INDYCAR: Herta prepping for racing return

INDYCAR: Herta prepping for racing return

November 22, 2016


With his first race in almost a decade right around the corner, former IndyCar driver-turned-team owner Bryan Herta has discovered the difference between being race-fit and timing stand-fit.

Getting back into racing form to compete in NASA's 25 Hours of Thunderhill with his son Colton, Parker Chase, Colin Braun and Ryan Carpenter in a Ginetta G57-P2 prototype has dominated Herta's time in recent weeks, and with the Dec. 2-4 event growing closer, the co-owner of Andretti Herta Autosport has turned the clock back to the 2000s.

"I'm excited about it, but it has been a long time since I last drove competitively," Herta told RACER. "I tested the Ginetta (pictured) for a few laps at Willow Springs and since then I've been training pretty seriously. It's hard to get race-fit without driving a car so I'm going to do a bunch of karting to get my timing back. I'm pretty rusty. It was obvious when I tested the car, and luckily the 25 Hour will give me plenty of time to get in rhythm."

Herta retired halfway through the 2008 season while driving for the Andretti Green Racing Acura LMP2 program in the American Le Mans Series. Based on his last experience in a fearsome prototype, adjusting to the Ginetta prototype has been somewhat comfortable.

"It's a different animal; it doesn't have the kind of power the Acura did, but it's closer to that than it is far away," said Herta, who's won two Indy 500s as a team owner, including the centennial event in May with Alexander Rossi. "I still need to get myself up to speed, but it's an easy car to drive, which is helpful."

"It's also a closed-top prototype, which I've never driven outside of a couple of races I did at the Daytona 24 Hours, which I like, and it should be one of the faster cars at Thunderhill. Selfishly, with all of the traffic they have at the 25 Hour, I'd rather be the one doing to passing; it's easier to look ahead than behind in racing."

Herta has also managed and steered Colton's move up the open-wheel ladder since stepping out of the cockpit. By the time they get to Thunderhill, Herta says he wants to enjoy working with his teenage son in a new role.

"I have no interest in being 'debrief dad' or 'advice dad' that weekend; I just want to be 'teammate dad,'" he added. "We're at different stages of our careers and lives. I'm coming in nostalgically – about how cool it is to get to race with my son in a cool car."

"For him, he wants to win the race ... he's pushing me to make sure I'm able to hold up my end (laughs) ... he doesn't want me to be the weak link. We have different mindsets, I'd say."
And Herta won't be the only former IndyCar driver in the field. Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. has become a staple at the 25 Hour in a wickedly fast and light Wolf prototype, and with Herta in a rival entry that should vie for the overall win, the two should end up sharing the track at some point during the race.

"I'm excited about it," Herta said. "It will be great to race with Al again. We're probably coming in with a similar approach: There's nothing to prove, and we're just there for the love of racing."

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