until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Andretti intrigue amid ‘team decision’ to move Herta’s father

by Jack Benyon
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Moving a race strategist who also happens to be the father of the driver in question before the second race of a season certainly is going to cause some intrigue and discussion in the paddock.

That’s what’s happened with Colton Herta who, after two seasons with his father Bryan as his Andretti Autosport IndyCar race strategist, has Scott Harner joining for Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, with Kyle Kirkwood takes Bryan to his timing stand.

There’s a vibe in the Andretti side of the paddock that this is a non-story and it’s just a simple bid to switch things up and best serve its drivers.

But saying it is a “team decision” without any other detail has certainly piqued the interest of those on the outside trying to establish why this has happened, and why now?

“It’s a team decision,” Herta told a group of reporters including The Race, clearly a little uncomfortable with the topic.

“But it’s been good so far. Scott’s been pretty much on the same page, speaks the same language which is good.

“Usually when you transition with something like that there’s a lot of hard pieces to put together and the language is different of what you want to hear versus what he’s saying.

“So far it’s been great.

“Obviously it might be a little different in the race when there’s a lot going on. There will be a little bit of a transition but he’s good and I believe in him.”

Indycar Testing Sebring

Herta was asked a succession of follow-up questions by reporters to try to unpick the situation.

Asked whether he asked for the change, he said no and reiterated that it was a team decision.

Asked if he would have been happy with Bryan continuing to work with him, he replied: “It’s the team’s decision. That’s all I’ll say.”

Asked if the sometimes tense tone on the radio between father and son had been one of the reasons for the change, or if the team felt Bryan would be a good addition to Kirkwood’s line-up, Colton added: “I don’t know, that’s a better question for Andretti on why they’ve changed it.

“But do I think any of those situations would have changed the result of the race? No.”

He also answered a question many onlookers will have when seeing this change: why was it made after the first race and not ahead of the season.

“I think in a perfect world you’d make it so that we can start the year. But it’s not my decision,” he concluded.

After his qualifying run, Kirkwood also joined reporters and said the decision wasn’t down to a poor race in St Petersburg for Andretti.

At the season-opener, Romain Grosjean was taken out while fighting for the win, Herta was taken out by Will Power, Devlin DeFrancesco was violently crashed into on the first lap and Kirkwood was involved in his own airborne incident.

“The race strategy wasn’t really what ruined us,” Kirkwood said.

Kylekirkwood Ppg375attexasmotorspeedway By Chrisjones Largeimagewithoutwatermark M75520

“They’re just strategists, right? We’re just moving them around and it’s going to be the same outcome on different cars maybe now.

“I don’t think they did a bad job at St Pete though, that’s not why what occurred, happened.

“We just got stuck in very unfortunate scenarios, all of us. We’ve got to push that behind us and look forward now.”

Kirkwood also confirmed he hadn’t been told why this change had been made, saying “I asked, is there a reason why? They just said we think this is going to be the best thing moving forward”.

He added: “I’m definitely not upset about it, and don’t think that Colton or Bryan or Scott are.”

While Harner is a well respected person in the paddock – he’s worked for Ganassi and was in senior management at AJ Foyt’s team – Bryan Herta was a top driver in his day and is of course related to Colton, so it certainly feels that Kirkwood has got the better end of this move.

Absolutely no offence intended to Harner, he only joined the team in the off-season and Bryan is an Andretti/Herta veteran.

“It’s going really well,” said Kirkwood of how the switch was going from his side.

“He was with me for my first three tests with Andretti Autosport back in 2021, we really hit it off there, the team knew that and it’s a switch they wanted to make.

Kylekirkwood Ppg375attexasmotorspeedway By Joeskibinski Largeimagewithoutwatermark M75489

“It’s really good for me because he’s a driver. A lot of strategists were drivers at a point.

“He knows exactly what a driver likes to hear and what he doesn’t want to hear. To have him on the stand is a huge asset for me in my second year.”

Certainly Kirkwood could benefit from Bryan Herta’s wisdom when it comes to his own racing, as a vital element of the team strategist job is to cheerlead on the radio as well as decide pitstops etc.

Kirkwood has been arguably the most successful junior driver in US racing history, but since coming to IndyCar his racing has been littered with on-track incidents and crashes.

Herta’s knowledge as a driver could really help Kirkwood in that sense to scale things back and try to be more consistent.

On Colton’s side, he’s always felt that the fact his dad was his strategist didn’t block constructive criticism or the kind of frank discussion sometimes needed in racing.

Coltonandbryanherta Firestonegrandprixofst Petersburg By Chrisjones Largeimagewithoutwatermark M74552

But what the move does do is remove any questions about the impact working with a family member has on his racing. Perhaps both Hertas will be cut more slack now they aren’t working together directly.

Certainly from a Formula 1 perspective – knowing that F1 teams are constantly looking at Colton – having his father as a race strategist might be difficult to fathom or comprehend because it’s not something you see happening in F1 or in European-based elite series.

But if Herta’s performances in the races are affected, all of that will be moot.

It doesn’t appear this move benefits Herta in any obvious way, which is an interesting call from Andretti with its best driver.

This move does show that neither of the Hertas is bigger than the team as a whole, and that Andretti isn’t scared to take tough decisions no matter how eyebrow-raising they are to those on the outside.

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