Recent results banked by Colton Herta have not been strong enough to make a championship run, but Road America helped his latest form by scoring a top five finish.
The 22-year-old California native pushed hard early in the going and moved up from his starting spot outside the top 10 to seventh by the end of Lap 5. With all cars being on the same strategy from the Lap 8 caution, it simplified the job for Herta to just makes moves and get to the front runners.
Along with Herta, his Andretti Autosport teammates turned up this weekend with practice speeds that carried into qualifying, which ultimately translated into the race. Alexander Rossi scored back-to-back podium results, Romain Grosjean earned his first top 10 since Barber Motorsports Park at the at the beginning of last month and Herta posted consecutive finishes in the first 10 positions.
On the final restart, all of the Andretti drivers duked it out for the final podium spot as Rossi was passed by Marcus Ericsson off Turn 3. Grosjean and Herta then put the pressure on the pole-sitter.
“I don’t know,” Herta said, via Peacock. “I thought we did a really good job starting 11th. We were up to fourth at one point then Romain got us at the end. So, yeah a nice little resurgence from the team, the second half of the season. Indy (Indianapolis 500) was good for Rossi and then we were really good in Detroit again. Then come here, have great cars. Seems like we are on the upward spiral and it’s great to be a part of it.
Well before the start of the Sonsio Grand Prix, it was announced that Herta would have to take six-spot grid penalty from his original qualifying spot of fifth. It stemmed from the Carb Day practice crash prior to the Indy 500, when the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda flipped.
“It obviously hurts when we have to take the penalty, but it’s the right thing to do,” he added. We took it here, we still got a top five and now we can go play and fight in Mid-Ohio.”
To go along with the moves Herta made on-track, inside the helmet, he wasn’t as comfortable.
“It was one of the most difficult races I did,” said Herta. “Because around Lap 30, I had stubbed my eyes, couldn’t quite open them all the way. Constantly tried to get all the stuff out of my eyes, eventually I think Lap 54 is when I got them out of my eyes.”
Soon after Herta used a towel for help on the final cycle of pit-stops, a caution came out, which set up the second to last restart with five laps to go. At that time, he had only two seconds of Push-to-Pass to utilize.
“Yeah, it was crazy,” he said. “Because I knew Ericsson didn’t have much Push-to-Pass and Rossi had 20 seconds or so. I had to try to get Ericsson, but he is really good on the restarts and he got Rossi and I was hovering back there waiting for someone to make a mistake. It ended up being me and Romain got by me. Yeah, really good fight there in the end.”
With Road America now in the rear-view, Herta sits right outside the top 10 in the standings in 11th, 97 points out of the championship lead.