Coming off of two consecutive DNFs with a lap 50 crash at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and a lap 17 wreck at the INDYCAR Grand Prix a week ago, Santa Clarita native Colton Herta is looking to add his name to the record books once again, this time at the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
The Indy 500 brings a unique challenge to the 19-year old rookie. The Indianapolis 500 is the first of only five ovals on the NTT INDYCAR Series schedule and Herta admits that he is more at home on the road courses that dominate the schedule. “Driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy car is very different from anything I’ve ever done,” Herta told the media on Tuesday. “I’ve done the Freedom 100 here, but this is still quite a bit different from driving an Indy Lights car. I’ve driven road courses all my life and it’s very easy to depict a change and if it’s better or not, but I’m having to learn this on the oval now.
The weekend prior to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is dedicated to practice and qualifying.
Herta’s car was among the fastest on the track, earning top-10 times in practice two on Wednesday and practice four on Friday and when the first two rounds of qualifying came around on Saturday, the green and white Harding-Steinbrenner Racing No. 88 Honda was ready.
Following the first round of qualifying, Herta found himself just inside the Fast Nine in P8, but he would have to improve in the second round to remain. Herta came out on track in the second round and jumped three spots into the 5th position, locking him into the Fast Nine and earning him a shot at the poll in the final round of qualifying on Sunday.
Herta held fast to that fifth position in the final round of qualifying and earned a spot in the middle of the second row.
“We said we’d be happy with fifth place because we didn’t think we had enough for the four guys in front of us,” Herta told the media following the final round of qualifying on Sunday. “Everyone is just so competitive and quick, but you can win from anywhere here. It didn’t matter if we started fifth or 25th, I was going to be happy either way. The guys have been working so well together and we’ve made it in the show really nicely. So I’m really excited to see what happens next.”
The 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 kicks off at 8 a.m. on May 26th on NBC.