Colton Herta’s brave qualifying run may have been one of the highlights from Saturday’s busy day of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, and the precocious rookie admitted he had felt himself on the ragged edge.
“We trimmed a lot, actually. Almost [an] irresponsible amount for the wind,” Herta said after strapping himself into Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s rocket to take a crack at improving his Fast 9 qualifying speed.
“0.1 less of a degree [of rear wing] and I would have been in the fence. That was it. My ass was telling me the whole time that this was not OK. That the rear was coming [around]. But it didn’t.”
Herta’s No. 88 Honda darted and slid and looked like it was moments away from calamity throughout the teenager’s blast to fifth fastest in tricky ambient conditions. High heat and high winds, countered by a heavy dose of youthful enthusiasm gave the second-generation racer a prime opportunity to do something memorable in Saturday’s qualifying session.
Jumping up from eighth to fifth with a wildly unexpected run late in the day, Herta found multiple ways to credit his backside for giving him the chassis feedback needed to hold onto a 230 mph car carrying minimal downforce.
“I just looked at it and said I’ll either go faster here or I’ll be in the wall, with the amount we trimmed,” the Circuit of The Americas race winner added. “We already solidified ourselves in the Fast 9. There wasn’t too much risk, except for breaking the race car.
“I think maybe my butt’s doing good. I’m not known for having a thick butt, so I do feel the race car quite well. Maybe that’s one of the attributes that helped me today.”
With rain in the forecast for Sunday, and IndyCar’s rules calling for Saturday’s Fast 9 speeds to be used to set the grid if final qualifying is scratched, the risks taken to leap from Row 3 to Row 2 could prove beneficial.