Words Eddie LePine. Photos Eddie LePine and Jack Webster
Motorsport has always been a family business. Very often, sons follow their fathers into racing. Is it something genetic, this quest for speed? Perhaps. What we do know for sure though, is that there is a very strong bond between fathers and sons who go racing – a passing along of the unspoken “Right Stuff”, made famous by the book about the Mercury astronauts. To name just a few fathers and sons who have raced: Mario and Michael Andretti, Graham and Damon Hill, Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve, Jan and Kevin Magnussen, Bobby and Graham Rahal, Dales Earnhardt Sr and Jr., Keke and Nico Rosberg, Michael and Mick Schumacher, Jos and his newly-crowned World Champion son, Max Verstappen. There are even families where more than one sibling becomes a racing driver, as with Wayne Taylor and his sons Jordan and Ricky. This is just a partial listing of families of drivers – there are many more examples, throughout the history of motor racing. Just the ones listed here makes for quite a list.
Of course, there is also Bryan Herta and his son, Colton.
Anyone familiar with IndyCar and IMSA knows Bryan Herta, both as a driver and team owner. Following up his successful career as a driver (4 IndyCar wins under both CART and IRL banners, an Indy Lights Championship among other achievements in open wheel, plus sports car success), he has gone on to become a very successful team owner. Bryan Herta Autosport is now a 3-time IMSA Michelin Pilot series champion (with Hyundai), has won the Indy 500 twice (2011 with Dan Wheldon, and again in 2016 partnered with Andretti Autosport and Alexander Rossi). His IMSA success continues to grow, with the team entering a staggering 6 cars in the Michelin Challenge Series in 2022. In addition to continuing his winning ways as a team owner, Bryan has been the guiding force behind his son’s incredible rise in IndyCar.
Colton, who I have been following since the very beginning of his career, has become one of the top “young guns” in IndyCar. He is the first IndyCar driver to be born in the 2000’s and is already a six-time IndyCar race winner. He was the youngest race winner in IndyCar history, when he won at the Circuit of the Americas in 2019 while only 18 years old and he became the youngest IndyCar pole winner in history when he scored pole at Road America in 2019 (since that pole, he has added 6 more to this IndyCar resume). In sports car racing, Colton won the GTLM class at the Daytona Rolex 24 in 2019 driving for the BMW factory squad.
He is starting off 2022 in grand style, racing at the Daytona Rolex 24 for the fourth consecutive year, this time in the DragonSpeed LMP2 machine (Colton’s first time in a prototype). Colton is partnering with IndyCar drivers Pato O’Ward and his 2022 Andretti Autosports IndyCar teammate Devlin DeFrancesco, along with DragonSpeed regular Eric Lux in the car, which features sponsorship from Formula One World Champion and legend, Fernando Alonso’s Kimoa clothing brand.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun racing with Devlin, Pato and Eric,” Herta said. “The last time that we were all racing against each other would have been back in go karts around 2011-12. And it’s cool to see us come this far and be teammates in this effort. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Colton Herta has caught the eye of Fernando Alonso, for it appears that Colton is the most likely US driver to have a real shot at becoming a Fornight stint at Daytonamula One driver since Michael Andretti did it back in the 1980’s. There was a lot of talk about Colton being one of the drivers for Andretti’s Formula One effort (which unfortunately fell through at the last minute when negotiations with Alfa Romeo fell through), but don’t count him out just yet. Colton Herta is very big on the radar of the top people in motorsport and it is just a matter of time, and timing, before he gets his chance in Formula One.
In the meantime however, there is a Rolex 24 at Daytona to win, and most likely an Indy 500 win (or more) in his future. Whatever the future may bring, Colton Herta, like generations of sons before him, has his father to thank for passing along those “Right Stuff” genes.
Racing, after all, is a family affair.