IndyCar’s Colton Herta and F1’s Lando Norris reunited in sim racing

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When Formula One driver Lando Norris of McLaren joins the IndyCar iRacing Challenge Saturday at Circuit of the Americas (COTA), he will renew a rivalry with Colton Herta that began in British Formula 4 in 2015.

At that time, Herta and Norris both drove for Carlin.

Herta finished third overall for Carlin with four race victories and a further eight podium finishes.

The two drivers were fast, very fast and Norris revealed that Herta’s nickname was “Hooligan Herta.”

Both drivers made it to the top rung of their respective sports as teenagers. Herta was just 18 when he started his first NTT IndyCar Series race in the 2018 season-finale at Sonoma Raceway. Norris was 19 years, four months and four days old when he started the 2019 Australian Grand Prix. He was the 12th teenager to start a Formula One race.

Norris is Saturday’s guest racer in the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas (COTA). It’s the fifth race of the six-race IndyCar iRacing Challenge (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Lando and “Hooligan Herta” are together again. They are in open-wheel race cars battling against each other on the only course that Formula One and IndyCar share on its schedule. That is the incredible Circuit of the Americas, although Saturday’s contest is on virtual COTA.

“I’m excited and I’ve already had some warning messages coming in from Colton’s side,” Norris said Friday. “I don’t know if I should read them out or not.

“It will be nice to race him again. It’s been a while since I raced with him. I’m excited.

“I’m looking forward to it. I think obviously I’ve seen Colton racing. It’s been a while since he raced in F4 back in the day. We had some really good times. Yeah, we have a lot of respect for each other. I’m excited.

“Colton is a year younger than me. When he went into F4, he was the youngest guy in the field. I don’t want to sound like I’m talking like a guy with loads of experience, but it looks like he has matured in quite a way as I think I have in some ways. It looks like he’s become an even better driver than what he was. And he was freaking fast when I was racing against him.

“He was nicknamed ‘Hooligan Herta’ for many reasons.

“The racing we had was good fun. I’m excited to race against not only of course Colton but a lot of the other guys as well.”

Colton Herta celebrating IndyCar win at COTA

Herta is the defending winner of the actual IndyCar race at the real COTA in 2019. That was his first career IndyCar win and started him on a path to stardom.

The son of former IndyCar Series race winner Bryan Herta is excited to renew his battles with his former teammate from the Carlin F4 days.

“It’s awesome,” Herta said. “Obviously, I have a lot of respect for Lando, got to race against him for a year in British F4, then did some testing with him through Formula 3 and stuff. I have a lot of respect for him.

“It’s cool to see all these guys that are interested in running IndyCar and have the chance now virtually to do it. It is really cool to be able to race against Lando again. I’m looking forward to it.”

If the COVID-19 pandemic had not shut down the world, Norris would have been consumed in the Formula One world and Herta would have been concentrating on IndyCar.

Because nobody knows for sure when real racing will return, the drivers have fed their competitive appetite in virtual racing.

That has allowed Norris to test his skills against IndyCar competition. It’s important to the McLaren driver in order to keep his skills sharp. He has no idea when real racing will return.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Norris has been a regular in the sim racing world. That has helped him adapt to the different cars that he has raced in the virtual world.

“It’s close already, especially for the guys who obviously haven’t driven iRacing anywhere near as much as me, because I’ve done a ton of it,” Norris said. “I’m in the fortunate position of it being something I’m very used to but a bunch of other guys aren’t used to as much.

“The more they get used to it, know how to drive it, it’s not exactly like driving an Indy car, I’m sure. There are differences in the iRacing models and stuff that are good, but there’s still things you need to know, learn about, how you can’t over-push the tire, over-slip it and so on.

“The more guys get used to this and learn how to drive another car, the better they’re going to be getting. I was close already. I know Sage Karam was very quick in the practice race. He does a lot of iRacing as well.

“It shows the people who have been more on this, on the program, on iRacing, are the faster guys at the moment. I’m sure it’s going to be getting closer and closer once everyone learns the secrets and tricks on how to do it.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.