IndyCar’s Colton and Bryan Herta remember the late Hank Steinbrenner

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There are many people who have played a role in 20-year-old Colton Herta’s NTT IndyCar Series career. Hank Steinbrenner was one of them.

Steinbrenner, the co-owner and co-chairman of the New York Yankees, died Tuesday in Clearwater Beach, Florida, after a lengthy illness unrelated to COVID-19. He was 63.

One of his children, son George Michael Steinbrenner IV, is a team principal at Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport. The two are featured in the photo above with George to the left and Hank to the right before an IndyCar Series race at Barber Motorsports Park.

Once an aspiring racer, young Steinbrenner struck up a friendship with Herta early in their teen years and has gone on to the highest level of open-wheel racing in North America.

Herta, whose father, Bryan, is a former IndyCar Series race winner and current team co-owner at Andretti Autosport, met Hank Steinbrenner when he was 14. Because of his son’s interest in taking Herta to IndyCar, Hank Steinbrenner helped back the effort.

Hank (left), George (right) — Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

But unlike his own father, the legendary George Steinbrenner, Hank preferred to remain out of the spotlight. George Steinbrenner was one of the most visible and outspoken team owners in professional sports history. He revived the New York Yankees in the 1970s and owned the team until he died in 2010.

By then, Hank and his younger brother, Hal, were in charge of continuing the Yankees tradition in Major League Baseball.

Naturally, Colton met Hank Steinbrenner at a baseball game in 2014 through a connection with Sean Jones, George Steinbrenner IV’s stepfather who raced against Bryan Herta in the late 1980s.

“I went to a spring training game in Tampa during St. Pete weekend,” Colton told in an exclusive interview Tuesday night. “I was in USF2000 and was too young to be racing. I was at a game Friday night and that is when I first met him.

“Similar to what he was like at the race track, he was like that at the baseball game, too. He was in the suite having a good time with his family. He was a great guy and I really enjoyed the time that we had. I was lucky enough to spend time with him.

“It helped with how much George liked me and wanted to do something with me. He saw the speed. The Yankee tradition of winning, he wanted to carry that into racing. That was a big thing to put on my shoulders. I wanted to do the best or him and the company and for George.”

Hank was interested in his son’s passion for racing. When George Michael Steinbrenner, IV wanted a career as a racing team owner instead of entering the family’s baseball business, Hank wanted his son to learn it on his own. He would help his son any way he could, but Hank wanted young George to learn the sports business the hard way.

Bryan and Colton Herta

“That was very important,” Bryan Herta told “What I saw from Hank personally is he was about two things – family and winning. In that order.

“George was really the one that pushed and wants to do this. His father was happy to stay in the background and support him. That’s true with George’s entire family. They are all deeply involved but are happy to let George be the face of this.

“If anything, the fact that Hank was willing to take a step back and let it be George’s thing. People didn’t often know when Hank was there. Hank would literally rent a motorhome and camp outside of Turn 12 at Road America. He didn’t even often come to the paddock or was seen but was there supporting.

“Hank was a passionate race fan. He was a huge Jimmy Clark fan from years ago. He would often talk about Jimmy Clark and his exploits. Also, he had his own partnership in Darrell Gwynn’s drag racing team. His father was a partner in Pat Patrick’s IndyCar team at one time. There is great family history in motorsports and IndyCar in the Steinbrenner family.

“It’s a loss for all of us, it really is.”

Hank Steinbrenner had a deep interest in auto racing. He was partners with Darrell Gwynn’s NHRA drag racing team. His father, the legendary Yankees owner, was team owner Pat Patrick’s partner on an Indy 500 team in the 1970s.

Hank’s favorite driver was the late, great Jim Clark.

Colton Herta celebrating IndyCar win at COTA

“He knew a lot about racing,” Colton said of Hank. “He knew a lot about what it takes to run the business side of racing. His love of IndyCar was impressive. He knew the facts, watched Rick Mears and the guys racing in the 1980s. He knew a lot and I would not have expected anything less.

“It comes down to his passion for motorsport. Hank was an IndyCar guy growing up in the 1970s and really enjoyed watching IndyCar racing. He was supportive to George and what he wanted to do and didn’t take the limelight away from what George was doing. He was there to support us and was a fan of the sport.”

