INDIANAPOLIS — Colton Herta is the hot commodity in the NTT IndyCar Series. The newly turned 21 year old driver already has four wins in just 36 career starts including on the streets of St. Pete this season. With he and Pato O’Ward’s success already, it got folks talking about if either would ever end up being overseas in F1.
Well, you can put those thoughts to rest in terms of Herta. The Andretti Autosport driver will remain an Andretti driver for at least the next two seasons. Herta, literally signed a deal behind the curtains behind us at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, as he was chatting on his freshly signed contract following.
Herta will drive the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda for 2022 and again in 2023. That deal was made early for good reason – Michael Andretti and Honda didn’t want to lose Herta.
See, Herta is a free agent at seasons end. For the Andretti side, they couldn’t take the risk to lose the younger driver. He’s the real deal. I mean, when you have a chance to have a driver of Herta’s caliber on your already existing team, you do everything that you can to keep him.
Andretti, talked to Gainbridge and they agreed to get this deal done now. The thing is, Herta said that the timing of this was good for the team in the sense that they’ve not reached the date yet to where he can begin to talk to other teams. As he sat before walking into the elevator to take him to the fourth floor of the IMS Media Center, his current contract stated that while he has no deal for 2022, he couldn’t yet talk to any other team.
But, that date was looming and Andretti wanted to be sure that it never got to that point. They offered Herta a deal he couldn’t refuse. But, when chatting with Herta, it doesn’t sound like he was going to ever talk to anyone else anyways. He’s so loyal to Andretti. He loves them like family. He’s happy and content here and if it was up to him, he’d never leave.
“Andretti has done a lot for me,” Herta told me on if this deal shows his commitment to the team that he didn’t want to let his contract run out and see his worth on the free agent market. “It feels good to be appreciated in what you do and to have the confidence from them. It does make me happy that I got to come back to a team that I know. It goes back to 2004 from when my dad was here. It does feel like home for me and a part of me will always be with Andretti no matter where I’m driving.”
Herta also told me that he’s happy now with the position that he’s in already. Why leave?
“I’m quick in the position that I’m in,” he continued. “I have good pit stops. I have good race cars. I don’t see a reason to leave when I have all that. They put me in a great position where I can win everywhere we go and that’s the most important thing to me. I think that with this team with the setups that they use I know what’s going to happen every single race weekend.
“The goal is always the same to win the ‘500 and the championship each year. We’ve got to have speed and we’ve definitely shown to have speed.”
With that said, did the win in St. Pete help expedite this deal?
“I’m not really sure,” he told me. “I think maybe it pushed them a little bit. But from my side of things, I think they always planned on re-signing me. I’m sure it didn’t hurt. It put some pressure on them to sign me before I start talking to other teams. I felt so comfortable with Andretti I’m not sure I really even wanted to hear from other teams. I never wanted to leave.”
Speaking of leaving, what about F1? That’s the elephant in the room. Would he ever go?
“It would take a lot to drive me away from Indy Car,,” he said. “For F1 I’d have to thing about it but my heart is always with IndyCar. Growing up around IndyCar racing is all I’ve really ever known and enjoyed. I enjoy this type of racing and these type of weekend’s the most. So I think right now I’m just focused on IndyCar and if something comes up I’ll have to think about it.”
He said continuity with Andretti, his relationship with Andretti and his love for Indy Car is why he’s in the position that he’s in to sign an extension. I think that seals the deal that Herta isn’t going anywhere any time soon.