LONG BEACH, Calif. – Native Californian Bryan Herta, the former IndyCar and sports car driver and current team owner, had his home state toss up one of the crazier days on record for him this Thursday.
The Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach featured Herta getting inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, officially confirming the withdrawal of his team’s second IndyCar for the Indianapolis 500, and the official launch of Bryan Herta Rallysport, which will feature two cars in Red Bull Global Rallycross and a third car in GRC Lites.
“It’s been one of the most eclectic days for sure,” Herta told MotorSportsTalk at Thursday’s Red Bull GRC Media Day. “It’s super cool. I was super thrilled to join the Walk of Fame. It’s been a huge day for me. Long Beach is my home race.”
Herta never had the luck on race day despite some ridiculous pace over a three-year stretch from 1998 through 2000.
He scored the pole in 1998 but fell to third in the waning stages of the race as Alex Zanardi completed a legendary comeback drive to win, with Dario Franchitti finishing second for what was his first career CART podium. Herta was third again driving for Bobby Rahal a year later, and in 2000, finished fifth in a stand-in role for Derrick Walker’s team.
Today though wasn’t so much about the past, as Herta explained how important it was to finally confirm the new team in Red Bull GRC, where Herta partners with Steve Jones of 7R, Inc. in the team. He joins Chip Ganassi, Michael Andretti and James “Sulli” Sullivan as IndyCar owners in Red Bull GRC.
“We’re super excited to finally announce this,” he said. “I’ve been bursting at the seems to be able to talk about this.
“It’s not just entering the series, but we’re entering with a super competitive package of cars, drivers and sponsors. I just feel like this takes us to next level in terms of a race team.”
Patrik Sandell will be in the No. 18 Kobalt Tools Ford Fiesta ST, with Austin Dyne in the No. 14 Castrol MAGNATEC Ford Fiesta ST in Red Bull GRC. Collete Davis, a former open-wheel driver, will be in the No. 07 River Racing entry in GRC Lites.
One entry not happening for the team is its second Indianapolis 500 car, which had been slated for Englishman Jay Howard but has now been withdrawn. Herta explained the situation.
“It got really late,” Herta said. “We’d announced we were gonna run Jay. We thought we had a deal to do that. A partner scaled back what they were able to do.
“For me it was an easy decision to focus on one car, because we have a lot going on. We tried to leave it as late as we could. Frankly, Jay deserves a good shot and we had hoped to do it for him this year.”
The Howard withdrawal will leave Gabby Chaves in No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda as a rookie on a single-car team, with BHA likely one of just two single-car team entrants (Lazier Partners Racing) slated for the month of May.
The Red Bull GRC season begins May 31 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and will provide Herta’s squad – and the Ganassi, Andretti and SH squads – a double barrel weekend of action in one fell swoop. IndyCar will have a doubleheader race on Belle Isle Park at Detroit that weekend.