Racing Roundup: Colton Herta – The ‘Forgotten Man,’ If Charles Leclerc is so Unhappy, I will trade jobs with him
And Ranger wins U.S. Pinty’s race.
This morning, I want to salute the real rising star of North American open-wheel racing, Colton Herta, who won Sunday’s season-ending NTT IndyCar Series’ Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca sports car course.
Herta, who is just 19 years old, finished this season with two victories, two podiums and three poles. He was driving for a small, underfunded team (as compared to the big teams) and I suggest his season was the most outstanding of any in IndyCar.
The son of veteran IndyCar and sports car racing star Bryan Herta, Colton Herta started racing go-karts when he was 4. When he was 12, he won a Formula Ford championship and at 16, he was in Indy Lights.He was the only first-year racer among seven veterans who won races this season. Herta had two wins while the others were 2019 champion Josef Newgarden (4), Simon Pagenaud (3), 2017 Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato (2), Alexander Rossi (2), Scott Dixon (2), and Will Power (2).
Take a look at those six other names and the teams employing them: Newgarden, Pagenaud and Power raced (this season) for the mighty Team Penske; Rossi was employed by Andretti Autosport; Dixon drove for Chip Ganassi Racing and Sato raced for Rahal Letterman Lanigan. Penske, Andretti and Ganassi are powerhouses; Rahal’s team is not as successful but is certainly no slouch.
Herta drives for Harding-Steinbrenner Racing.
Mark Harding owns a huge paving company in Indiana; George Michael Steinbrenner IV is the grandson of George Steinbrenner, legendary owner of the New York Yankees. Brian Barnhart, the man everybody loved to hate when he ran the series, has done a fine job as president; Larry Curry is a veteran crew chief who put together a decent bunch of mechanics and engineers that made the Dallara-Honda that Herta drove sing.
There was more than a little David and Goliath going on here. Colton Herta did an outstanding job as pilot and everybody else on that “little team that could” did their bit, too. Which made what happened at the conclusion of that race Sunday a little puzzling as well as a little disconcerting.
Colton Herta won the race and then was all but ignored for 10 minutes after the checkers flew because everybody and everything on the NBC telecast was focused on Newgarden, who won the championship by finishing eighth on the track.
I know the championship is important – and it was great to see Newgarden win his second title in three years, particularly with Toronto native Gavin Ward calling the shots as his race engineer – but by the time they got around to Herta, who was waiting in Victory Lane with a TV reporter with obviously not a lot of excitement (or anything else) going on around him, it was really anti-climactic.
The little guy beat all the big guys Sunday and that was the story. Too bad NBC and IndyCar missed it.
Colton Herta and Harding-Steinbrenner Racing won’t be little guys next year. They have joined with Michael Andretti and Herta will race under the Andretti Autosport banner.
They had a decent crowd Sunday but it could have been better. Way better. Ergo, IndyCar has some work to do in the off-season so far as selling the product. The bloggers and the so-called “influencers” have to be brought on board, because most young people aren’t reading the papers any more and they’re not watching TV, either. The last time I looked, Netflix wasn’t offering up news and sports. Social media is where it’s at now and this series needs someone who understands it and can milk it. There is a hard core of IndyCar fans who are all over Twitter and Instagram and Facebook and they do a great job talking to each other. But the trick is to move beyond the base and start to attract people who have never previously thought of IndyCar racing as entertainment. You can’t just be in the game any more; you have to be leading it and you have to be winning it. IndyCar has to pick up the pace.
They reported on the telecast that the Indy cars were going 160 mph on the straight approaching the corkscrew. On Thursday, I went 165 mph on the Autobahn in Germany in an electric Porsche, which I will write about in next Saturday’s Toronto Star Wheels. There was no Corkscrew on the Autobahn, though.
I fear the end is near for A.J. Foyt Racing. Their title sponsor, after many years, is moving on and will only sponsor one car at Indianapolis next May. Other than money from friends/fans, it’s tough to attract sponsorship in IndyCar these days, unless you are Roger Penske. If Foyt is forced to close its doors, I’m not sure we’ll see Tony Kanaan in the saddle again, either.
I don’t get all the angst over Conor Daly. He’s a nice guy and a good driver but . . . I read Tweets and letters about how he just has to have a full-time ride, and what does it take, and etc. More than once I’ve heard people say that he “deserves” one. I’ve met Conor. He’s a nice guy. He got his serious training right here in Canada. But he had full-time rides twice in the series (2016 with Coyne and 2017 with Foyt) and he never finished higher than 18th in the standings both times. That’s not good enough. Simple as that.
