Colton Herta scores milestone Indy Lights win at Barber
Young Colton Herta apparently learned from his mistake on Saturday in which he ruined his chance at contending for that day’s victory by bouncing off pole-sitter Kyle Kaiser before the race even started. In Sunday’s Mazda Indy Lights Grand prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires, Herta ran an error-free race.
The 17-year-old son of former Verizon IndyCar Series driver and current team owner Bryan Herta started on the pole after Sunday’s qualifications were rained out. He led from start to finish to claim his second Indy Lights win in just three races in his career. The impressive record is shared with 20-year-old team owner George Michael Steinbrenner, who intends to take Herta to the Verizon IndyCar Series one day.
“Colton took it hard on himself but he also knew it was just a racing incident,” Steinbrenner said of Saturday’s issue. “He knew he had the chance to bounce back today, he had the pace to compete. So, he put it behind him, went out and did a mega-job.”
Herta defeated Kyle Kaiser, a young driver from Santa Clara, California, by 9.1465 second in the 400th all-time Indy Lights Series race. He received the trophy from the winner of the 300th Indy Lights race, current Verizon IndyCar Series star James Hinchcliffe.
“It was perfect,” Herta said. “Everything came together. I was nursing the tires trying to keep cool, keep calm and make it to the finish. This race was harder than St. Pete because this is a physical track.
“But it wasn’t flawless because we didn’t get the fastest lap. But it was mistake-free, for sure. I didn’t drop any wheels and was hitting the apex every lap, so that was flawless.”
Kaiser finished second for the second day in a row.
“Big picture, this was a really good weekend,” Kaiser said. “I think I drove really well, had a really clean race and looking forward to the next race weekend. I was a little nervous because we didn’t get to qualify but everybody was on the same program and I was able to get a podium finish.
“The month of May is the best month of racing and I’m looking forward to getting back on the track and going back to racing.”
It was a flawless race for young Herta, but the same could not be said for his competitors. For the second day, there was a first-lap incident as Zachary Claman De Melo of Montreal tangled with Pato O’Ward of Monterrey, Mexico, at the entry to turn three.
Both cars went into the gravel pit. De Melo drove his way out of the muck, but O’Ward was stuck in the sand trap and needed help from the Holmatro Safety Team to return to the race. Once O’Ward pitted, it was obvious the car had damaged suspension and he was out of the race. De Melo returned to the race, three laps down.
The win was Colton Herta’s second in the last three races in the Indy Lights Series.
The green flag waved on lap four and Herta jumped out to a big lead. One lap later, Santi Urrutia of Uruguay made contact with Shelby Blackstock of Nashville while fighting for ninth and spun in turn three. He was able to get his car refired and continued in the race.
After replacing his front wing, he went one lap down.
At lap 15 Herta’s lead was up to 2.2597 over Kaiser with Saturday’s winner, Nico Jamin of France, in third, Alberico fourth and Telitz fifth. Kellett was in sixth place.
Herta stretched the lead to 3.6565 over Kaiser just three laps later. With five laps to go, Herta was up by 5.9011 over Kaiser, followed by Jamin, Neil Alberico of Los Gatos, California, and Aaron Telitz of Rice Lake, Wisconsin.
The battle for eighth between Blackstock, Kellett and Norman was quite intense as they almost went three-wide. But up front, there was no catching Colton Herta.
“I think I was being a little overaggressive on Saturday, so I learned from that, but having the inside line starting from the pole was very important today,” Herta said. “It’s huge — probably the most important thing of the weekend is starting on pole. So, we got lucky to get the pole by going off points.
“It was leading from the first turn on. We weren’t really ambitious and was just seeing what we could get out of it.”
Andretti Autosport drivers swept the weekend, with Jamin winning Saturday’s race.
“We didn’t have a great race yesterday with the incident before turn one but he did a great job bouncing back in this race and did a very good job,” 20-year-old Steinbrenner said about Herta.
“To me, it’s just important to be in the series for me. It wouldn’t matter if I were 20 or 45. My opportunity just came earlier than usual. I’m just happy to be in the sport learning from Michael Andretti. He is one of the greatest American racers in the history of the sport and he has been an extraordinarily successful owner.
“There isn’t anyone I would rather learn from than Michael Andretti.”
Colton Herta was presented with a trophy marking the his victory in the 400th Indy Lights race on Sunday by James Hinchcliffe, who won the 300th race. The series was launched in 1986.
Indy Lights Grand Prix of Alabama Barber Motorsports Park Race 2 results