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INDYCAR Photo by Matt Fraver
INDYCAR Photo by Matt Fraver

Young Herta craves another IndyCar victory

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BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Now that Colton Herta has tasted victory, the youngest winner in NTT IndyCar Series history craves it.

“Every day since I’ve done it it’s been like that,” said Herta, who turned 19 on March 30. “I couldn’t believe it when it happened, and it’s still kind of hard to believe.

“It was a blessing, but it was also terrible because now I just want to win every race, now that I have that feeling of winning an IndyCar race. It’s pretty incredible. It’s hard to describe, but I definitely have a little bit more of a fire in my belly to go out there and get it done this weekend.”

Herta won the March 24 INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. He was 18 years, 11 months and 25 days old.

Graham Rahal was the previous youngest winner. He was 19 years, 3 months and 2 days old when he won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in in 2008.

Since that historic victory, the teenager’s life has been a whirlwind. He was part of a Media Tour in New York to help promote the NTT IndyCar Series, and Sunday’s race – the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

Watch the race on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN or at NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app

“I don’t mind doing this stuff if this is what comes with winning,” Herta said. “Yeah, I enjoyed it. I always love going to New York. I got to go see Opening Day for the New York Yankees, got to do 30 Rock, as well, which was cool to see where they film SNL (Saturday Night Live on NBC). I got to do a lot of media.

“It’s nice to kind of be done with the media and start focusing on the driving. I always enjoy that part a little bit more. It was nice to get down here a little early, as well, and promote the race.”

Herta backed up that success in Friday’s two practice sessions for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. He finished as the second fastest driver of the day with a fast lap of 1:09.0084 around the 2.3-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park for a speed of 119.985 miles per hour in the No. 88 Honda.

“I think we had a pretty good baseline coming here,” Herta explained. “We worked a lot on the sim (simulator). I know a lot of the guys were in the sim, so we got in there Tuesday after COTA, and we found some good stuff, and that translated into our starting setup a little bit. So, we already had a baseline on what we felt comfortable with, and moving forward, just little things, spring changes, maybe a little bit in the damping (shocks). We found general changes, not too big a changes.”

While COTA was a wide-open, “Wild, Wild West Show,” the Barber race has some significant challenges. It is fast, yet tricky. It is free-flowing, but has some corners where drivers have to be on top of their game, or they will end up in the gravel trap.

“There’s so much that’s challenging about it,” Herta said. “The whole thing, it’s a bunch of combination corners, so corners left followed by right, so you can give in the left-handers and get in the right-handers or you can get in the left-handers and give the right-handers.

“You can never drive a perfect lap here. It’s so different. You could have a great setup and feel like you did a killer lap time and come in and be a half a second off. It’s just that type of place. It’s probably the toughest track that we go to. It’s definitely the most technical for the driving style, and quite a bit different from COTA. We have 1,600 PSI brake pressure with COTA and then you come here and you’re getting 1,000, so it’s a completely different track.”

The young driver did quite well at Barber in the Indy Lights Series with wins from the pole in Indy Lights in back-to-back years (2017-2018).

“I enjoy driving on the track,” Herta said. “Racing on the track is a little bit more difficult. There’s not a lot of passing opportunities, but obviously pit stops open that up a lot, and it’s actually usually a pretty good race here, depending on how good the passing is.

“It’s a track I enjoy. I’ve had a few poles here in Indy Lights, and it’s just a beautiful facility, too. It’s an incredible facility.”