Herta working to reverse the Andretti slide in 2023

Herta working to reverse the Andretti slide in 2023


Herta working to reverse the Andretti slide in 2023


He’s 22, entering his fifth full season as an NTT IndyCar Series driver, and on a mission to stop a two-year slide. Colton Herta, the series’ youngest race winner – in only his third IndyCar event – declared his intent to challenge the establishment and added a second victory later in the 2019 season to claim an impressive seventh in the drivers’ standings as a rookie.

Herta’s strongest body of work came as a sophomore after joining the Andretti Autosport team where despite capturing a lone win, his consistency throughout the season – with a 50-percent finishing rate inside the top five – propelled him to third in the championship. Three trips to victory lane in 2021 should have pushed Herta closer to a title, but frequent adversity diluted those wins and he fell to fifth in the standings.

And if 2021 was a slight step backwards, 2022 was a rough one for the entire Andretti team as a general lack of pace blighted the team’s output at most rounds; Herta’s worst season to date left him 10th with one win and too many days where the podium was far from his grasp.

“Last year, I think it was a little bit a shock to all of us,” Herta told RACER. “We just didn’t seem to be as strong as we were before and we obviously have some catching up to do. But we’ve been looking through everything from our driving all the way to how the cars get prepared and what we can do better in every way.

“And as a driver, you can never be satisfied with how you’re doing things or else you’ll never be better. So I’m always looking at ways that I can do things better that I’ve done wrong in the past, especially in the last year and trying to focus on those things going forward. There’s always room to improve.”

Provided the team is in a more competitive state, Herta’s looking to emulate what they achieved in 2020 and put it to point-scoring use. Just as Will Power did to such great effect last season and other recent champions have done on the way to earning an IndyCar title, the Californian knows the formula to follow if he wants to wear the IndyCar crown by the end of the season.

“I’ve had a fair career so far,” he said. “But I’d like to do better. I think I average about two wins a year, but it would certainly be a lot better if we can have a year with three or four wins and make that consistently stick.

“And for sure, you need wins to have a good championship year; wins are at a huge bundle of points, so they’re very important. But I think the most important thing is maximizing the bad days where you have a car that should finish 10th or 15th and you can squeeze fifth or sixth or seventh out of it. Those two things are how championships are made or lost.”

Although he’s the youngest driver on the squad, Herta sprints into the new season as the most experienced driver on the Andretti team. Combined, Romain Grosjean (36), Devlin DeFrancesco (23), and newcomer Kyle Kirkwood (24) have four years of IndyCar experience and the trio are chasing their first wins.

Compared to his days at Andretti where he was learning from IndyCar champions and Indianapolis 500 winners like Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi, Herta’s become the wise old veteran with grand expectations from the team to make Andretti Autosport a force to reckon with. Is he ready to step up and be a vocal leader and mentor if necessary among the foursome, or will he focus most of his energies inward on his No. 26 Honda program?

“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s something that I’ll have to take it as it comes. But as far as my teammates, as long as they can you give me valuable data, that’s really what I would look for in a teammate. If they can be fast, for a lap, and I can have the data and then look at it and go through it and see where I can improve, that’s the most important bit. As far as setup and everything, I’ve had some great teammates in the past with a lot of IndyCar experience and could help in that way. So maybe there’s a step up there to take.

“But I’m pretty comfortable with my ability to read the car and put a good setup together and do the right things. Obviously, I have a superstar engineer with Nathan O’Rourke, which takes care of most of that for me.”