Jenna Fryer reported for the AP this week that two senior Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports employees lost their jobs and our James Hinchcliffe was nearly fired because of Hinch’s appearance in ESPN Magazine’s The Body issue (in which world-famous athletes appear in various stages of undress to illustrate the dangerous of participating in their sports). I find that hard to believe. Arrow stuck with Hinchcliffe through his near-death experience at Indianapolis in 2015 and again in 2017 when he failed to qualify for the 500. In short, Arrow has always had James Hinchcliffe’s back. And now they’re sore because he took off his clothes to show off his scars? More likely what happened is that the McLaren F1 types got their noses out of joint when they discovered they hadn’t been looped in and got their revenge by whacking two people and nearly a third (who probably escaped temporary unemployment because, why fire a driver with just one race remaining – except that now he’s on notice)? Mark my words: the IndyCar series will come to rue the day when these guys showed up. It’s not like it was when Teddy Mayer and Tyler Alexander arrived and wanted to go racing. This McLaren mob will pillage and piss everybody off and then they will leave. You watch. For a detailed story of the season’s final IndyCar race, please click here.
Josef Newgarden became a two-time IndyCar champion at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in a race that was controlled from start to finish by Colton Herta. Newgarden came into the race with a 41-point lead, and right from the outset it was clear just how important that buffer would be.
Formula One – I’m starting to get angry with F1 drivers. They have all the money in the world, beautiful women are everywhere, they get to drive incomprehensibly wonderful racing cars, their jobs are relatively safe (when compared to the statistics of 50 years ago, when they had more chances of being killed than a soldier-at-arms in wartime) and they only have to work at their job for a little more than 100 hours A YEAR in order to be handed all of the above on a silver platter. It used to be Lewis Hamilton and now it’s Charles Leclerc: “I’m so happy for the team that we finished first and second BUT WHY COULDN’T I WIN WAH WAH WAH WAHHHHHHhhhhhhhh….” Okay Charles. I’m going to tell you the facts of life. Formula One is a business. You are an employee. Your job is to drive the racing car. There is another guy on this team. While you are just starting out – and Charles, you haven’t even been in F1 for two complete seasons yet and the other guy has won four world championships – his time is winding down and we would like to keep him happy. He will either stick around for another year and then he will retire or he could go as early as this year. Either way, we want to see him with a smile on his face. You could help your career a lot, Charles, if you smiled a little more too. Second isn’t the end of the world and your time will come. Thank you, thank you very much. Oh, and Charles: if your life is so miserable, you can come and write this stuff and I will take your place and be just fine with finishing second behind Sebastian Vettel. We’ll have to trade salaries, too. Oh, what’s that? Oh, you’re not that unhappy. Okay, I get it. But promise me you’ll be better or I’ll be on your case again, okay? Okay. For a complete story on the F1 race, please click here.
NASCAR – In 1985, Danny Sullivan won the Indy 500 after spinning. He went too deep into Corner One while trying to pass Mario Andretti and couldn’t maintain control. After one, almost complete 360, he caught the spin and carried on, stopping in the pits for fresh tires before going on to victory. Saturday night at Richmond, Martin Truex Jr. lost control and spun on the front straight. He kept the car off the wall and, while once coming almost to a stop, dropped the car into first gear and got going straight again. He went on to win, with Kyle Busch second (no temper tantrum, this week) and Denny Hamlin third. Truex has won the first two playoff races. Stock car racing now has its own spin-and-win tale to tell. And Christopher Bell won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Richmond. For a complete story, please click here.
PINTY’S SERIES – Andrew Ranger won the 100th NASCAR Canada Pinty’s Series stock car race Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the only non-Canadian speedway stop of the 2019 season, and set things up for the championship-winning race this coming Saturday night at Jukasa Motor Speedway outside Hagersville, south of Hamilton. Ranger, a former IndyCar Series driver, won for the fourth time this season while ex-Xfinity Series driver Alex Labbe finished second and D.J. Kennington was third. Kevin Lacroix, who is now 11 points behind Ranger going into next weekend’s Fall Brawl at Jukasa, was turned around by Labbe heading for the checkers and crashed into the infield retaining wall. He was not injured. Click here for results and standings.
LOUDON, NH — In a season that has seen one of the series’ most intense championship battles to-date, Andrew Ranger entered New Hampshire in a must win situation. Though he trailed Kevin …
Roman De Angeles of Windsor won the second race of the weekend Sunday of the 2019 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Season at Laguna Seca. It was his 10th race win of 2019 and puts him very close to clinching the series title, which could happen Oct. 10 at Road Atlanta.
Scott Atherton will retire as president of IMSA at the end of this season but he will continue to serve on the board of directors. Atherton started in motorsports 34 years ago when he sold sponsorships in the old CART Indy car series. He was president of the American Le Mans Series when it merged with the Grand American Road Racing Assoc. He’s been in charge of IMSA since.
Formula Electric will race in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta for the first time this coming season, adding to the long list of iconic cities featured on the 2019/20 ABB FIA Formula E Championship calendar. Jakarta will join Seoul and London as new venues, with the race in Indonesia scheduled to take place on June 6. A grid of 24 cars, including new manufacturers Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, will navigate their way around the National Monument in the centre of Jakarta, subject to circuit homologation and approval of the FIA World Motor Sport Council.
By Norris McDonald / Special to wheels.ca