By: Tanner Watkins
May 27, 2019 | 12:30 PM
Many fans, drivers and media had high expectations for 19-year-old sensation Colton Herta in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. After exiting the event with just three laps completed, the result left so much more to be desired.
The prospect of seeing IndyCar’s youngest-ever race winner battle for its greatest crown was dashed when Herta’s No. 88 Harding-Steinbrenner Racing entry stopped in Turn 4. After qualifying fifth as a rookie, Herta’s early exit was not a sight for sore eyes.
In the aftermath of the mechanical failure, Herta was able to explain to the media what exactly happened to his Honda-powered car.
“I couldn’t get into sixth the whole time, so I stuck it in fifth gear – just kind of sitting there,” Herta explained. “I knew it was going to be a long day after seeing that. I was hoping maybe we could just run around in fifth gear the whole time. But we lost the gear pressure in it, and it didn’t want to change gears.
“Once I went down to fourth and back up to fifth a few times, it completely depleted it and there’s nothing left, so the engine is dying. (I) couldn’t get it to neutral. That’s why we had to put it on the flat tow and go back (to the garage).
“The gear issue was caused from a fuel leak that burned the wires for the gearbox,” Herta continued. “The gearbox is controlled electronically, and I wasn’t getting the signal to upshift or downshift. It sent something into emergency mode to where the engine just completely shut off, and that was it.”
In a day where so much was expected out of Herta, the California native became the first driver to feel the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s sting on Sunday. After exiting the race before anyone else, Herta was credited with a 33rd place finishing position – far from where he had hoped to finish.
“It’s sad – the car was actually really good,” said Herta. “I was just cruising there in fifth. I didn’t have any need to push or anything. We were happy just staying there until the pit stop… It’s just really sad.
“The guys have been working really hard to get the cars in service at the Speedway. They worked through Mother’s Day and every weekend. It just sucks.”
To be young and energetic will certainly help the embattled Herta, who hasn’t finished any of the last four races after winning in Austin, Texas on March 24.
“I know everybody is still super fired up for this year. We’ve been quick everywhere and haven’t qualified outside the top 10 yet. I know we’ll be back next week.”
Header image by Mike Harding/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.