Colton Herta dominated Sunday’s Honda 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He led 57 of 75 laps en route to his third career NTT INDYCAR Series triumph. But, Herta thought for much of the race that they were on the wrong strategy.
“Yeah, I think generally we were thinking about going red-black-red,” said Herta after giving Andretti their first win of 2020. “I think ideally we probably made the wrong choice, but it wasn’t — really didn’t make that big of a difference because I think the blacks and reds were closer today for some reason than yesterday.
“You know, I think — well, what happened was we were actually in the carousel when they called me to pit, so they saw Dalton went off in Turn 1 as we were going through, right before the carousel, and then as I was in the carousel they told me to pit, so I had to shoot off really quickly, so we really had no chance to discuss what was going to be better. I think if we look back at it, it probably would have been a lot less stress if we were on reds, but I think once we got the blacks up to temperature, it really didn’t matter because I think we were fast enough to keep them behind.”
He bested his teammates Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay across the finish line for Andretti’s first podium sweep since 2005. Both Rossi and Hunter-Reay went red-red-black on their stints which made Herta have to be perfect over the final stint with tires that would fall off quicker than his teammates.
Part of what helped was the fact that he had Scott Dixon between them for a moment on that stint too.
“Yeah, it was really tough the first few laps,” Herta said of holding his teammates off. “I was very happy that Dixon was actually behind me. I don’t think you’ll really ever hear anybody say that again, but I was really happy he was right behind me because I knew he was going to give them a really hard time, and I knew I had a little bit of an advantage on the cold tires compared to him from what it seemed on the start.
“I think using that and where the restarts take place, it’s easy to kind of build up a little bit of a gap before you get into any of the passing zones. You know, it gave me that little bit more confidence to push and kind of push it in the corners and I could make a few mistakes on exit and still get away with it and not have the trouble of somebody breathing down my neck.
“You know, I think if Rossi and Hunter-Reay were right behind me, they probably would have gotten me, but I think having that buffer to Scott really made the difference.”
It didn’t hurt. For Rossi, he says racing your teammates in the end is nice for comfort, but also stressful because you know that they have the same equipment as you too.
“It’s tough just because you’re all on pretty similar stuff, right, so you’re all kind of able to do the same lap time and you’re just waiting for somebody to maybe make a mistake or go through the tires a bit quicker or whatever,” said Rossi. “But ultimately it was one-two-three, kind of a second-and-a-half gap through the three of us through that final stint.
“We had to save more fuel than our teammates, I think, so that maybe hampered us a little bit, but ultimately Colton was on pole and he controlled most of the race, so I don’t think we were going to be able to get him.
“But yeah, it’s good because you know that if it comes down to it, you’ll always give each other a little bit more space than other guys that aren’t your teammates. It’s comforting when you’re coming down to it that you’re with guys that you know.”