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.”