Colton Herta continued his hot streak Saturday with a dominating victory in the opener of the Indy Lights doubleheader at Road America.
Starting third, Herta stalked polesitter Victor Franzoni for six laps before making a nifty pass for the lead in Turn 5, then held off a fierce charge from Pato O’Ward to take his fourth consecutive win by 3.7 seconds over his teammate.
“We haven’t been qualifying very good but we’ve been finishing strong and it’s always fun to come through the field,” said Herta, the 18-year-old son of former IndyCar regular Bryan Herta who drives for George Michael Steinbrenner IV and Andretti Autosport. “This is a proper race car and we showed it today. It was all about managing your tires because it was hot and tough on tires.”
After sweeping the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Herta now owns a 12-point lead in the standings over O’Ward heading into Sunday’s second race.
O’Ward charged from fourth to finish second.
“I was just trying to take the positions one by one,” O’Ward said. “I got by Santi, then Victor made a mistake and I got by. I tried to get by Colton, and I had a couple of shots at it, but I don’t think I was close enough out of Turn 3 to get in front of him. I was counting the push-to-passes that I had left and I thought I had more, but I didn’t. I picked up some rocks when I went onto the rumble strips in Turn 5 and the car started acting funky, so I backed off.
“But I’m happy. The team did a great job and Colton drove an awesome race. We’re starting from pole tomorrow so we’ll be going for the win.”
Franzoni finished third, Santi Urrutia fourth and Wisconsin’s Aaron Telitz was fifth.
The weekend has been emotional for Franzoni, whose former Juncos Racing teammate, mentor and friend Jeff Green was killed last weekend in a vintage race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“We were super strong in spots, but the race didn’t go as we expected,” Franzoni said. “We didn’t have the pace that Colton and Pato had, and I made some mistakes that cost us a position but it was a good learning experience. We’ll change some things for tomorrow and be stronger.
“I would like to thank everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy for what they’re doing for Jeff [Green], and for me and my team this weekend. Jeff was an amazing guy and a huge friend. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have been in Pro Mazda last year and I wouldn’t be in Indy Lights now. I wouldn’t have any testing this year, I would just be racing. He helped me so much last year – he wanted to test, but in the end, I ended up driving even more than he did. He gave me his engine at Mid-Ohio when I had problems. He did everything for me to win and it’s so sad that we lost him.”