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Thursday, October 6, 2022
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‘Luck Takes Away from the Integrity of the Event’ – Bryan Herta

Colton Herta drives back to the pits with a damaged front wing after contact with Dalton Kellett at the 2022 Music City Grand Prix.
Colton Herta drives back to the pits with a damaged front wing after contact with Dalton Kellett at the 2022 Music City Grand Prix. Photo courtesy of Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment.

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As Colton Herta drove a damaged car back to the pits around the streets of Nashville,  father Bryan Herta knew that there was a monumental task ahead.

As the race strategist for the youngest winner in NTT IndyCar Series history, the elder Herta had to call for pit stops at the right time in Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix. That, and hope that his son would not get caught up in the eventual calamity that ensued in the 14th race of the 2022 IndyCar season.

“It’s hard to be good at this place,” Bryan Herta told TobyChristie.com after his son finished fifth. “You’re just better off being lucky. Apparently next year we need to come back and pit seven times because that’s how you win.

“We know what kind of race this is, we talk about it. You know, this isn’t my cup of tea. I think when there’s this much luck involved, it takes away from the integrity of the event, that’s my opinion.”

On Lap 3 of 80, the younger Herta and Dalton Kellett had contact as the pair approached Turn 4 of the 11-turn, 2.1-mile circuit.

Herta started 23rd in the 26 car field and was trying to get 19th place from the Canadian. Though Herta was ahead entering the corner, Kellett did not give up the position, resulting in contact. That contact sent Herta into the curved portion of the concrete wall exiting the corner.

The Californian slowly made his way back to pit road with a damaged front wing that was replaced. Herta was now a lap down in 25th, but there was still a long way to go. After Helio Castroneves’s Lap 22 spin, race control called for a full course yellow to restart the stopped car.

With the lead lap cars pitting under the caution, Herta was now on the lead lap and back in contention.

“I knew that crazy stuff happens and you never know what could happen,” Herta explained to TobyChristie.com. “So I tried to keep my head down. Once we got our lap back, got into place and we were, I don’t know, after the restart when we had our lap back, we were up maybe five spots or six spots.

“I knew it would be possible if we got our lap back. But it seemed like it was so hard to get our lap back. Seemed like it took so long. And then when we finally did, we kind of made progress and we were able to pass guys with overtake (and) without overtake.”

Herta’s march was on as the race’s chaos began. The race had eight cautions for accidents and Herta used strategy and accident avoidance to move through the field. 

“The team did an amazing job in the pits, probably gave me four or five spots on that second stop for the last stint and just set us up really nice with a lot of momentum,” Herta said. “And when they do a good job and gain me a whole bunch of spots, it makes me want to push to the front even more.”

The pit stop that Herta was referring to was his Lap 54 pit stop. Despite Herta being in eighth place before and after pitting, a near-perfect pit stop leapfrogged the 22-year-old past numerous cars on the same strategy. Herta was third of those drivers with the same pit stop strategy.

As the race approached the final 10 laps, Herta was in fourth place. This was despite running last as late as Lap 25. Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean went past Herta on the Lap 70 restart, but Grosjean would fall out of the race after contact with Josef Newgarden. Alexander Rossi passed Herta while Grosjean and Newgarden had their contact that set up a dash to the finish.

On the final restart, Christian Lundgaard fell from third to sixth place as Herta went around the Danish rookie. That move elevated Herta to his finishing position of fifth.

This result lets the Herta family leave Nashville on a happier note after a late crash in last year’s race. Herta was in second place last year when he crashed in Turn 9 with a handful of laps remaining.

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