Colton Herta was the showstopper at Texas

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
2 Comments

FORT WORTH, Texas – Apparently, nobody told rookie driver Colton Herta about the high-speed intimidation battle that is the NTT IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway.

The 19-year-old never flinched in Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 before his race ended in a crash just 19 laps from a potential victory. He tried to pass Scott Dixon for second place by diving to the inside of Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. Dixon tried to protect his line and squeezed Herta’s No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda toward the white line.

Once Herta’s car barely dipped into the white line that separates the apron from the racetrack, the rear of his car broke loose. Herta slid into Dixon, sending both cars in a crash that began in Turn 3 and ended in Turn 4.

Dixon, a five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion who has won 45 races, apologized for the racing incident. Later, however, his wife Emma said he felt differently after watching the replay on NBCSN’s telecast of the race.

“I just heard them saying (Herta) was looking inside, and I started to track down to try and close it off,” Dixon explained after both drivers were checked and released from the Texas Motor Speedway Infield Care Center. “It was towards the end of the race. As I was doing that and looking down, I could still see his shadow there on the apron, and I knew it wasn’t going to work out there.

“Sorry if that was my fault. I was just really pushing and trying to get the most out of it toward the end of the race in the PNC Bank car.”

Herta may have not been the winner, but he certainly put on the show. He was fast and fearless at the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval, out-dueling such racing rivals as Alexander Rossi with some fantastic passes on the outside.

Rossi is considered the most aggressive driver in the NTT IndyCar Series, but there were a few moments in Saturday’s race where Herta “out-Rossied” Rossi.

Herta became the youngest winning in NTT IndyCar Series history when he won the March 24 IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas. In a return trip to Texas, Herta could have scored win No. 2.

Instead, he was left explaining his part in the crash that set up the final dash to the checkered flag – ultimately won by Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.

And he had no problem taking issue with Dixon’s move.

“(Scott Dixon) apologized and that’s what it seemed like from my point of view,” Herta said after he was checked and released from the care center. “He just turned down on me from my point of view. I was there, and he put me on the apron.

“I was more than enough ahead. He didn’t need to do it. That outside lane was there, and he could have run the outside. He must not have known (I was there).”

Herta started 10th and finished 18th.

Dixon is the most respected driver in the paddock and is often the voice and conscience of everyone else in it.

There’s a good chance Dixon will help Herta use Saturday night’s incident as a learning experience.

One thing is certain, though – Herta has proven to be a fast learner.

“I’m really happy with how the car was,” Herta said. “The GESS Capstone car (and) all the boys did an amazing job. Big congrats to IndyCar for bringing the updates to the front wing and the new tires because it made the racing a hell of a lot better.

“We’ll keep trucking. This is a DNF (did not finish) that I’ll take because I was really happy with my performance.”

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
0 Comments

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.