IndyCar drivers Colton Herta, Jimmie Johnson focus on new cockpit hydration systems

IndyCar Colton Herta hydration
Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Colton Herta had two significant firsts this season in the NTT IndyCar Series that somewhat are intertwined – a career-high in victories (three) and career-low in hydration system failures.

The Andretti Autosport driver made it through all 16 races without having a problem with staying hydrated, which often is an overlooked issue for drivers.

“It’s the same thing with everybody,” Herta told NBC Sports during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, where he ended the 2021 season Sunday on a two-race winning streak. “They have these systems, and all of them break at some point, and you end up with having a race where you don’t have water.

“For me, it’d happened at least once a year in my career, sometimes even more. Obviously, my career is fairly short, so I can’t imagine what other guys have been through.”

After a 2019 failure at Portland that “really beat me up” (finishing fourth after starting on pole position as a rookie), Herta put a greater focus on conditioning and hydration. He switched to a new “cool shirt” that made headlines after his first April 25 victory in the oppressive humidity of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

He also ran the FluidLogic hydration system that delivers precise bursts of fluid through a nozzle integrated with his helmet microphone. Herta is reminded by a steering wheel light to hit the steering wheel button (a Michigan State study earlier this year concluded that drivers’ reaction times suffered and errors increased because of inconsistent hydration by those relying on a traditional water bottle and hose setup).

“Throughout this whole year, I haven’t had any failure from the FluidLogic system,” Herta said. “It’s worked great. The pump is outstanding, and that’s the biggest thing is usually you use windshield wiper pumps to pump the fluid in, but they never quite work well enough. The other reason is just how easy it is. You don’t need an extra tube. It’s kind of hooked in with the radio. So it makes it really simple.”

Though Long Beach is the shortest race on the schedule (and wasn’t as hot as St. Pete), Herta estimated he still lost 3-4 pounds over 85 laps.

“You’re still working really hard, so it is just as important,” Herta said.

FluidLogic hydration          Herta’s Andretti teammates also used the system this year, and it’s spread to other series (NASCAR Cup Series drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Tyler Reddick and Anthony Alfredo have implemented FluidLogic while others are testing it while awaiting the new NextGen cockpit layout in 2022).

Jimmie Johnson also has been using FluidLogic in IndyCar after trying it several years ago in stock cars. The system, which now weighs about 2 pounds, drew resistance because it was heavier (which is viewed as hindering performance).

“I’m involved in it both in the business and using the product in helping develop it,” Johnson told NBC Sports. “We had some things to work through adapting it to IndyCar, but it’s been in the car, and it’s a great system. The engineering/crew chief requests for weight and where they can put it is a pretty tough challenge, to have it so small and light and survive

“I actually started using the Fluid Logic system at least five years ago in the Cup car. we’ve really tried to help get it off the ground and get it going. We’ve had some issues, and (former Cup crew chief) Chad (Knaus) didn’t have the patience to try to help develop it, so we kind of moved on, and now we’re back to it. So helping them develop it and make it more readily available for all the drivers is something we’re aggressively working on now.”

Johnson said the more cramped confines of an IndyCar cockpit create some hydration challenges as he’s faced calf cramping “especially on the braking leg because you push the pedal so hard.

“It’s more than just volume,” Johnson said about staying hydrated. “It’s the ratio of what you put in and with electrolytes. These cars, although it’s a shorter race, the intensity is so much higher, and I’ve had to change my solution that I’m drinking to prevent cramping more here than the Cup car. The Cup car was easy just about volume and having a large enough bag to put in the car. But with our issues in space, I have to run a much smaller bladder, and that’s changed it for me.”

Herta said his team has been receptive to the system because it’s simple to implement.

“Yeah, it’s not something you typically worry about, but it’s one of those things you just know is going to work perfectly,” Herta said. “The water pressure is always good and is always consistent.”

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.