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

Latest INDYCAR Aeroscreen test continues to provide feedback; data to series

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Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After completing its third Aeroscreen test since October 2, INDYCAR continues to collect valuable data and feedback from the drivers and engineers involved in testing.

The latest test of the Aeroscreen came Tuesday, October 15 at Richmond Raceway, a .750-mile short oval. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been involved in testing dating all the way back to 2017 at Phoenix with the original “Windscreen.” Tuesday’s test was the first-time two-time NTT IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was able to test the device that partially encloses the cockpit proving greatly enhanced driver safety.

It was also the first time the current “Aeroscreen” designed and created by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and Dallara has been tested at a short oval – a track that measures under 1.5-miles in length.

The previous tests were at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and the Barber Motorsports Park road course on October 7.

“It wasn’t a problem getting in the car today and relearning a new viewpoint,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com at the conclusion of Tuesday’s test. “It felt like a new viewpoint. It’s still an Indy car. It still feels like an Indy car. The car does a lot of the things it did before. It required some slight tuning differences to accommodate a different center of gravity and different total weight.

“Overall, it still felt like the same Indy car I drove three weeks ago. You get used to that new viewpoint within 30 or 40 laps. It was alien at first but halfway through the day it feels like home again.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske test team along with INDYCAR officials worked on changes to getting air into the cockpit and directing the air to the right place where the driver can utilize it.

“We’ve come up with some solutions that we like,” Newgarden said. “INDYCAR and the teams will continue to fine-tune this. That is why we are doing these tests. The main goal was to figure this out and fine-tune this stuff. We have come up with a lot of good solutions to all of the little things we have talked about that we have needed so when Sebastien Bourdais goes to Sebring (on November 5), it will just be another version.

“We are already close. Because they are such small details, it feels like normal racing stuff and we will come up with solutions for that.”

Some drivers who have participated in the Aeroscreen test has said, they almost feel naked without having the halo-like structure with a clear windshield protecting them on the race car.

“Once we got through a whole IndyCar season, if you took it off, it would feel really strange,” Newgarden said. “People adapt so quickly to a change, what the car looks like. Once you give us a couple of races and a full year, it will feel like home and something we are very used to as drivers.

“It is already starting to get that way. People are feeling more comfortable with it. The field of view is almost identical to the way it was before. Your peripheral vision is identical, the way you look out the front of the cars is identical, the way you see the tires is identical.”

Individual driver preference will allow for shading of the sun and that can be accomplished with the visor strips on the helmet and the tear-offs on Aeroscreen.

Drivers will also have a bit of a quieter atmosphere inside the cockpit. The partial enclosure makes it easier to hear his radio communication and the sounds of the engine in the driver’s car. It partially blocks out the sounds of the engines in the other cars and the rush of wind traveling at high speeds that used to buffet in and around the helmet.

“It has changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit,” Newgarden said. “For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.

“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine.”

Dixon was in the car at Indianapolis on October 2 and returned on Tuesday. The Barber test on October 7 included this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, in a Team Penske Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

“The only differences are the openings on the front wing that creates some more airflow around the legs and body and a different inlet in the screen that was in place today,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There were helmet cooling options since the Barber test because on the road course, some of the drivers were getting a little hotter.

“This project has been very in-depth. It hit the ground running very smoothly. There are some alternate options they are trying to create, especially on the street courses where we will experience hot condition. On street conditions, your depth perception changes because of how close you are to the walls, but we should get used to that.”

Two weeks ago, Team Penske driver Will Power said it takes a different style to get out of the race car because of the added height of the Aeroscreen.

That hasn’t been a problem for Dixon.

“That’s easy, man,” he said. “Just go through the hole in the top.”