PLYMOUTH, Wisc — “I believe I can.” That’s what Colton Herta said back in March regarding on if he can win the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series championship. He felt so strongly on that, he signed an extension to remain with Andretti Autosport early.
Herta, won the pole and led 97 of 100 laps in the second race of the season on the streets of St. Pete. With how quickly he was adapting to an Indy Car, why not just remain where you feel the most comfort. Andretti has given Herta a good team around him and he felt like even though his current contract wouldn’t allow him to talk to other teams until later in the season, he didn’t want to go that far. While a driver of Herta’s talent at such a young age would command a lot on the open market, Herta wanted to remain with Andretti and show his loyalty back.
With his immediate future now set, it’s time for Herta to find a way to win that title. Right now, he’s showing flashes of championship potential, but the one thing that’s lagging is what he’s wanted improve on the most in 2021 and that’s to turn more finishes into podiums.
“I think we showed it last year of what could have been,” Herta also said back in March. “If I didn’t have that slipup at Iowa, mess that up for us, we could have been really good in the championship hunt going into the last round.
“The biggest setback is that we need to win more races. Can’t be winning one or two races a year and winning a championship. You need to be winning three or four races. That’s kind of my goal is to try to get to that number. That’s been the trend the last few years for guys that have won the championship, is they’re winning four races a year. When they’re not winning, they’re finishing on the podium.
“I have full faith in myself and in the team that we can do it, but it’s going to take a lot of effort from everybody.”
Well, as we entered this weekend in Road America, Herta had just one podium all season. His win in St. Pete. That’s why despite three top fives this season, he was 97 points out.
Same for Will Power. He needed better luck and to gain more podiums. He had one all season too. While neither driver won Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix in Elkhart Lake, each came away with podiums though.
Herta, had a wild up and down kind of day. He went from second to sixth in the first stint, to back inside the top five, to right on the back end of the podium and then up to runner-up in the end. He said that he just lacked the pace to win on Saturday but his car was close.
“I think we had third place pace and that was where we were going to finish until Josef had that problem,” Herta said. “Car felt really good. Guys did an amazing job in the pits to gain me a few spots on track and put us on the podium in the second spot.
“It was just one of those days where we just didn’t have enough pace. We were down two, three tenths of a lap to Alex and Josef. Especially at the beginning of the race we were struggling. Once the kind of grip came in and our car tightened up a little bit, it helped, but we were still lacking to them.
“You know, I think we kind of maximized what we could have done, but yeah, today for sure wasn’t a day that we were going to win on pace.
“We seemed to lack a little bit of pace to Alex and Josef. They seemed to be the guys to beat.”
It was also Herta’s sixth podium of his career, two of which this season now. This result is something he feels like he can build on. This is as weird as it sounds, a day he’s been searching for. If he’s not dominating races and winning, he’s not finishing on the podium. For a day that he had nothing for the top two cars, here he still was getting some hardware when it was all said and done.
“I’ve been struggling to get on the podium when I’m not winning, so it feels nice to finally get one, or my second one in my career,” said Herta on his podium.
“I sure hope so. We definitely have had the speed to do it everywhere that we’ve gone, which is nice, but we just haven’t executed every single part, whether that be strategy or pit stops or me making mistakes on track. Just it hasn’t all come together. It came together today, but we need to be doing it more consistently because we do have really fast race cars and we have the pace to be up front every single weekend.
“It’s just a matter of if we can get it done in the race and have perfect races to get it done every weekend. We’re working on it. It’s getting better.”
Same for Power. He also feels like his season is starting to turn for him too. He brought his No. 12 Chevrolet home in third for his 82nd career Indy Car podium and third in the last four tries at Road America. Power says that he feels like the Detroit race that got away from him, mixed with this weekend just shows how much they could have gained on the championship.
“I just think about Indy and Detroit, like two massive results of points there,” said Power. “Those two results have put us right back in the championship. Stoked to be third. Pretty fun race, to be honest. It had a bit of everything and good racing and a bit of roughing up.”
Next up following a week off is Mid-Ohio. Each won the pair of races there last year with Power taking Race 1 and Herta Race 2.
“This will be a big confidence boost for everybody,” Herta continued. “Fourth place last week in Detroit and then come here and get a second, we’re definitely on the ball. We’ve just got to keep doing it.”
For Power, he has five podiums in his last six tries at Mid-Ohio including three of which in the top two.
“Yes, I do. Even Detroit last week, sixth I was really happy with coming from 21st or 20th or whatever it was,” Power said on building momentum now. “And yeah, I was really happy to get my Fast Six this weekend, and I thought this morning if I can get a podium, I’ll be really happy. So finished on the podium and start heading in the right direction.”
Herta is 107 points now still with Power 145. They’re going to need some help to get back in the championship hunt but at least the momentum seems to be swinging back.