IndyCar | No Limits

The first IndyCar race at COTA was, indeed, a true "classic!"

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IndyCar | No Limits
Fuente imagen: MotorLAT

Remarkable achievements in life are all the more impressive when they're done at a young age.

It takes an intense level of self-belief to match yourself against others who have achieved far more and over a longer period of time. Young rookies are supposed to "pay their dues" before stepping out of the shadows of sporting giants and into the glowing limelight that comes with success. Like everything else, there are special exceptions; but without making specific comparisons to other sports, it's actually more conceivable that a young rookie at the top level of motorsport can be successful right away and not have to wait years for a breakthrough.

The amount of time you've spent behind the wheel of a variety of machines and working with diversely talented individuals, rather than your age, is what truly determines how quickly you can adapt to the immense pressure of being a professional racing driver.

Competing in different series, especially with multiple races at each event, provides a valuable database of knowledge that can help you progress further than if you were rising through the ranks as a footballer, basketball player, or tennis star. In those more traditional sports, the equipment is not vastly different. You're adapting mostly to the increased level of your competition. In racing, you have so many more things to consider.

To be a winner at an early age, it takes more than impressive skill behind the wheel and an intense level of attention to detail. It takes calmness. The calmness within yourself to know when to be aggressive and when to be patient. The calmness within yourself to not overreact when things don't necessarily go your way. The calmness within yourself to know that you are in the position you're in because you've earned it.

Colton Herta is now the youngest winner of an NTT IndyCar Series race, after holding off two championship winning drivers, in only his third start.

After dominating the headlines in Spring Season Training, at the Circuit of the Americas, Herta and the Harding Steinbrenner Racing team had good reasons to be optimistic for the first ever IndyCar Classic at COTA. They backed up those preseason expectations with a 4th place qualifying effort, despite having to change out a blown Honda engine and missing all of the second practice session.

IndyCar Classic
Venturing beyond the track limits was a regular occurrence.

To be a winner at an early age, you also need a team that can react quickly to setbacks and prepare a car that suits your driving style.

While other more experienced drivers were taking unnecessary risks on the first lap and colliding into each other off the traditional racing line, young Herta was initially keeping pace with race leader Will Power and Alexander Rossi. On lap 22, he battled the latter driver in a thrilling duel that exemplified what overtaking is supposed to be - hard but fair.

While other well-established teams were rolling the proverbial dice in the pit window "danger zone," the combination of Harding and Herta showed a remarkable amount of patience and maturity by putting themselves in the right position at the right time (that sounds familiar). All they had to do was hold off Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay to secure their first IndyCar victory, while having significantly less push-to-pass time than their closest competitors! A tall order for any driver or team, but one that they accomplished as if they had been in this exact situation many times before.

At first, I was not very enthusiastic about the drivers being allowed to use as much of the 3.4 mile circuit as they dared, but it did add even more excitement to the race. Every time a driver explored the track verge, you didn't know if they would lose their position, maintain their position, or collide into the car they were trying to overtake. All of the above happened at different points throughout the race.

Staying on the subject of rookies, the second round of the season marked the auspicious debut of Patricio O'Ward with his new team Carlin. Having been dropped by HSR before the season started, there was probably no other driver who had more motivation to beat them than the young Mexican. He didn't beat them on the track but he made his intentions known to all - he's coming for ya'! That pass around the outside of Graham Rahal, who went on to finish in a hard-earned 4th place position, was spectacular to say the least!

Right into the danger zone!

The first NTT IndyCar race at COTA was a test of many different limits. There are other circuits on the calendar which are far less forgiving if you venture off the tarmac, so I understand why the race officials basically said, "Have at it." The limits of Will Power's patience, after another potentially crucial DNF, were tested when his car failed to leave the pits following the late-race caution period. The limits of avoidable contact were mysteriously absent, after highly questionable moves by James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon were not penalized. Even the legal drinking age limit was explored, during the podium celebration, when the (underaged) race winner was not handed the obligatory bottle of a sparkling beverage.

As far as the potential of the now 19 year-old Colton Herta and forward progression of Harding Steinbrenner Racing, there appears to be no limits to what they can ultimately achieve together.

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