Colton Herta adds to rich family legacy with win at Laguna Seca

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MONTEREY, California – Colton Herta is like many 19-year-old kids who still live at home with Mom and Dad and have their buddies over to play video games and raid the family fridge.

But his father, Bryan, likes to point out that his young son is not a basement dweller.

“We don’t have a basement,” Bryan Herta told NBCSports.com. “We live in California. But he still lives at home. He’s still a great kid. His buddies still come over to our house, eat all of our food and drink all of our drinks out of our refrigerator. They just graduated high school together.

“I’m proud of him because despite all the success he has had, he is still the same good kid that he grew up as. That is as important to me as all of the wins in the world.”

This is where Herta is not the average 19-year-old.

He drives a race car in the NTT IndyCar Series and on Sunday, the son of four-time IndyCar Series race winner Bryan Herta capped off his rookie season with his second victory of the year in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

It was a season where Herta exceed his rookie promise with three poles and two wins. He won Sunday’s race at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca from the pole, celebrated the win in victory lane, then joined his buddies and drove back to his home in Santa Clarita, California.

Sunday night meant Taco Night with his buddies.

Colton Herta is living the dream – win an IndyCar race on Sunday afternoon on the Monterey Peninsula and then drive home to Southern California to hang out with his friends and family Sunday night.

“I love living at home, and I love having home-cooked meals,” Colton Herta told NBCSports.com. “I love it so much because I have time away. I lived in Europe for two-and-a-half years, and it was like going to college for me. Every college kid learns it’s not fun not being at home.

“It was great to be back, and I do love being at home, but I don’t know how long I’ll be at home for.”

From the mid- to late-1990s, Bryan Herta was the most dominant driver at Laguna Seca Raceway. He won three consecutive poles from 1997-99 with back-to-back victories in 1998 and ’99.

From 1995-99, he never qualified lower than second place and could have won in 1996 if not for Alexander Zanardi pulling off “The Pass” in the “Corkscrew” section on the final lap.

Sunday was IndyCar’s return to Laguna Seca for the first time since the 2004 Champ Car Series race. So, it was only natural that a Herta return to victory lane.

“It’s amazing,” father Bryan said. “This track, so many memories here. I think back to a year ago I drove the California 8-hour race here and shared a car with Colton, and we won that race and now he wins this race today.

“I could not be happier with what he has done. He has done amazing.”

His first career victory came in the IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) on March 24. Team Penske driver Will Power dominated that race until he waited too long to pit and was caught out of position by the only caution period of the race. After Power pitted, that put Herta in the lead, and he went on to become the youngest winner in IndyCar Series history just one week short of his 19thbirthday.

Sunday at Monterey, Herta’s Honda started on the pole and led 83 of 90 laps at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course.

“We had the dominant car and the dominant pace the whole time, so this does mean a lot to me,” Colton said. “I don’t want to say it was handed to me at COTA because it wasn’t. I had to work for it at the end. This still means a lot, and it means even more being at Laguna.”

He held off three of this sport’s great drivers, 2014 IndyCar Series champion Will Power, five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and 2016 champion and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud.

“He was under pressure the entire race, intense pressure from the very best guys in the sport,” Bryan Herta explained. “He was able to withstand all of it and not put a wheel wrong. I think he can be very proud of his performance today.

“It’s hard to rank them because it’s so hard to win. It’s so hard to win anywhere. He had to fight off Dixon for a lot of the race. He had to fight off Power. He had to fight off Pagenaud at one point. He was able to fend off all the challenges they had for him.”

Colton Herta entered the season with lofty expectations as a highly touted Indy Lights Series driver.

He exceeded those expectations in his rookie season.

He was not the Rookie of the Year, however as Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist finished sixth in the NTT IndyCar Series standings, one position ahead of Herta in the final standings.

“All credit to Felix,” Bryan said. “Felix had a great rookie season. This was an amazing rookie class. All four of the guys that were in it for the season, I think you are going to hear a lot more from in IndyCar. It didn’t go Colton’s way in the rookie of the year championship, but three poles and two wins, I think he can hold his head high.

