Honda Racing / IZOD IndyCar Series / RacingLine
Bryan Herta Bio
Hometown: Warren, Mich.
Residence: Valencia, Calif.
Height: 5-10 Weight: 155
Children: Calysta, Colton
- Recorded his first IRL IndyCar Series win July 6 at Kansas Speedway, in just his third IRL race
- Won CART races at Laguna Seca in 1998 and 1999
- Finished a career-best eighth in CART points in 1996 and 1998
- Finished ninth as a rookie in 1994 Indianapolis 500
- Raced in the 24 Hours of LeMans and 12 Hours of Sebring in 2002
- Tested a Formula One car in 2002
- Joined Honda and Andretti Green Racing in 2003
Bryan Herta smiles at the thought of his recent experiences. Testing a Formula One car. Racing at LeMans. Testing a NASCAR stock car. Winning an IRL IndyCar Series race at Kansas Speedway. The smile widens.
How Herta ended up at that place and that time - winning for Honda and Andretti Green Racing - truly was a function of fate. He hadn't won a race since 1999, his career drifting from one part-time job to another. While that might sound dreadful, it wasn't. Herta took full advantage of the opportunity to expand his racing horizons.
"People might find this hard to believe, but I've had more fun in my racing career in the last couple of years than I've had in a really long time," Herta said. "I really haven't had any reins on me. I could pick and choose. I could do whatever I wanted."
Without the contractual restraints of a long-term deal, Herta had the freedom to drive any type of machine. So he did.
"I had an opportunity to do a lot of things and do them under a low-pressure scenario," Herta said. "I wasn't in a points championship. I was just there to get a result. If anything, it's just increased my motivation further. I've learned a lot from all of the experiences, and I think it helps me now that I've come back to a full-time open-wheel ride."
He's returned with a vengeance. At Kansas Speedway in July, Herta used a tricky fuel-saving strategy by team manager Kyle Moyer to win, giving Honda its second win of the season. After the win at Kansas City, Herta finished third in three consecutive races: Kentucky, Nazareth and Chicagoland. Herta's success leaves AGR co-owner Michael Andretti with a smile.
"He's making me look good," Andretti said. "He did a great job. I knew coming in that Bryan would be great for this team, and he proved it very early. In his first race for us, he finished fifth. He's just been doing a tremendous job for us. Everybody loves him on the team."
How Herta arrived on the team was a product of circumstance that involved far more than Dario Franchitti's decision to have surgery on his ailing back and sit out the rest of the 2003 season. But that was just one circumstance in a chain reaction that landed Herta in the AGR Motorola Archipelago No. 27 Honda-powered Dallara. Here's how it happened:
- Dan Wheldon, who was hired as a test driver for the team, competed in the Indianapolis 500 as part of a four-car effort for AGR. Wheldon was supposed to have joined the team on a full-time basis when Andretti retired from driving after the Indy 500.
- Before a race in Japan in April, Franchitti was injured in a motorcycle accident in Scotland. Wheldon replaced him and finished seventh.
- With Franchitti out for the Indy 500, the team turned to Indy veteran and NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Robby Gordon.
- Herta, a longtime friend and former teammate of Andretti, was hired by AGR in May to fill in if Gordon had to leave Indy early for the NASCAR race in Charlotte, N.C. Andretti said Herta would drive for Franchitti in June races at Texas and Pikes Peak.
- Herta finished fifth at Texas, but Franchitti returned to the car for the Pikes Peak race. That same weekend, Herta raced in a CART event at Laguna Seca, where he finished 11th.
- After finishing fourth at Pikes Peak, Franchitti opted to have surgery on his injured back. He would miss the rest of the season. Andretti then called Herta, who returned to AGR.
"Would I have rather had a full-time ride with a top team, winning championships and races along the way? Absolutely," Herta said. "But I can't change what's happened up to this point. All I can do is look ahead. I'm really enjoying my time right now. I've got an open mind right now; I'm just waiting to see what the future might bring."
The future might bring more races with AGR and an old friend. But their friendship wasn't the reason Andretti hired Herta. The ability Herta has shown throughout his career was.
"Michael and I were both careful to not allow it to be a situation where I was getting this opportunity based on the fact that we were friends," Herta said. "They've got a lot of responsibility to sponsors, the teams and everything else. If it were friendship, Mike would have just hired me to drive this year. I think the fact that we were friends has made it comfortable and easy for me to step into this type of an environment in the middle of the season, but if I wasn't able to get it done on the track, they wouldn't have brought me here in the first place."
Winning in Kansas City put Herta back where he belonged - on top of the podium. It also put AGR back in charge.
"Our guys needed it really bad because of the stuff they've had to go through with Dario's injury and everything else," Andretti said.
It also said something about fate and the role it plays in success on the racetrack.
"There's a lot of that in racing," Herta said. "Who gets what ride and how decisions are made - there are so many factors that play into it. I'm proud of the fact that, for more than a decade, I've been able to have a career in this sport and continue to be a viable option for teams when they're looking at drivers."
No question about it.