There was a bit of a theme last weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which felt like the Scott Dixon show with a supporting role by Colton Herta.
Despite his blistering pace from Fast Friday, Saturday qualifying and then the battle for pole in the Fast Nine Shootout on Sunday, Herta trailed the six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion every single day.
While staring directly at the back of the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda would frustrate some, Herta keeps a laid-back ‘California cool’ approach and is fully embracing his position on the middle of the front row for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.
“Obviously, we just missed it by a hair on Sunday,” said Herta, driver of the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. “That was a little disappointing, but happy to start up near the front, stay out of the chaos that can be in the midfield and back of the pack on start. So hopefully keep it clean, have a nice run out, take it easy, get through most of the race in probably the last 50 laps when guys usually tend to go low, go a little crazy, a little nutty. So, probably see it then.”
Herta has been sensational since entering the NTT IndyCar Series in the season finale in 2018. In 37 starts, he has taken four wins, five poles and has already made his presence felt by finishing third in the championship last season.
Entering his third-ever start in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the butterflies haven’t quite arrived yet, and may not until he begins the walk down Gasoline Alley on race day.
“I’m sure it will, like, an hour before the race,” said Herta, who finished eighth in the Indy 500 last year. “For most of the normal races, I don’t get nervous until like 15 minutes, 20 minutes beforehand. I think the most important thing for me is that I’m focused on what I need to do, which I am at the moment. I don’t think it will be a problem for the race.”
Overall, he feels more prepared for this year’s Indy 500 than either of his previous two.
“Every time that you come here, you’re learning a lot more knowledge than last year,” he said. “Really, last year was my first 500. Obviously, my rookie year, I did a lap and a half and the car broke. So I was happy to get a full race under my belt last year and learn from that. Going off of that, and learning a lot of what I learned in this month, with the new added aero parts: the barge boards and strakes. It should be an interesting race, should be a good one. I learned a lot since my rookie year. So I do feel very well-prepared.”