Colton Herta to Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport in 2020

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MONTEREY, California – A major IndyCar team move that has been widely reported for the past month by NBCSports.com is finally “official.”

Colton Herta, 19, will become the fifth driver at Andretti Autosport in 2020, the team announced Saturday just before qualifying for the season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway.

The team will join forces with Harding Steinbrenner Racing in a partnership known as Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport with HSR team principals Mike Harding and George Michael Steinbrenner, IV joining Michael Andretti as partners in the team.

This year, Andretti Technologies served as the engineering partner to Harding Steinbrenner Racing with Harding and Steinbrenner in the leadership roles.

“I’m really excited about the announcement to bring our partnerships with Harding Steinbrenner closer together,” Andretti said Saturday. “This partnership and expansion of Andretti Autosport will bring about a positive direction and new opportunities for all involved.

“I’m also thrilled to be able to keep Colton in the Andretti family. We’ve watched him grow and develop, and we are excited to see the next chapter as he continues his charge in becoming a strong competitive force in the IndyCar Series.”

Herta will continue to drive the No. 88 Capstone Energy Honda but officially will become teammates with Andretti Autosport drivers Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach and Marco Andretti.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to drive for Andretti Autosport ever since watching my dad drive for them in the mid-2000s,” Herta said. “I’m very thankful for the Steinbrenners and Mike Harding for their efforts through my career and continued efforts into this year. I’ve grown up around the Andretti team and many of the guys that have been working there since my dad’s days of driving are still with the team. I’m sure I’ll feel right at home.

“I can for sure tell you this is going to be the longest offseason I’ve had in a while, and I can’t wait to hop in my brand-new Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Indy car.”

Herta, who climbed the European racing ranks before joining Andretti Autosport for the 2017 and 2018 Indy Lights seasons, currently ranks third in the IndyCar Rookie of the Year standings with one win and five top-10 finishes.

George Michael Steinbrenner IV is the grandson of the late New York Yankees team owner George Steinbrenner and son of Yankees vice chairman Hank Steinbrenner.

“We are extremely excited to be continuing and expanding our partnership with Andretti Autosport,” Steinbrenner said. “Andretti has become like family to me and the team as we have shared a connection since the very beginning of Steinbrenner Racing. We see this as an opportunity to build upon a successful 2019 and create an environment of sustained competitiveness. We are thrilled we have been able to retain Colton’s services and look forward to a fruitful tenure together.”

Steinbrenner was asked by NBCSports.com if that meant the leadership of the No. 88 team would remain intact (including president Brian Barnhart). Steinbrenner said, “All leadership decisions for next year have yet to be determined.”

Next up for Andretti Autosport will be finalizing a satellite arrangement with Meyer Shank Racing in an engineering alliance similar to what Harding Steinbrenner had with Andretti in 2019.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?