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Rookie Herta sets pace on first day of INDYCAR Spring Training

by Mike Haag | Posted on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

AUSTIN, Texas – Colton Herta wasted no time making his presence felt in the NTT IndyCar Series. The Harding Steinbrenner Racing rookie was quickest in both on-track sessions on opening day of INDYCAR Spring Training at Circuit of The Americas.

Colton Herta glances down pit lane during the Open Test at Circuit of The Americas — Photo by: Chris Jones

INDYCAR SPRING TRAINING: Session 1 resultsSession 2 resultsCombined results

Herta, driving the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, logged the best lap of anyone among the 25 drivers participating Tuesday in the official series open test on the 3.41-mile permanent road course. The 18-year-old son of retired Indy car driver Bryan Herta, who’s now an NTT IndyCar Series team co-owner, navigated the COTA course in 1 minute, 46.6258 seconds (115.132 mph).

“I’m super happy with how the day went,” said Colton Herta, the 2018 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires runner-up who made his NTT IndyCar Series debut in last September’s season finale at Sonoma Raceway and is slated to run the full season this year.

Colton Herta on course during an Open Test at Circuit of The Americas — Photo by: John Cote

“We did some great things to the car and I’m very happy with how the boys got everything together in time for this test,” he added. “Everyone did a fantastic job and there were no issues with the car; it was perfect. We kept chipping away and kept finding time. By the end of the day, we were quickest by quite a margin. I can’t wait for tomorrow now.”

A second day of testing is set for Wednesday, with six more hours of on-track time. The NTT IndyCar Series will return to COTA from March 22-24 to conduct its first race on the spectacular road course, the INDYCAR Classic.

A total of 1,034 laps were turned by the drivers on Tuesday. Following Herta on the combined timesheet were Team Penske drivers Will Power and Helio Castroneves. Power, the reigning Indianapolis 500 winner, ran a lap of 1:47.1044 (114.617 mph) in the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. Castroneves, who will try for a record-tying fourth Indy 500 title in May, was clocked at 1:47.6949 (113.989 mph) in the No. 3 Pennzoil Chevrolet.

“We were trying to get it into a good (setup) window where you can make small adjustments on the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet,” Power said. “We took some big swings at it today and (were) trying to understand when the tire comes in and how long it lasts, and what package we want to run. We wound up with a lot of big changes.

“I think the track is phenomenal,” the 2014 NTT IndyCar Series champion added. “It’s got every sort of corner you can dream of. I think all the drivers are going to love to keep coming here.”

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates came in next on the speed chart, with rookie Felix Rosenqvist fourth at 1:48.0451 (113.619 mph) in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda. Scott Dixon, the reigning and five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, was fifth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda (1:48.0474, 113.617 mph).

Test sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-6 p.m. ET Wednesday. Live timing and scoring is available at RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

The 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season opens with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10 and is highlighted by the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on May 26. All races air live on NBC or NBCSN, as well as the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Andretti Autosport sweeps Indy Lights testing

Andretti Autosport drivers swept the top three spots in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires testing at Circuit of the Americas on Tuesday.

Oliver Askew was fastest in the second of two sessions and quick overall in the No. 28 Dallara IL-15 with a lap of 1 minute, 54.3065 seconds (107.395 mph). Following the Floridian were Andretti drivers Julien Falchero (1:54.5303) and Ryan Norman 1:54.5380).

Ten Indy Lights drivers from five teams participated in the test, with a final session scheduled from 9-10:45 a.m. ET Wednesday. 

