By Adam Cheek www.FrontStretch.com
Photo by: Chris Owens INDYCAR Media
Just one season into his NTT IndyCar Series career, Colton Herta already has two wins under his belt. The 20-year-old pulled off a shocking victory in 2019 at Circuit of the Americas, following that up by winning the season-ending event at Laguna Seca.
The youngest driver ever to win a race in IndyCar competition, and the youngest to ever capture an IndyCar pole, Herta has made some big expectations for himself in the 2020 IndyCar season. Will he avoid the sophomore slump?
No. 88 Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport (2nd year)
Aside from his wins at COTA and the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, Herta struggled through much of the 2019 season. He finished seventh in the standings with 420 points, just missing out on Rookie of the Year honors to Felix Rosenqvist, and managed six additional top-10 results.
The first two full months of 2019 (April and May) weren’t kind to Herta; he never finished inside the top 10 and was dead last in the Indianapolis 500. However, he excelled in qualifying, scoring three pole positions over the course of the season, and never finished lower than 18th after the 500.
Changes for 2020
The biggest change for Colton Herta is the new partnership between Andretti Autosport and Harding Steinbrenner Racing, although the two teams continue to operate separately. Herta remains in the same car as last year, the No. 88 still gracing the nose of his Dallara Honda.
Strengths in 2020
Consistency has seemed to be the key for Colton Herta in his IndyCar efforts so far. Two of Herta’s three poles came back-to-back in the final two races of 2019. He also sat on pole and set the fastest lap time at Road America, but Alexander Rossi dominated the race and left the field in the dust.
Herta’s venue strengths lie in the road courses, regardless of being street or standalone. Every single top-10 run of his 2019 campaign came on courses, and some of his worst runs were on ovals. However, he did finish seventh in the 2020 season opener at Texas, which is one of IndyCar’s toughest ovals.
Challenges in 2020
Colton Herta has clearly inherited the talent for Indy car racing from his father. Living up to the hype, especially with a famous last name, always puts stress on drivers; however, with Herta’s relative coolness last season and his ability to produce wins early, that may or may not be a significant issue in 2020.
The partnership with Andretti will take a bit of adjusting – as all team alterations do – but his seventh-place finish at Texas is a positive harbinger of things to come.
The 2020 IndyCar season season provides Colton Herta with a glowing opportunity to build on what he achieved in 2019. Last year’s three poles and two wins make the No. 88 a threat to win every week, especially on road courses, and that seventh-place run at Texas is a sign of things to come for the sophomore driver.
Expect Herta to score another win or two in 2020 and be in the overall points mix early on. It might take a couple more years for the youngster to contend for a championship, but his name will be high up in the standings when the season concludes.
The 2020 IndyCar season continues Saturday, July 4 with the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will air at 12:15 p.m. ET on NBC.