On paper, Colton Herta had a positive day Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Starting 14th in the GMR Grand Prix, the youngest winner in NTT IndyCar Series history finished ninth. Most would be pleased with that effort, but analysis would have to follow the 85-lap race.
The No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda was in fifth place after 80 laps but fell back to ninth by the race’s end. Over the last five laps around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course, Herta fell to sixth on Lap 81, eighth on Lap 82 and ninth on Lap 84.
Graham Rahal was 10 seconds behind Herta in 10th place, so the Californian was in no danger of losing that position. Losing a top-five result was more than enough to anger the 2018 Freedom 100 winner.
“It’s to early to tell before we take a look at the data, but almost a hundred percent sure we had another bad set of reds,” Herta said. “Seems to be happening more and more, which is frustrating when we’re getting punished for something that we shouldn’t do. It shouldn’t happen like that.
“We’ll have to look at the data to confirm. Right now I’m just speculating, but it shows kind of traces of that. I feel like Firestone needs to do better in that aspect and you can’t keep having these one off tires and just ruin somebody’s races for it.”
Herta started and ended the race with a set of new Firestone red sidewall alternate compound tires. The red alternates are softer than the black sidewall primaries and give more grip, but wear out sooner. IndyCar mandates that drivers run both compounds for at least two laps in a dry weather road or street course race.
The new set of tires at the end of the race had much more falloff than at the beginning of the race. Herta’s lap times shortly before pitting for the first time were in the high 72 second to low 73 second range. On another set of new red alternates at the end of the race, Herta’s times went from high 72 seconds to mid-73 seconds on Lap 76.
The last three laps of the race, Herta’s lap times were 76.2585 seconds, 76.7087 seconds and 77.3244 seconds.
“In that stint I didn’t just forget how to drive the reds, but it’s so frustrating. It’s super freaking frustrating,” Herta said.
Practice for the 2023 Indianapolis 500 starts in just a couple of days, so Herta will not have long to think about how the most recent race ended.
“It’s nice to get right back in the car,” Herta said. “And obviously this will not affect whatever we have going on for the oval program, but yeah, excited to get into the real month of May now and get on the oval.”