What had not been there until this year was Marco’s strategist: Bryan Herta, a 47-year-old former driver from Warren, Mich. Herta competed in the Indianapolis 500 five times, three for a team owned in part by Michael Andretti, and won four top-series open-wheel races before becoming a driving coach and team owner.
Herta was a co-owner of the car that Dan Wheldon drove to victory at Indianapolis in 2011, and the car that Alexander Rossi, then a 24-year-old rookie, won with at Indianapolis last year, benefiting from Herta’s call to avoid a pit stop by conserving fuel early.
“The main thing is that Bryan was a driver,” Rossi said this past week. “So as a team owner, he understands what a driver’s mental process is and what they have to go through. So when things were going in a downward spiral in the first third of the race, he was able to give me the information I needed.”
Michael Andretti, 54, now stands at the helm of a racing empire that fields cars in competitions all over the world. He had also been Marco’s race strategist, making calls like a football coach over the radio with his son, but his other racing ventures left him low on time.
So late last season, Michael Andretti made a call: Herta would become Marco’s strategist. Marco Andretti, who finished second in his first Indianapolis 500, in 2006, but no higher than third three times since, will start eighth on Sunday in the 101st Indy 500.
“Bryan’s approach is great, always positive. He truly believes in Marco, and Marco believes in him,” Michael Andretti said. “He has a way about him to keep everyone focused.”