UPDATE: Colton Herta cleared to drive after terrifying airborne wreck in final Indy 500 practice

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INDIANAPOLIS — Colton Herta was uninjured and walked away after his car flipped over in a scary crash Friday during final practice for the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

An IndyCar spokesman confirmed that Herta was cleared to drive in Sunday’s race (11 a.m. ET, NBC) after being re-evaluated Saturday afternoon.

The Andretti Autosport driver, who won the GMR Grand Prix two weeks ago at IMS, lost control of his No. 26 Dallara-Honda while exiting Turn 1 with 25 minutes left in the Carb Day session. After making right-rear contact with the SAFER barrier, the front of the car went airborne and landed upside down.

“We’re all good,” Herta radioed his team even before the car came to a stop after sliding for a few hundred feet down the chute between the first two turns.

HOW TO WATCH THE INDY 500: Details and schedule for Sunday’s race on NBC

STARTING LINEUPWhere the 33 drivers will take the green flag

Herta’s father, Bryan, talked him through waiting on the AMR safety team, which arrived last than 10 seconds after the car came to rest while upside down.

“Everybody’s backing down you’re safe now,” Bryan Herta radioed. “Just wait for safety to get here. Just stay strapped in. Safety is here now. Just stay strapped in. Don’t unstrap, you’ll fall out the bottom.”

“Yep, copy,” Colton Herta said. “Sorry about that.”

It was the first major crash at IMS in which a car landed upside down since the advent of the aeroscreen, the cockpit safety device that was introduced to the NTT IndyCar Series two years ago.

“Yeah, a little bit of sadness for that race car,” Herta told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “It sucks. It seemed like it was OK. We were really loose that whole session. I think I was just going a little bit too fast for that corner. Wiggled and the air got underneath it. But yeah, I’m all good. I’m fine.

“Thankful for a lot of things. I guess the aeroscreen is part of that. But more so the AMR safety crew and the durability of the sidepods and all the side structure of the cars because that was a big hit from the side. And yeah for the safety crews, they were very fast to flip me back over.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows, the IndyCar director of medical services, said Herta “initially” been cleared to drive, but the series still was determining if additional testing was needed.

“Colton is fine,” Dr. Billows told Burns outside the track’s infield care center. “He was speaking with his team on the radio before the AMR safety team even got there. He arrived at the infield care center, walked in himself.

“He’s been evaluated and initially cleared. Has passed his initial concussion screen with flying colors. IndyCar has a policy if accelerometer data on the car reaches a certain threshold, we’d do more thorough testing, and we’re just waiting to get that accelerometer data and then I’ll suspect he’ll be walking out that door.”

As of late Friday night, the Indy Star’s Nathan Brown said there remained no confirmation whether Herta had been cleared to drive for Sunday.

Though Herta was fine, his car wasn’t. NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee said the team would prepare a backup with parts salvaged from the wrecked vehicle.

“I think we were loose because it just rained, and the track was green,” said Herta, who had qualified 25th for the 106th Indy 500. “I think the biggest thing was this session we weren’t going to make any huge revelations in the car. We weren’t going to go from a terrible car to a winning car.

Colton Herta’s No. 26 Dallara-Honda returns to the garage after flipping in a Turn 1 crash during final practice for the Indy 500 on Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis (Grace Hollars/IndyStar/USA TODAY Sports Network).

“We might have made small steps, but it was all about just getting the last little bits of balance right. Making sure everybody is OK for pit stops and everybody is happy with how the fuel tank was.

“It was our last chance, and we did get to do a lot of that stuff, so I’m thankful for that. Yeah, I’m not too worried for the race. I think the car will be fine.”

Per IndyCar rules, Herta will maintain his starting position despite going to a backup car.

There was one other incident in practice. About 20 minutes before Herta’ wreck, David Malukas cut a tire and spun into the Turn 1 wall after cutting a tire from contact with the No. 23 of Santino Ferrucci, whom he had tried to pass on the inside.

“I came out with just a small bruise,” Malukas told Burns. “For some reason he turned back down. I just held my line to go straight, and obviously him hitting me there, my tire went flat. You can’t really do much with a flat tire going at that speed.

“Two laps previously, I made that same move with (Dalton) Kellett, and both went through quite cleanly. Definitely was a little on the late side, but those late moves are going to be there for the race. I’m not so sure maybe he didn’t even have spotters or something, but if you hear somebody (say), ‘Inside, inside,’ I definitely wouldn’t be turning in. So I don’t think it was anything wrong from my end.

“I still feel very confident. The car was very quick. The car felt very good.”

Ferrucci took the blame for the incident with the No. 18, which he drove in 2020 for Dale Coyne Racing.

“I’m glad he’s OK,” Ferrucci told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “That was a big hit. He was coming, I knew he was coming. I could hear him (from) the spotters. It was a really late pass coming down to the line. I just came out to turn in because we were past the turn-in point for me. I just checked up and thought I timed it really well, and clearly I didn’t.

“That’s my mistake. Is what it is. I’m sorry for those guys I know well from two years ago, so I’m really bummed they’ve got to build a race car. So I’m really sorry. There’s not really much else I could have done there. Just a mistake on my part. Just misjudged.”

Tony Kanaan turned the fastest lap (227.114 mph) in final practice as Chip Ganassi Racing took four of the top seven speeds with Marcus Ericsson (second, 227.004), Scott Dixon (third, 226.696) and Jimmie Johnson (seventh, 225.974).

In the Ruoff Mortgage Pit Stop Challenge, Josef Newgarden’s team defeated Dixon’s.

RESULTS: Pit Stop Challenge l Final practice speeds l Combined practice speeds

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”