“Colton had an amazing rookie season.”

The history of IndyCar racing includes some great second-generation drivers including the Vukoviches, Bettenhausens and Unsers.

Add the Herta name to that list, but that doesn’t mean the son drives the same as his father.

“I don’t know at my peak how it compared to what he does out there now, but he is not a different version of me,” Bryan said. “He does his own thing. He has his own driving style. He is a lot more aggressive than I was. He is maximizing what I do in the car, and he showed that today.”

Next season, Herta and his Harding Steinbrenner team move over to Andretti Autosport, where five drivers will operate out of the same racing shop. He expects to be even better next season and believes an Indy 500 victory and a series championship are realistic goals.

“I think it helps having everyone under the same roof,” Bryan said. “Everything this program was intended to do this year it did and more. It has worked so well for everybody involved. We just said, let’s make this more formal. Let’s bring it all together and let’s remove whatever separation still exists and make it one team.”

The offseason begins for young Colton, who will focus on his punk rock band, “The Zibs.”

“I have a punk band with some buddies of mine, and we have a West Coast Tour coming up,” Colton said. “It’s November 22 to 27 and we play Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento and San Francisco. Be on the lookout. We’ll announce some details soon.”

Colton Herta represents the bold new future of IndyCar. He father represents the recent past.

On Sunday, past and future, father and son converged on the Monterey Peninsula in Victory Lane at Laguna Seca.

“It was so cool, and it was so awesome,” Colton said. “Twenty years ago, was his last win here. It’s really cool.

“I’ll put this suit up next to his suit from his 1999 victory.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter @BruceMartin_500

Australia SuperCar Champion gets IndyCar Test at Team Penske

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Scott McLaughlin’s latest reward for winning the 2019 Virgin Australia SuperCar championship is an INDYCAR test at Team Penske.

“Scott has been incredibly successful for DJR Team Penske over the last three seasons and he has become a true champion of our sport,” said team owner Roger Penske, who will become the owner of INDYCAR, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 in early January. “He certainly embraces new challenges and we think this is a great opportunity to utilize the IndyCar Series rookie testing program so Scott can experience what it is like to get behind the wheel of one of our Indy cars.”

McLaughlin, who has scored back-to-back Virgin Australia Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP), will participate in an INDYCAR Rookie Evaluation test at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla. on Monday, January 13.

“I am always open to new challenges and I’m thankful to Team Penske for providing this opportunity to test an Indy car,” said McLaughlin, who established a new Supercars single season record with 18 victories this past season. “We had an amazing year in 2019 and I’m looking forward to defending our Supercars championship next season. I’m also excited to grow as a driver and being with Team Penske creates cool opportunities to try something new. Although I have spent a few hours in a simulator earlier this year, it’s going to be a blast to see what one really feels like at a place like Sebring.”

McLaughlin joined DJR Team Penske in 2017 as one of the brightest stars in Supercars. He has produced 35 victories and 44 pole positions over the last three seasons while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019, the driver’s title each of the last two seasons and the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in October, along with co-driver Alex Premat.

McLaughlin will defend his Supercars title for DJRTP in 2020 in the No. 17 Shell V-Power Ford Mustang.  He will build on his already successful racing career by driving a full-sized open-wheel car for the first time.

Team Penske enjoyed another successful IndyCar Series season in 2019. The team earned its record 18th Indianapolis 500 victory as Simon Pagenaud captured the checkered flag in May, while Josef Newgarden won his second series title in three years and the team’s 16th INDYCAR Championship. Team Penske will once again compete with three full-season entries in 2020, featuring series champion drivers Newgarden, Pagenaud and Will Power.

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 540 major race wins, over 620 pole positions and 37 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 53-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win, overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring along with a win in Australia’s legendary Bathurst 1000 race. Team Penske currently competes in the IndyCar Series, the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia SuperCars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500