INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Michael and Marco Andretti had epic matches during the races. Bobby Rahal discovered “No child wants to listen to his father” when he worked with his son, Graham.

The Andrettis and Rahals were the poster families for the idea that father and son should never be paired up at the highest levels of motorsport. But as the owner of the Andretti Autosport team, Michael Andretti rejected his own experience and appointed Bryan Herta race strategist for Colton Herta, his 21-year-old son.

Andretti has known Colton since birth and has seen him become IndyCar’s hottest young product. Colton Herta starts second in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday after a nerves of steel qualification improved only by six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon.

As he crossed the finish line on his race and rose to the top of the standings, his father, in a flat, firm voice, congratulated his son on the qualifying race and said “Havana, La Havana, Havana ”.

Victory cigars? Barely. The Hertas were talking about the code – maybe Colton had received some sort of message on how to handle his brakes or some other mechanical tuning – and Bryan would only reveal that the remark was based on the Ramones song “Havana Affair”.

They developed their own language five races in their first season working together, convincing Michael Andretti that this was the right match for the organization’s central driver.

“Colton is a little different. He’s so calm and laid back, ”Michael Andretti told The Associated Press. “He’s not as nervous as we are and I think it will work. I love the kid, his whole attitude is like “whatever”. He was a funny, crazy kid and as he gets older he’s so much calmer and so focused on his job. “

Colton Herta was the same kind of teenager as Graham Rahal. He admits he didn’t want to hear anything his father, a top contender in American freewheel racing, had to say about motorsport. But as Colton moved on to bigger, faster cars, he improved and recognized that his father’s knowledge accelerated his education.

They have never worked together, not until this year, and in their very first race they didn’t even make the first turn as Herta was recovered from a fall in a first lap. So the second race of the season was their real start and Bryan Herta guided his son to one of the most dominant wins in recent IndyCar history.

Colton led 97 of 100 laps in St. Petersburg to claim his fourth career victory, tying his father’s total in 12 seasons. Bryan Herta coached his son every lap and every strategy call, and when the race was going to be decided on a final restart, the father had no worries in the world as he had promised on live TV, nor neither the pilot nor the strategist were nervous.

“We’re just doing our thing. When you’re in the moment and in the zone, I really feel comfortable and that’s what I want to do, ”said Bryan Herta after the win. “I know he’s the same. I can hear it in his voice. Maybe that’s the advantage of being on the radio, that we know each other so well, that there’s just a lot of tacit communication.

“I can tell where he was, I can just tell by his voice that he felt in control. He felt he had what he needed. So I was just trying to let him do his thing, and he did.

Bobby Rahal said he and Graham struggled to tell the difference between the team’s owner and rider and father and son.

“I found he could handle this challenge better than I did, and I just decided it just wasn’t working,” said Bobby Rahal. “When I stopped doing it, we were successful and won races. This father-son, this family element, there is a lot of power in this element.

Graham Rahal said he believes success makes a father-son relationship much easier. Colton Herta is one of the most competitive drivers in the series, a championship contender, and less than a month after his victory at St. Pete, his father negotiated a two-year contract extension for Colton at Andretti Autosport. .

“I think a Colton-Bryan scenario is easier because of the position they’re in, which is they’re very competitive,” said Graham Rahal. “If you look at the days when Dad and I were on the radio, as a team we just weren’t competitive which adds to the stress level and makes it more difficult. If you look at Michael and Marco, it’s the same. The competitiveness was not there, and that adds stress to anyone, regardless of the strategist. “

Although he eventually parted ways with his father as a quarterback – Marco actually used Bryan Herta on his radio until he retired from racing full time this season, a decision that freed Bryan to join Colton’s team – the Andrettis will work on the Indy 500 together.

“It was good. We had a lot of bad PR because we always faced each other, but that’s how we are,” said Marco Andretti. “Then we would go to dinner and everything would be fine. the world was just deer in the headlights, what happened? But I remember listening to (Michael’s) radio; he was also a psychopath.

The Andrettis see this radioactive communication in the race as a demonstration of passion for their profession.

The Hertas are the opposite.

When Colton Herta came down to Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s pits last week to complain that a photo shot of Rahal during training caused Herta to fall, the youngster said he never raised his voice . He never believed that yelling at someone was an effective way to deliver information.

“I think the way Colton and Brian are, they’re so monotonous, they’re going to be okay,” said Marco Andretti.

This mixed temper, Colton said, has so far prevented any discord in their new working relationship. Hours after qualifying for the Indy 500 for the second time, the s on crowded into a Mexican restaurant stand and threw his arm around his sombrero-clad father to celebrate Bryan’s 51st birthday.

“You know we’re both pretty calm people so that helps a lot,” said Colton Herta. “So far we have never got mad at each other on the timing stand. When that happens it might be time to call it, but I don’t think it will be a problem.


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