IndyCar’s Bryan Herta remains hopeful through COVID-19 shutdown

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Colton Herta’s father, Bryan, is sometimes asked for advice on a variety of topics by his son. They can range on questions about racing or about life.

As a team co-owner of the No. 98 Honda at Andretti Autosport, Bryan Herta is often consulted on business and performance topics.

Herta usually likes to have the answers.

But he struggles with one question that has hovered over the NTT IndyCar Series since it was shut down on March 13.

“When do we go back to racing? It’s complete conjecture,” Herta told NBCSports.com. “Not knowing is hard.”

In the face of adversity, all Herta can do is hope.

“I’m hopeful,” he said. “I don’t want to say I’m confident because I don’t really know. I don’t think anybody does. I’m hopeful. We have to follow what the government is advising and what other sports are doing as well. I’m hopeful we can go back to racing.

“In my mind, personally, do we go back to racing without fans at first? Are they closed events, but still bring it to a television audience? It seems like it is going to be a longer, slower process to have crowds of people. But I don’t really know.”

Bryan Herta (left), Michael Andretti (center), Marco Andretti (right) — INDYCAR Photo

In addition to his partnership at Andretti Autosport, Herta also owns an IMSA Sports Car team at Bryan Herta Autosport. It’s a Hyundai Motorsport effort that competes in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

While that team has shut down, Herta’s operation is giving back to the community by creating safety masks for first responders in the state of Indiana.

“On our IMSA team, we’re going to try to do as much as we can,” Herta said. “Some of our guys on the IMSA team are building some safety masks for first responders for the State of Indiana. We’re going to chip in and do as much as we can before they tell us, ‘Let’s go. Load your trucks. Let’s go racing.’”

Herta’s effort is separate from the Andretti Autosport program that is currently building framework for medical face shields.

“We’re assembling masks,” Herta explained. “Andretti has 3D printing technologies and are making parts to assemble safety shields. We are going to do some of the assembly and prepping them to go off to hospitals around the state of Indiana.

“We’ve worked through a number of groups in the state, including the Indiana Economic Development Commission. When we got shut down, we told them we have people, trucks, a facility and if we could help the community, let us know. That was a couple of weeks ago.

“Just this week, we were asked to help assemble masks. We told them we would be more than happy to help.”

Herta said the IMSA team started off with 1,500 masks a week but could increase that to 3,000 to 4,000 a week if needed.

“We’re still working through all of that,” Herta said. “We are working with crews of 6-8 people to keep the numbers small for social distancing.”

Herta is one of the many in racing that are doing their part in the battle against COVID-19. It helps take his mind off the long, seemingly endless days that remained unknown before racing can return to action.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.