By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Colton Herta has started off his sophomore season in the NTT IndyCar Series rather quiet, but currently sits fourth in the championship trail following a seventh at the season opener at Texas and a fourth at the Indianapolis road course last Saturday.
The 20-year-old will now be heading back to the site of his first career pole at Road America to kickoff what Marcus Ericsson describes it as the “doubleheader-doubleheader” with this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix and next weekend’s Iowa INDYCAR 225s at Iowa Speedway (July 17-18).
Herta said he’s happy with how his season has started off with Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport as consistency is the name of the game. He’ll hope his second year in an Indy car at Road America will put his name into the mix of challenging points leader Scott Dixon, who’s won the first two races this season.
“We’ve shown speed everywhere we’ve gone. Happy to get back to Road America,” said Herta. “I’m happy it’s a doubleheader. Felt like we were very fast there last year.”
The youngest ever pole sitter and race winner in INDYCAR history led the field to the green flag last June, but didn’t lead a single lap as Alexander Rossi got by the then-rookie in Turn 1 and went on to lead all but one of the 55 laps.
Last year’s eighth-place finisher does feel he has a chance of winning at the longest circuit on the calendar, but knows the conditions are going to be a lot warmer that’ll make things real tough for each of the 23 competitors.
“I think we do have a chance to win. Obviously, it’s going to be a little bit different, a lot hotter than last year,” said Herta. “With the weight of the windscreen and the more drag that it produces, it’s going to be a little bit different setup probably. But I don’t think it will be too different from last year. I’m excited to get back there.”
Hot conditions it may be, but in the grand scheme of things, Herta doesn’t think Road America will be physically demanding due to having long straights to rest.
Same can’t be said about Iowa which both race lengths next week are reduced by 50 laps compared to none this weekend, but it’ll be a jammed pack schedule with practice, qualifying and the race itself in a single day.
“With the windscreen and stuff, it doesn’t even matter about that any more. It just matters how hot it gets in there. I don’t think they shortened the race actually. It’s going to be two full-distance races at Road America,” said Herta. “Obviously 50 laps less at Iowa, which will help. It’s going to be physical. Excited for the qualifying format at Iowa, see how that plays out because it’s going to be interesting. It’s going to be cool.”
Regarding qualifying, Herta hinted how the lineup for Iowa will have a different format people haven’t been accustomed to in the past.
The first lap will determine the lineup for the Friday race with the second setting up Saturday’s grid. Herta went on to explain that it’ll be an interesting concept as Iowa has been a track where the first lap sets up the pace for an even better second lap.
Now, it’ll require everyone to drop the hammer and set two straight flying laps.
“I think you qualify as you normally would. It’s just interesting because I think some teams you’ve seen in the past have really quick second laps, and their first lap isn’t quite up to speed. It’s going to punish them for the race,” said Herta.
“I’ve never, like, seen a qualifying format like that, with the first lap setting the first day’s race and the second lap setting the second day’s race. It’s going to be very interesting.
“Do I think it will affect the result? No. I think passing is so plentiful there, it won’t even matter. It’s just interesting for me to see how that works out.”
Live coverage of the REV Group Grand Prix doubleheader will commence Saturday, July 11 at 5:00 p.m. EST on NBCSN and Sunday, July 12 at Noon EST on NBC.