‘What They’re Saying’ from INDYCAR Spring Training Day 1

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s been fun. It’s really interesting to try and get a hold of this place in the No. 2 Hitachi Chevy. It’s very different than where we’ve been. It’s a long track, kind of like Road America. It’s very smooth. The facility is really beautiful. It’s kind of like running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to be honest with you, because the facility is so immaculate. But it’s been tough. I think we need to find our footing a bit better. Our teammates were pretty quick at the end. We lost some ground compared to the morning. We weren’t as quick in the afternoon, but that’s testing. That’s what it’s all about. We got to try things and figure out what’s good and what’s not. This is a racetrack for us. We test sometimes at places we don’t race at, but here, we’re working on race setups and we’re trying to see what works.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet): 
“I was the guinea pig. I was the workhorse. I was whatever they needed me to be – long runs, short runs, whatever. It is great for the team. That’s what I am here for, is to make sure we eliminate issues so those guys can continue going fast. The team and I are getting back into our groove, which is great. Now, we just have to continue to work tomorrow. That focus is not for here, it is for Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Once we get everything sorted out, that will be a good one. It is good to be back with the team. It is good to be back with the family here in the NTT IndyCar Series and get the support. I’m looking forward to May.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): 
“We collected some good data today. We went through the program and it was a good test, even though we didn’t do a lot of laps. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. We still have to improve a bit and we have more things to test. Hopefully, we’ll have a better car by the end of the day.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Today was a good day. COTA is a great facility and it’s great to be back on track. Obviously, some of the teams have been here testing before where we had not, but we had a huge asset in Marcus (Ericsson) who’s done a lot of laps around this place. We came here with a test list. I think we got through, for today, pretty much everything we wanted to, which was good. There’s a lot of data to look at overnight. Certainly, some big challenges that we have to overcome, but we’re confident that we can take a look at the data and make the Arrow Electronics cars a little quicker for tomorrow.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I think it was a good first day. The learning process is ongoing for me. Trying to get my head around this type of car, and also, me with the team, the engineers, understanding each other. We’re still trying to scan through different setup changes to build experience on that and why I react to different changes. I would say that has been the main focus today. Obviously, for us as a team, learning this track is so important as it’s our first time here in the Indy car. I feel there is some good potential. We have some good indication from today’s running in the Arrow Electronics cars that we will work on tonight to improve for tomorrow. I think it was a productive day with plenty of laps, so we’re pretty happy about that.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I’ve never been even to Austin, so it’s a big track and it’s got a lot of elevation. You just really don’t see the elevation until you drive it, so that was probably my first shock, just how steep Turn 1 is. Also, the changes of elevation through Turns 3 through 9, they’re complex, as well. Today went OK, we just eased into it. We did do a set of tires at the end there, but all in all, pretty happy with how it went.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): 
“We worked on a lot of setups. It’s very difficult to get a good balance. I really enjoy the track. It’s really technical and a lot of fun. We’re going to think about it overnight and see what we can do. We were trying to get it into a good window where you can make small adjustments on the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. We took some big swings at it today, trying to understand when the tire comes in and how long it lasts and what package we want to run. We wound up with a lot of big changes. I think the track is phenomenal. It’s got every sort of corner you can dream of. I think all the drivers are going to love to keep coming here.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
 “We didn’t do enough laps because we had a few issues during the day, but we did find the problem. I’m excited about tomorrow and we’ll have plenty of tires. Tomorrow will be a better track day, anyway, because the weather will be warmer and closer to what we’re going to find here on race weekend, so I don’t think we lost a lot today. We have plenty of tires to do plenty of miles.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): “It was a tough day for our United Rentals team. But in the end, we found some really good stuff and ended up eighth in practice, and we used one less set of tires than most guys. We finally found something. I’m definitely excited about those last few runs. We found a really good direction, so I’ll pass it off to my teammate (Takuma) Sato, and tomorrow, hopefully, we’ll both have a better day.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): 
“It was an exciting first day at Circuit of The Americas. We made a lot of progress improving the balance of our David Yurman race car. I’m looking forward to another full day tomorrow with the team. The track is unique in its own special way and I think we’re adapting to it pretty well compared to other teams. We’ll see what we can get out of it tomorrow and go from there. You definitely can tell that this is more of a European-type circuit, so I feel a little bit more at home than I would at the old school tracks. Nonetheless, it’s a very fast track with a very technical slow speed section. So it has its good points and its points where you struggle. It’s all good fun though.”

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet):
 “It was a good first day of testing. We went through quite a lot of changes. We found some good things and some things that didn’t work so well. Going into tomorrow, we have a better idea of what to do. The track evolved a lot from the morning to the afternoon. The car we wanted in the first session was completely different from how it ended up at the end of the day. That’s something we have to keep in mind for when we come back and really watch how the track changes.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “We had a productive day. At times, we were really competitive. Other times, we needed to make some improvements. We will go over everything tonight and see what we can do. It was definitely a lot of fun driving around this track. It has been a few years for me, so I really enjoyed coming back and am looking forward to another day tomorrow.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet): 
“It’s been, so far, a fun day at the track. The guys at Team Penske have done a phenomenal job during the off season finding ways to find more speed out of the race cars. We have worked hard over the winter working with all of my teammates on how we are going to tackle this season. We are in the early stages of testing, but I can see we have already made massive progress. To me, it is incredible for a team like Penske to understand that they have to continue to work on the basics to find more every year despite winning so many races and championships. I’m very proud of this organization. We keep pushing. Like I said, we are in the early stages of working with our Chevrolet race cars, but I can see the potential is there. I am excited. You have to work hard here with 20 corners. If you can find a tenth (of a second) in 20 corners, that is huge. That is going to be the name of the game.”

