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<< Sports >>

IRL AUTO RACING SERIES

MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY

Sunday, July 30, 2006 on ABC

Herta, AGR Aim To Overcome Early Struggles

Source: Michigan International Speedway

BROOKLYN, MI. Bryan Herta's Andretti Green Racing team seemed unstoppable on oval tracks in 2005, winning nine of the IRL IndyCar® Series' 14 oval-hosted events.

Though his team's oval performances in 2006 have only once reached the checkered peaks of 2005 and Herta himself has not won since his dominating performance in last season's Firestone Indy 400 at Michigan International Speedway, he still feels confident about his team's chances just days away from his next attempt in the Irish Hills. Herta can't quite pinpoint the reason for his assurance, but with a win here already in his back pocket, no one is questioning him.

"One of the great things about this track is that it's a superspeedway and you get to see high-speed racing, and this is part of the heritage of IndyCar racing," said the Michigan-born driver of the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Honda. "This is a driver's track. I don't know what exactly makes it that, but this is a track that when you show up, you know, 'I've got to get my car handling right or I'm not going to be able to hang with the lead pack.'"

Herta didn't need to worry about hanging with the lead pack in last season's Firestone Indy 400: he was the lead pack. After starting on the pole and subsequently leading the first 36 laps of the race, Herta endured the high-speed pressure of MIS for the remainder of the race and emerged as the winner, leading 159 of 200 laps along the way. His victory was his first in two seasons, and after earning it at the track nearest his childhood home, holding the winner's trophy couldn't have been much sweeter.

"(MIS) is where I saw my first major league race," said Herta, 36. "My dad brought me here in the late '70s, maybe '79 or '80, I think I came here. This is where I saw my first live race, and you know, to come back here and actually win a race here on the track that I watched these guys race at as a kid is kind of a, it's a little bit surreal, actually.

"It was definitely my race to lose," he said about the 2005 Firestone Indy 400. "From the very start of the race, I realized that my car was just so good. It was probably one of the best cars I've ever had at a superspeedway. I actually felt some extra pressure for that. I said, 'Bryan, you've got to win this race with the car you have underneath you,' and I was able to do that. It was a great feeling to cross the finish line and see that checkered flag."

Even with better development, checkers will be difficult to attain for Herta and Andretti Green Racing at MIS this month. Looming atop the standings of the IndyCar Series is the dominating specter of Marlboro Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who together have won all but one race in 2006. Despite the two teams' monopoly at the standings' summit, Herta remembers what it was like to be on top and he remains convinced that his team can again reign superior.

"Penske and Ganassi were chasing us the last couple of years and they've done a lot of development. We were in position where, okay, we've got a good package, let's stick with what's working. You get into a comfort zone and it keeps working and you keep sticking to it. They've put us in the position we've had them in the last two years. We need to start closing the gap. It's not going to happen overnight, but I think you're going to see it happen over the period of several races," said Herta.

Herta definitely has the idea that while his team is slightly behind in the standings, they don't plan on disappearing anytime soon.

"I'm very fortunate to be on one of the truly great teams in open-wheel racing. The camaraderie amongst Tony, Dario, I, and Marco, is still very good and I think that's what we've got to do: maintain that and keep pushing the whole program forward again," the two-time IndyCar Series race winner added. "It's the natural ebb and flow; you see it in every sport. A team hits a high, and we hit a high for a couple of years. Now, we're the chasers, and Penske and Ganassi have become the 'chasees.' Our job now is to run them down like they've run us down, and put them on their back feet again and make them the ones that are chasing us."

With just several days remaining before the green flag drops on the Firestone Indy 400 at MIS, Herta is starting to recall the pride he felt when crossing the finish line first last July. It's a feeling he hopes to duplicate on Sunday afternoon.

"I was born here and still have family here so this is a home race, but you want to do well at all the races," said Herta. "During the races, it doesn't make you feel any different but after the race, I was definitely proud to have won the race here at MIS."

Tickets for the IRL IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 400 delivered by Domino’s Pizza are available by calling 1-800-354-1010 or by visiting www.MISpeedway.com. Children 12 and under are free to all Firestone Indy 400 weekend activities.

Return to our 2006 IRL FIRESTONE INDY 400 Index.

  Click for Brooklyn, Michigan Forecast

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To order tickets:

Call the MIS Ticket Hotline

(800) 354-1010 or (517) 592-6672

Order online 24/7 at www.MISpeedway.com

 

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