Addition of Herta will round out Andretti Autosport’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series plans

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Team owner Michael Andretti is confident he will complete his plans for a five-car NTT IndyCar Series team for 2020 before the season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca on September 22.

The fifth entry will likely include Colton Herta moving over to the big team, while continuing its relationship with team co-owner George Michael Steinbrenner, IV. This year, the 19-year-old Herta and 22-year-old Steinbrenner are members of Harding Steinbrenner Racing with Andretti Technologies proving engineering support.

By moving Herta over to Andretti Autosport, it will stabilize the shaky financial situation Harding Steinbrenner has had to deal with this season. Because of a late start with sponsorship, including one potential sponsor that didn’t come through, team owner Mike Harding has had some financial issues to contend with in 2019.

“If we can pull it off, the plan is to bring Colton over to our team,” Andretti told NBC sports.com Friday morning at Portland International Raceway. “We want to stay with the Steinbrenners no matter what we do.

“I hope to have all of this completed by Laguna Seca.”

Watch Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland on NBC Sports.

Herta has been a major contender in nearly every race this season. He became IndyCar’s youngest ever winner when he won the March 24 INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of the Americas (COTA), just 10 days short of his 19thbirthday.

“When you jell so well with a team like this, it makes it fun to go racing,” Herta said.

 

Herta enters Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portland 14thin the standings but has run near the front in nearly every race this season. He led 10 laps in last Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

“We’re getting close and hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be able to announce it,” Andretti said. “We are working on five cars; it’s not definite yet.

“It’s a ‘possibility’ we will also work a satellite team. That’s a possibility.”

Andretti also admitted to NBC Sports.com, that a satellite alignment with Meyer Shank Racing is another “possibility” and one where the two sides have discussed it.

He also said he is impressed with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie driver Marcus Ericsson of Sweden.

“I rate Ericsson,” Andretti admitted. “I think he is actually not bad. In Formula One, he was with a bad team. He might race in Formula One this weekend (for Alfa Romeo at Spa in Belgium) and that would be interesting to see how he would do.

“I would like to still see him in the series.”

Moving up from a four-car full-time team to five cars, Andretti said, “We’ve got that handled.

“Again, people think I’m spreading myself too thin. I’m adding more infrastructure, that allows us to do more and that makes us stronger,” he continued. “If we can’t do it that way, we won’t do it.”

At the start of the 2015 season, Andretti Autosport was struggling with two full-time teams, a third car that was teetering on the edge and a fourth car that ran a very limited schedule with the late Justin Wilson as the driver.

“It was tough times, we made it through it, and it made us stronger,” Andretti said. “A couple of our sponsors didn’t pay from the year before and I was in deep stuff. A lot of that has to do with the infrastructure we’ve put in along with a great bunch of people.”

Young Steinbrenner, whose father Hank is Vice-Chairman of the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball, admitted to NBC Sports.com that it is “very likely” he will join forces with Andretti Autosport next season.

“Everything is falling into place, but sometimes a block will fall over and things get complicated,” Steinbrenner told NBC Sports.com. “Hopefully, we can get something announced by the end of the season. There is talk of being the fifth car on the big team (Andretti Autosport).

“If it were to be a fifth Andretti car, the pieces are already in place with this team.”

When asked if Mike Harding would remain part of it, Steinbrenner said, “Talk of that is ongoing.

“Personally, I’ve always felt comfortable with the relationships I’ve had to make in the last three years. Remaining with Honda is one of the priorities. It’s a business, but it’s a serious goal of mine to stay with Honda.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)