The first IndyCar season for team co-owner George Michael Steinbrenner IV and driver Colton Herta is exceeding expectations so far.
“We knew from the very start through all of testing we had the speed to compete, but in IndyCar it takes a lot of perfect execution and sometimes a little bit of luck to finish in first,” said Steinbrenner, a Carmel resident of three years. “We were able to do that in Austin (winning a March race in Texas). It came much earlier than expected.
“Now, our goal is to consistently execute. We want to try to run up front as much as possible.”
Herta will start in the middle of Row 2 for the Indianapolis 500 May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Herta, whose father, Bryan, was a five-time Indy 500 starter, had a qualifying run of 229.086 mph in the Harding Steinbrenner Honda. Herta is 13th in the IndyCar point standings.
“Our mindset right now is still to get as much experience under our belt as possible, not to overreach in our expectations,” Steinbrenner said. “We know we have speed in the driver and car.”
Steinbrenner and Mike Harding, who owns an Indianapolis asphalt paving company, joined forces in the offseason. Harding’s IndyCar racing team ran three races in 2017 and a full season in 2018.
“He was looking to freshen up the team and bring in Colton and Steinbrenner Racing to accomplish that goal, and it’s worked pretty well for everyone,” Steinbrenner said. “We have a lot of experience on this team and a lot of guys that have been around for a long time. They’re excited by a fast driver and a fast car. To see a young kid lighting the world on fire, it makes them motivated and they want to succeed as much as Colton does.”
Steinbrenner, who turns 23 next month, has known Herta, 19, since the driver was 12.
“After two years in the Indy Lights program, we felt he was ready as a team to make the jump,” Steinbrenner said.
“He’s mature for his age,” Harding said of Steinbrenner. “He’s learning. I’m handling most of the business operations. He’s helping on the sales and learning the business.”
Of course, Steinbrenner has been around sports his entire life.
Steinbrenner’s late grandfather, George Michael Steinbrenner III, purchased the New York Yankees in 1973. Steinbrenner’s father, Hank, is part-owner and his uncle, Hal, is the managing partner of the Yankees.
Steinbrenner said he’s not a natural salesman in terms of his demeanor.
“But the strategy that goes into not only the on-track performance but the strategy that goes into sales and marketing, that’s what has interested me the most,” Steinbrenner said. “The nitty-gritty of getting deals done is what has been really entertaining to me.”
Herta said Steinbrenner’s knowledge has grown since they started in Indy Lights.
“He knows a lot about the car now and even more about the business, which is more important for his aspect,” Herta said.