July 30, 2006 on ABC
AGR Aim To Overcome Early Struggles
Michigan International Speedway
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
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
"(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."
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
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