R.C. ENERSON (No. 23 Carlin Chevrolet): 
“Today was a really good day. We came out of the morning session in P4, so I was, obviously, happy with that. I feel like we got off to a good start here at COTA and continued to progress throughout the afternoon. The car keeps getting better and we keep getting faster, so we’re just really holding onto the momentum. It’s great to have Max (Chilton) as a teammate, especially going through these long days of testing where he’s progressing and getting faster throughout the day, too. I’m excited to get back on track tomorrow, especially considering how much we learned today.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Overall today was a pretty good start to the 2019 season. We were P5 this morning and finished 14th this afternoon. We lost some speed that I think we lost as a team and we’ll try to solve that overnight. So far, I really feel good and competitive, so I am excited to keep working and get to St. Pete to, hopefully, get Gainbridge their first podium or win.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “It’s great to be here and I’m pretty excited to drive. It’s also good to be here with the full field and get an indication of how the offseason development has gone.” (On what he learned at the track): “I don’t really know yet. It was quite a bit different from the Firestone test because it (the Firestone test) was five days after the F1 weekend. It’s a different track, so we had to make adjustments. We’ll look at the four cars’ data and piece together something for tomorrow.” 

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): 
“I think today was a good day for track orientation. Other than that, we didn’t find much, so we need to reset everything tonight and go at it fresh tomorrow. We need to find something that I will be comfortable with when pushing the car to 100 percent. Today we didn’t find the balance we needed, so it’s a good thing we have a second day. It’s nice to be in Austin, though. It’s a fun track to drive when you go fast.”

KYLE KAISER (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): 
“We just finished our first day here at COTA and there is definitely a lot to learn. We got a little bit behind missing the first session, but we were able to run almost the entire second session, so we were able to learn a lot as we try to figure this track out. I was very happy to have NFP here with us today and to have their support with our announcement. We still have one more day left of practice, so tomorrow we will try some new things as we look to close the gap. I am looking forward to going over some data tonight to see what we can do as we prepare our No. 32 NFP Chevrolet for next month’s race here at COTA.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Carlin Chevrolet): 
“It was a good, long day in the office. We got a lot of laps in and did as much as we could with the limited amount of tires that we were given. We tried some things that worked really well on the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet, and then, of course, we found some things that didn’t work, which is exactly what you’re trying to do on these test days. I think we made a good step in finding time on the last run, but, obviously, there’s still quite a big deficit we need to work on.”

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation SiriusXM MSR with Arrow SPM Honda): 
“That track is really awesome and it is so cool that we get to race here. Speed-wise I think we are fine. At WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last week, we were quite a bit quicker than our teammates and had some really good pace, and now we come here and it’s flipped a little bit. So, we have some things to work out overnight. I think we had a pretty solid first day in terms of learning different things. Hopefully, throughout the test we just keep learning and keep getting better. If we leave knowing what we can do better, then I would say that’s a successful test.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda): “I’m super happy with how the day went. We did some great things to the car and I’m very happy with how the boys got everything together in time for this test. Everyone did a fantastic job and there were no issues with the car, it was perfect. We kept chipping away and kept finding time, by the end of the day we were quickest by quite a margin. I can’t wait for tomorrow now.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “The track is fun, it’s technical, but fun. You have to be super smooth and know when to attack and when not to because it seems like the slower you drive, the faster you go, as strange as that sounds. I had overboost on my quick lap, but that would have only put me close to the top 10, time-wise. We need to make a fundamental change overnight and get the U.S. Concrete car on top of the timesheets tomorrow.”

About the Author

Mike Haag has covered motorsports in San Antonio and South Texas for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the San Antonio Express-News for nearly 28 years, Mike also has co-hosted TrackSmack with Dawn Murphy for 15 race seasons. In addition to being a writer, Mike also teaches English at Floresville High School.

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