Andretti Autosport just needs to put a whole race weekend together – Herta

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - MAY 17: #26: Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday May 17, 2023 in Indianapolis, United States of America. (Photo by LAT Images)
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - MAY 17: #26: Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday May 17, 2023 in Indianapolis, United States of America. (Photo by LAT Images)

Colton Herta, who scored his second straight pole position Saturday at Mid-Ohio, says the most vital thing the No. 26 Andretti Autosport team needs to do is to get everything right on one weekend.

Herta, for whom this was an 11th career pole, in four-and-a-half seasons of IndyCar racing, is still seeking his first podium finish of 2023. His most recent disappointment was at Road America, where he took pole and led the majority of the laps, but an early final pitstop left him vulnerable to attack as he saved fuel in his final stint, and fell to fifth.

Since then, Andretti Autosport has replaced his erstwhile strategist Scott Harner – who had himself replaced Colton’s father Bryan Herta on the No. 26 pit stand after the first round of the season – with team COO Rob Edwards. Harner now oversees the No. 29 Andretti car of Devlin DeFrancesco.

Herta used a fresh set of Firestone primary tires to edge Graham Rahal in the resurgent Rahal Letterman Lanigan team by just 0.043s around the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio course.

“Obviously we picked the right stuff today and had a competitive car, and yeah, I think the tire choice was kind of what set us over,” said Herta. “I think that was the right call.

“We were looking at (the difference between red-sidewall alternate tires and harder black-sidewall primary tires) all weekend. After practice one (switching to reds) didn’t seem like a big enough jump and it got a little bit bigger in qualifying than it was in practice. But we were in a position where we weren’t happy with our first set of (red) tires so we didn’t want to run on them and we didn’t want to run on our second, so we only had one choice, and it kind of made the choice for us, and I think it was the right one.

“I wasn’t sure if (66.3096s) was good enough. It took them like 30 seconds to tell me. Everybody went around again, so it could have gotten bettered. No, it ended up being good enough, and it was a good lap. I think I did pretty good with it.”

Regarding the change in strategist, Herta remarked: “It’s not how I would like to do it. You would want an off-season to prepare with one person, and unfortunately I never got that.

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“It’s nice that they’re open and willing to making changes, and they take everybody’s feedback, and they look it over. They truly want everybody on the team to do their best… We have the speed, and we just need to put together some race weekends as a whole. Hopefully we can do that.

“Obviously it’s been a struggle to do that pretty much all year. It’s pretty frustrating to be sitting here and having a best result of fourth and not really getting an opportunity at a podium.

“I’m happy that Rob is here. He’s been really good with me on the radio. But it’s not how he is on the radio — it’s all about strategy and what we can do with that. That’s the most important bit.”

Asked how much the tactical blunder at Road America had prompted the strategy change, Herta replied: “I think it had a little bit, but for that stuff, they’re obviously pretty critical on strategists after every race when they’re going over everything and they have their meetings and I’m sure they get drilled pretty good in those meetings if they make a wrong decision.

“But it’s tough. It’s just like the drivers; you’ve got to do it, and you’ve got to do it every time, and if you can’t, it sucks, but that’s the way it is.”

On the subject of a season of miscues, Herta remarked: “You can look back and say we could have done better here and there, but the best thing is just to learn from (the mistakes). I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot this year, just from my end, from everybody’s end. I would love to have just this weekend be super clean, get through, have a podium, hopefully a win — but just have a clean race, clean stops, clean everything, and then try to build on that.”

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