Hank Steinbrenner knew the right distance to take in helping his son learn the professional sports business.

“He never forced his presence on the IndyCar paddock, but he was obviously deeply involved in the sport and had a real passion for it through his son George,” Bryan Herta recalled. “Also, he was deeply instrumental in furthering Colton’s career. He is somebody I admired and respected and feel a great sense of loss for the Steinbrenner family right now.”

Colton Herta got to talk to Hank Steinbrenner on April 2, his 63rd birthday.

“I always knew when it was his birthday, but it was just a few days after mine,” said Colton, whose birthday is March 30. “It’s all positive stuff that I look back on and the memories of him. Thinking of the Steinbrenner family as a whole, I can’t imagine what they are going through and what George and Julia and Jacqueline and John are going through. It’s a tough time.

“Hank always believed in George, and he always believed in me. For that reason, I liked to stay loyal to them. It means a lot for what he did for my career.

“This is obviously terrible news.”

Earlier in the day, Hank’s son, George, IV, issued a statement on his father’s passing:

“Ever since I can remember, my dad has always been my biggest supporter. He taught me determination, confidence and the desire to win above all else. Being a massive racing fan himself, when I sought to start a racing team, he stood in my corner the whole way. I will forever be grateful for all the lessons he taught me. I look forward to the day we are able to return to the track and race to win in his honor. Until then, my heart is with my family, our race team and the entire Yankees organization.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 


Jett Lawrence wins Pro Motocross opener, remains perfect at Fox Raceway; Hunter wins in 250s

How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway
Align Media

PALA, California – In his 450 bike debut, Jett Lawrence scored a perfect round at Fox Raceway in Pala, California to win Pro Motocross Round 1. He posted the fastest time in both qualification sessions, won the holeshot in both motos, and scored a pair of wins to take the overall victory and the early points’ lead.

Chase Sexton stalked Jett Lawrence throughout Moto 2, but could not find his way past. – Align Media

No one seriously questioned Lawrence’s opportunity to make noise in the 450 class. Few would have been surprised to see him podium in his Pro Motocross National, but Lawrence outperformed all expectations by dominating Moto 1. He entered the weekend with zero points and his eye on 20th in the standings so he would receive an automatic invitation to the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

He well surpassed expectations.

“It’s awesome,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “I can finally smile. I’ve been trying to stay serious and not get too excited with emotions coming up – and now I can finally let loose. The second one was a little harder, I couldn’t hear him but I’d look back and I’d still see the red bike. It was like a chess match.”

By the end of the race, Lawrence made up 30 percent of the points he needed to claim 20th and served notice that he will be one of the favorites to win the championship. He closed the gap even further in Moto 2, but the two races had entirely different storylines.

While Lawrence was able to run away from the field in the first race and win with a 10-second advantage, Honda teammate and defending Monster Energy Supercross champion Chase Sexton pressured him for the entire 30 minutes plus two laps that made up Moto 2.

Lawrence is the 16th rider to win in his first Pro Motocross race, the 10th to do so in an opener and second youngest, (behind Rick Johnson, 17 when he won at Hangtown in 1982).

Sexton was within two seconds of Lawrence for the entire moto. He rode a patient race with the realistic expectation that the 450 rookie Lawrence might make a mistake. Lawrence bounced from rut to rut in this race, but would not be forced into losing his focus.

“Toward the finish line area I had some decent lines, I thought maybe, if I could get close enough, I could make a move,” Sexton said. “I tried my hardest; I got close. I made a bit of an attempt with maybe 10 minutes to go and messed up. Jett was obviously riding really good. We were pushing the pace and it was a fun moto. It felt a little like last year.”

With his 1-1 finish and the overall victory, Lawrence remains perfect at Fox Raceway after sweeping Victory Lane in five rounds his 250 career.

Dylan Ferrandis returned to the track after suffering a concussion in the Supercross season in Round 4 in Houston. He attempted to return for the Daytona Supercross race, but another hard crash on Media Day set him on the sideline.

