With 20 laps left in Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Colton Herta’s 10-second lead over Josef Newgarden had vanished with a full-course caution. Newgarden, going for his third consecutive victory in Florida, had the softer red tires on his Hitachi Chevy while Herta was on the harder and more durable black Firestones. And Newgarden had more push-to-pass so the leader that had dominated the first street race of the season looked like a sitting duck.
Before going back to green, NBC’s Marty Snider asked Bryan Herta, calling the strategy for his 21-year-old wunderkind, who was more nervous?
“Neither of us,” he replied.
And that proved to be a very prophetic statement because little Hertamania refused to be rattled by two late restarts and drove to a flawless 2.6-second triumph over Newgarden with the calming voice of his father in his ear.
“I love that Dad is on my radio and I love that I’ve got as many wins as he did,” said Herta after his fourth career IndyCar win and first in the Gainbridge Honda for Andretti Autosport.
It’s hard to find a father-son combo more evenly matched in personality and disposition than the Hertas. They’re unfailingly polite, quiet, bordering on bashful, seldom raise their voice or blood pressure and just have an amazing way of taking everything in stride. Bryan was pretty cool in his racing days but Colton is Deep Freeze City.
“I didn’t want to see those last two yellows but Colton never put a foot wrong and I am super proud,” said the father as he was accepting congratulations from Mario Andretti.
As for the “neither of us nervous” quote, he explained, “When you’re doing your thing, you’re in the moment and he was for sure. I could tell in his voice that he felt in control.”
Leading 97 of the 100 laps, the younger Herta took the white flag with Dad’s encouraging words: “Bring it home, buddy.”
The next exchange was even better. After Bryan said: “There was a lot of pressure and you did great,” Colton asked if he could do donuts in Turn 1. “Why not? And don’t forget to wave to your fans,” was the response.
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It’s truly hard to imagine how mature and savvy this second-generation driver is at his age but at least Bryan doesn’t get asked one question anymore.
“When Colton started racing Indy cars, people use to ask if he was going to be better than I was,” said the proud pop. “Nobody asks that anymore.”