Colton Herta to race No. 26 under Andretti banner with Gainbridge

Herta IndyCar Andretti Autosport
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Colton Herta will race for the IndyCar championship in 2021 in a rebranded look from Andretti Autosport.

Herta, 20, will drive the No. 26 Honda with sponsorship from Gainbridge. He will no longer be part of the Harding Steinbrenner Racing extension of the Andretti team. Although Herta was under the Andretti banner in 2020, his IndyCar entry his first two seasons was actually co-owned by Mike Harding and George Steinbrenner IV.

Herta said the Tuesday announcement was “bittersweet” because he’s worked with Steinbrenner for several years. Steinbrenner, the 24-year-old grandson of the late New York Yankees owner, first partnered with Herta on an Indy Lights team, then helped move Herta to IndyCar in 2019 by forming a partnership with Indianapolis businessman Mike Harding.

Steinbrenner and Herta at the time were the youngest owner and driver pairing in IndyCar, and Herta became the youngest winner in series history when he won at Circuit of The Americas as a rookie a week shy of his 19th birthday.

“I wouldn’t have gotten to IndyCar if it wasn’t for George and for sure I wouldn’t have been able to stay in IndyCar if it wasn’t for Mike and the backing he provided,” Herta told The Associated Press.

Andretti Autosport’s relationship with the Harding-Steinbrenner program in 2021 has yet to be determined, and the team is still working on driver deals with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe. Andretti Autosport aims to be a five-car program again in 2021, but only Herta and Alexander Rossi were signed as of Tuesday.

Herta will retain almost his entire crew from the No. 88 team. Nathan O’Rourke will remain Herta’s engineer and Brian Barnhart will still be his strategist.

Herta returns to the No. 26, the number he first used when he started his karting career as an homage to his father. Bryan Herta raced the No. 26 in sports cars at the end of his driving career.

The No. 26 for the last three seasons was raced by Zach Veach at Andretti with Gainbridge sponsorship, but Veach stepped out of the car with three races remaining in 2020 to allow Andretti to plan for a new driver.

Gainbridge, a financial services digital platform that is also the presenting sponsor of the Indianapolis 500, wanted Herta as its driver. Herta has three wins in two full-time seasons and finished third in the IndyCar standings in 2020 ahead of all his Andretti teammates.

MORE: Vasser-Sullivan and AIM Autosport Part Ways

“Colton has quickly shown that talent and drive produce winning results,” said Dan Towriss, CEO and president of Group1001 and the Gainbridge brand. “Winning demands consistency and the confidence and consistency demonstrated by Colton makes him a great fit.”

Herta said his two primary goals for 2021 are improving his performance in the Indianapolis 500 – he was eighth last season – and racing for the IndyCar title.

“For me to get a top-three finish at Indy would set the tone and it’s important for me to have a good showing at Indy. We want to win it,” Herta said. “And obviously the goal for the championship is to win it and to compete for more wins and more podiums. If we do that, the championship will come.”

Michael Andretti believes Herta, who turns 21 three weeks after next season’s opening race, is ready to race for a title.

“Colton’s career has been on a steady rise,” Andretti said. “We’re confident that he will continue to grow and advance, and we’ll see the No. 26 in victory lane soon.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III