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Colton Herta Column: The Rise of a Rookie

By Colton Herta, Driver Columnist

Providing an inside look for the fans, Colton Herta contributed the latest driver journal to Motorsports Tribune to discuss his rookie campaign in the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season. The 17-year-old Californian and second-generation star enjoyed two wins, seven podiums and a series-leading seven poles with Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing en route to third in the overall championship standings.

Looking back on my first season in Indy Lights, I think I was most surprised by the speed we had in the first few weeks. I thought it would take a few weekends under our belt to get pace, but we won races right off the bat, starting in St. Pete. At certain tracks, I wasn’t super surprise by the driving itself, though I was surprised how technical Barber Motorsports Park was.

In Watkins Glen, the season finale was a little tougher than I expected, but I am glad we raced in the rainy conditions like we had this year. I’d rather get a feel for it in my first year rather than next year. Obviously, with a wet track, you look to change your line up, how much rubber you’re putting down, moving to the outside of the track and coming to the inside of the exits. You’re adapting to the conditions, and it was definitely a challenging race.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with my rookie season. You’d have to be. We almost broke the record for poles in a year. I didn’t really expect that as we didn’t really struggle too much anywhere we went, but we have the speed.

It’s hard to choose one moment that sticks out from the season the most, but obviously my first race and my first win in Indy Lights will. Taking my first laps in Toronto or at Watkins Glen, those I’ll remember, as well as winning the 400th Indy Lights race at Barber.

Most of the tracks this year I hadn’t been to before. Having a second year will really help, especially on street courses – St. Pete, Toronto – I know what I want out of the car and what we can get at tracks like that. That would also make it a lot easier at Road America and Watkins Glen, a second year. You know what to expect, so you can expect to get more out on the second time.

Looking to next year, I want to win the championship while personally putting together a whole season mistake-free. I’m aiming to be a little more consistent – staying on top of the changes we make and what the changes will do to the car. Making changes this season when we did, I now have a feeling of what they will do and how they affect the car on track, which will translate into how I can relay next year.

In the offseason, I’m focusing on the normal things. We have more time on our hands now, and I’m still in school, so I’m focused on that. Nutrition and training amplifies in the offseason. I’m working out twice a day, which you don’t usually get to do during the season because you don’t want to overwork your body. Now is the time you can overwork it, so I’m working out and getting ready for next year and eventually moving to IndyCar. I’m also spending time in the simulator a bit. It’s hard to do out here in California, but I do have a simulator I’ve been working in to get ready for St. Pete. We’ve got a few test days coming up, and I’d like to get more of them, and overall we’re working to get more out of next season.

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