Colton Herta’s view on life entering his sophomore season of IndyCar racing is a perfect representation of his personality. Smart, strong-willed, defiantly minded, the 19-year-old Californian has a lofty bar to reach if he wants to exceed 2019’s standout rookie performances.
A pair of wins, topped off with a field-stomping pole and win at the season finale in Monterey, left the second-generation driver as the most feared young gun in the series. Seventh in the championship standing with the under-funded Harding Steinbrenner Racing outfit, Herta was hired by Andretti Autosport to bolster its 2020 championship odds alongside Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Based on his output in Year 1 with a small team and limited funding, Herta should be spoken of as a title contender and possibly as Andretti’s best hope to take down Team Penske over the next 17 races.
Herta doesn’t want to hear it.
“By now, a lot of people can tell I’m pretty straightforward and I don’t really care if people have negative things to say or have expectations of me,” he told RACER. “It might sound rude to say this, but I don’t really care what others think I should do. Because I know what I have to do. And obviously the goal is to win a championship and win the Indy 500, and we know we can. But I think realistically, I want to go into the last round at Laguna Seca this year with a mathematical chance of winning the championship, which probably means ending up third in points or better.”
The last observation is remarkable for an NTT IndyCar Driver with so little experience to draw from. At a stage of his career where most 19-year-old’s want to destroy the racing world in flamboyant style, Herta is locked into the mindset that has made Scott Dixon a five-time title winner, and allowed reigning champion Josef Newgarden to earn two titles by the age of 28.
Victories are an important factor in winning a championship, but not at the expense of risking important points hauls by taking seconds, thirds, and fourths in the name winning the season-long game. Like most things about Bryan Herta’s son, his recognition and commitment to the championship mindset in Year 2 is remarkable.
“I think I definitely have the team capable of doing it, and I definitely have the skill set capable of doing it, but it’s just about just refining some of the mistakes and some of the rookie errors that I made last year,” he acknowledged.
“And obviously, I’ve got a lot more opportunity at our disposal in the Andretti team. There’s a lot more people to work around and work with, so it’s obviously going to be a little bit easier this year from that point of view. But I expect myself to be in the championship hunt at the end of the year.”
Minus the mistakes and misfortune, Herta likes his chances once the season moves into its final month come September.
“You just look at last year: we did the calculations on if I hadn’t gained any positions from when I went out, so if I finished where I was running when I crashed or the car broke, I would have finished fourth in points,” he said.
“It puts our competitiveness last year a lot more into perspective. And I had some races that weren’t great where I crashed, and I was like, 12th or 13th, or whatever.
“So it really puts it into perspective that you don’t need spectacular results everywhere. You just need a good solid year. Obviously, you need to put wins on the board. There are big points available all the time that you really need to get if you want to be in the championship hunt. And so we got that down. But just refining those little mistakes is the biggest thing I’m trying to do differently this year.”