Contrary to multiple reports, Colton Herta does not live in his parents’ basement.
When you’re 19 and the youngest race winner in the history of the IndyCar series, life is a little better than that.
Make no mistake, Herta is that rare professional athlete who still lives at home. But he’s actually on the main floor of the family house in Santa Clarita, Calif.
That’s only when Herta is home, which he will not be for the next two months as he completes his rookie season.
“Unless my parents start charging me rent, I just don’t see a need to waste my money with rent or getting a house,” Herta said. “I don’t live in the basement. It’s just what people write. I live in a room upstairs. I’m allowed to come upstairs and be seen by everyone.”
His latest stop was at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill., for a practice session Thursday along with other first-year IndyCar drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist in preparation for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 on Aug. 24.
Herta, whose father, Bryan, raced open-wheel cars, is 14th in the series standings a year after he finished second at the track in the Indy Lights race.
Earlier this season, he won in his third IndyCar start a week before his 19th birthday. He has added four more top-10 finishes.
“I kind of expected to have the speed, but everything else that comes with it and being able to do it constantly is quite a bit tougher,” he said. “To have that right away is special. I’m very surprised actually.”
Herta, who is with Harding Steinbrenner Racing, was the only one of the three drivers at the track Thursday who has raced there. Ericsson (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) and Rosenqvist (Chip Ganassi Racing) have quite a bit more experience but spent previous seasons racing in Europe. They have had some success and a lot of growing pains in IndyCar along with Herta.
Rosenqvist had his best race when he finished second by a split second at Mid-Ohio last weekend and is ninth in the standings. Ericsson, a former Formula 1 driver, finished second at Detroit and is 15th.
The adjustments for the European drivers are greater than what Herta has faced, despite his age, because he is more accustomed to the U.S. tracks and racing on ovals.
“It feels like you need a different kind of skill set compared to what I’m used to,” Rosenqvist said. “I’ve learned a lot about strategy and how the car changes, not just track to track but during a race. I feel like you can’t build on something here, you have to improvise every weekend.”
Ericsson arrived after five years and 97 races of Formula 1 competition.
“It’s been a lot to learn,” he said. “It’s a very different series with the cars having less downforce and no power steering here. So it’s more physical for your upper body. I’ve never driven ovals before, and even the road courses are different being bumpy and quite narrow.”
Rosenqvist and Ericsson could develop into successful drivers on the series, but Herta has considerable time to become a star. He finished second in the Indy Lights series in 2018 with four wins, seven second-place finishes and 14 top-five finishes out of 17 races.
He attributed his consistent finishes among the leaders to being in his second year in that series and looks forward to finding out what a second year in IndyCar will produce. It’s a trajectory that has been on his radar since his days racing Formula 3.
“I could kind of see it coming because at that point I was two steps down,” he said. “Three years wasn’t unrealistic to get to IndyCar.”
Herta’s father won four races and was a regular in the Indianapolis 500 for five years. Predictably, Colton Herta started racing at a young age and moved through the ranks quickly. But no one expected him to be challenging the likes of veterans Scott Dixon and Will Power from the get-go.
“They were really nice about it and surprised like I was,” he said of his first win. “Even though they don’t want it happening too much, they like having these young guys come in and push them.”