“Earlier this week I was pretty far from a podium position, so got together with the team and we made it happen,” Ferrandis said. “It was very hard. [Aaron Plessinger] was pushing me and I had to dig very deep.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Fox Raceway

In a pre-race news conference, he indicated that the best course of action was to get up to speed before he fully sent his bike into the turns. But adrenalin is a wonderful factor and once he got into the pace of the race, he held off charges from Cooper Webb in Moto 1 and Plessinger in Moto 2. Ferrandis’ 3-3 finishes in the two races earned 40 points and puts him back in the conversation to be among the top 20 in the combined SuperMotocross standings.

Plessinger and Webb each ended the day with 34 points. Plessinger won the tiebreaker for fifth overall in the standings. But it was an adventurous afternoon for Plessinger who had to overcome a pair of falls in the first Moto to finish fifth.

Round 1 of the Pro Motocross season marked the return of Webb after he suffered a Supercross series ending concussion in a heat race at Nashville.

“This was a last minute decision,” Webb said. “I sat out last summer and I didn’t want to do that again. Once I got cleared from the doctor, it was game on.”

The battle between Lawrence and Sexton gave Honda a 1-2 finish in this race for the second straight year, but perhaps most importantly, it provided a glimpse of what can be expected during the opening rounds.

I think there is more to come from Chase,” Lawrence said. “He had that crash in practice so it rung his head a bit, but I know it’s going to be a war in the outdoor season. I know there’s going to be times when I’m behind Chase and can’t get around him. It’s going to be an awesome season and I can’t wait to race my teammate.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jett wasn’t the only Lawrence to win Fox Raceway Motocross. Hunter’s win in the 250 class marked the first time in history that brothers won a Motocross National on the same day.

The reigning 250 East Supercross champion scored the overall victory with a third in Moto 1 and a victory in Moto 2. A poor start in the first race forced Lawrence to mount a charge from behind. Riding with discomfort, Lawrence was out of his rhythm early. A spirited battle with Jo Shimoda and Justin Cooper for third through fifth forced him to push through the pain of an injury suffered at the start of the week.

“The start was crucial,” Lawrence said. “I had a massive crash Monday and could barely ride press day for three laps, I was in so much pain. This one goes out to Dr. [Rey Gubernick]. He has magic hands.”

Lawrence’s strong start to Moto 2 put him in a better zone and he pulled an eight-second advantage over the second-place rider.

Haiden Deegan got a taste of the Motocross series last year, but that was all it was: a nibble.

Deegan failed to crack the top 10 in either of two starts and had some questions for himself before the race began. Deegan did not believe there were high expectations placed on him for this race, which is precisely how he described his first Supercross attempt. In that inaugural SX race, he finished fourth and was as surprised as anyone in the field.

Again: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Deegan surprised himself again by finishing second in only his third Motocross National. He finished sixth in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2, giving him a second-place finish overall.

“I’m actually a little surprised,” Deegan said. “A lot of people said I wouldn’t even be close to this. I guess we’re proving people wrong and that’s what we’ve got to do Second place in my first full season. I’m hyped.”

Deegan is closing in on his first 250 win.

Click here for 250 overall results

RJ Hampshire had to overcome a pair of falls in Moto 2 to score the final podium position in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire made a statement in Moto 1. An entirely new discipline allowed Hampshire to grab an early advantage. But then a poor start to Moto 2 provided an entirely different challenge. Two falls on Lap 1 dropped Hampshire to 39th in the running order.

“I didn’t have a great start and got mayhem in that second corner and went down,” Hampshire said. “Picked [myself] up in last and made some really good passes and then going uphill on the [backstretch], someone got out of whack – took me out and I was dead last again. I didn’t really know if I had a shot at the podium, but I was digging really deep.”

It took half of the race to get back into the points in 20th, but Hampshire kept digging. Passing riders one at a time, he climbed to 11th in Moto 2 and salvaged enough points to give him the third position overall.

Maximus Vohland made a statement of his own by holding off a determined Lawrence on the last two laps. Lawrence was able to pressure Vohland when they were slowed by a lapped rider who fell in front of the battle.

Tom Vialle was in a position to take the final overall podium spot with a solid third-place finish in the second moto. He did everything he could, but Hampshire’s determined charge from the back of the pack was capped off with a two-position advance on the final lap to slide onto the final step of the box.

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury
Cooper Webb returns to action at Pala
Caden Braswell joins Troy Lee Design
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Supercross finale