There are many great father-and-son stories in auto racing, and the Hertas are the latest. But there is something striking about talking to the 17-year-old son of Bryan Herta, a former Verizon IndyCar Series driver who is a two-time Indianapolis 500-winning team owner.
Spend a few moments talking to Colton Herta and it’s difficult to believe this kid is 17. It’s like having a conversation with a 30-year-old.
“I wasn’t always that good,” Colton Herta told SPEED SPORT Magazine about dealing with adults on a professional basis. “I was really nervous when I was little but the more you do it the more you get used to it. You just have to deal with it. I used to be really bad and stutter when talking to people.
“Now, it’s no problem.”
Herta’s father won four Verizon IndyCar Series races in his career, including two in the old CART Series. He was also one of the all-time greats in the Indy Lights Series with eight wins in two seasons, including seven in 1993.
Colton Herta has two victories in his first season in Indy Lights and drove to victory in his second race after finishing second during his first contest in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“It was awesome,” Colton Herta recalled. “The intrigue and euphoria of winning for the first time was awesome. My dad actually teared up a little bit when I won and that was awesome. Nobody expected two rookies to win the first weekend. Out of nowhere we showed up, set the pace and said this is how it’s going to be this year.
“I’ve always had a high expectation level, just being Bryan Herta’s son,” Herta recalled. “With the career that he had they expect me to have that edge, too. I just focus forward, do what I do the best and that is drive the car fast.”
Young Herta was born in 2000, so he missed most of his father’s days in CART but does have some hazy recollections of his Indy Racing League career with Andretti Green Racing.
From the beginning, Colton Herta wanted to do what his father did and that was drive race cars. He started riding dirt bikes when he was 4 and karting when he was 5, and he was always playing with Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. Herta says he was hooked when he first drove a go-kart and for his sixth birthday, his parents gave him a new kart and he stared racing.
Bryan Herta and his wife, Janette, are traditional parents and when Colton was racing his way through the ranks, the family loaded up the 2008 Chevy Suburban and headed to the track. The team worked out of a small trailer with his father and Troy McCall, a friend who worked for Honda Performance Development in the engine department, helping prepare the go-kart.
His grandparents would come to the races along with his mom, sister and brother.
“My dad has always supported my racing but never pushed it on me,” Herta said. “He said I could do what I want but if I want to do it I have to be committed. I have been committed all the way through.
“My mom has been really good with it. I think she is actually better than my dad in terms of nerves while watching.
“Here’s a funny story about how my mom and dad met,” Herta continued. “They met at the go-kart track and my mom’s mom — my grandmother — raced against my dad out in Willow Springs in lay-down go-karts. That’s how thy met. Both of her parents raced SCCA stuff and karting. She’s always been part of motorsports as well.”