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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 

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).