will have a run with Sauber F1 Team on the second day of the Hungarian Grand Prix post-race week test, in the team’s C36 chassis.

Sauber’s engine selection for 2018 is up in the air. While the team announced a switch from year old Ferraris to Hondas, this was done under prior team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and rumors have persisted the deal may be off, or wasn’t fully done in the first place.

That Matsushita is running at this test for his first day in an F1 car – Gustav Malja will run on day one – could indicate the Honda switch isn’t yet a dead topic.

“When I was four years old, I was fascinated by Michael Schumacher, watching him racing in Formula 1. Since then my dream was to become a Formula 1 driver,” he said. “I am very excited about my first Formula 1 test and I am really looking forward to driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari at the Hungaroring – it is a great opportunity for me. I hope it will be a productive day for the team as well as for myself, so that I can learn as much as possible. I would like to thank the Sauber F1 Team for making this happen.”

New team boss Frederic Vasseur, formerly of Renault, gave his take on the test.

“I am pleased that Nobuharu has this great opportunity. He deserves the experience of his first test in a Formula 1 car. Ever since his debut in Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix, I have been following his progress closely, and have watched him advance his performance from year to year. With this Formula 1 test, he comes one step closer to his dream of becoming an F1 driver one day.”

Renault confirms Robert Kubica will test in Hungary

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Renault Sport F1 Team has confirmed Robert Kubica will make his return to a current Formula 1 car in the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test, which will only continue to fuel the hype train for a possible race return.

The Pole has undertaken two tests in recent weeks with older cars but this day in the Renault R.S.17 will provide the team a chance to evaluate him in current machinery to gauge his race level fitness.

It’s a story that has got the F1 world buzzing in recent weeks as Kubica, injured in a rally accident before the 2011 season, has made a comeback to restart his racing career.

Poor Nicholas Latifi, also confirmed for the test that runs the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Hungarian Grand Prix, will be undoubtedly overlooked as a result.

Jolyon Palmer will race in Hungary this weekend at least but whether the Brit continues beyond the summer break that follows afterwards remains a question mark.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.