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:

Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.