Colton Herta walked out of the infield hospital on Saturday night and watched the final 12 laps on the NBC camera that was waiting to interview him.
“Man, that was some good racing out there tonight,” he exclaimed.
Oh yes it was, and Herta was the main reason.
The 19-year-old American never led a lap of the DXC Technology 600, but he stole the show with his outside passes and daring driving before being knocked out trying to pass Scott Dixon for second place on Lap 229.
And the way he was chewing up people, he very easily could have won his second race of the year.
“I don’t think there was any doubt about it. Colton was going to win,” said George Michael Steinbrenner, co-owner of the Harding/Steinbrenner team. “He is something else.”
The youngest winner in IndyCar history (he was 18 last March when he triumphed at COTA) looked like Alexander Rossi as he carved through traffic and was one of the few able to pass on the outside, looking every bit a seasoned veteran instead of a teenager making his debut at the ultra-fast Texas Speedway.
“It was fun while is lasted and I had a great car,” he said. “I thought it was good stuff, because it wasn’t pack racing but it was good, hard racing, and you had to be handling to make passes.
“I’m really happy with how the car was. The GESS Capstone car [and] all the boys did an amazing job. Big congrats to IndyCar for bringing the updates to the front wing and the new tires, because it made the racing a hell of a lot better.
“We’ll keep trucking. This is a DNF that I’ll take because I was really happy with my performance.”
The deciding point of his race came as he was trying to get past five-time IndyCar champion and three-time Texas winner Scott Dixon. Herta got a great run coming off Turn 2 and then dove to the inside. Dixon, one of the cleanest drivers on record, moved Herta down the track, under the white line, and they touched as they flew into Turn 3 at 220 mph.
They both spun into the wall. Later, Dixon took the blame.
“I just heard them saying the other car was looking inside and I started to track down to try and close it off,” he explained. “It was toward the end of the race. As I was doing that and looking down, I could still see his shadow there on the apron and I knew it wasn’t going to work out there.
“Sorry if that was my fault. I was just really pushing and trying to get the most out of it toward the end of the race.”
Herta accepted an apology from the ever-classy Dixon.
“[Dixon] apologized and that’s what it seemed like from my point of view,” he said. “I [haven’t] seen a replay yet or anything, but he just turned down on me. I was there and he put me on the apron. I was more than enough ahead. He didn’t need to do it. That outside lane was there, and he could have run the outside. He must not have known [I was there].”
Maybe not, but everyone in the grandstand knew No. 88 was worth the price of admission.