His Michelin Pilot Challenge Team Has Won Three Consecutive TCR Titles
By John Oreovicz
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Bryan Herta put together a quietly effective career as a driver in Indy cars and sports cars. These days, he’s making a lot more noise as a team owner.
Best known for victories in two of the most historically significant Indianapolis 500s (the 100-year anniversary of the first running and the actual 100th Indy 500), Bryan Herta Autosport (in association with Curb-Agajanian) just notched its third consecutive Touring Car class (TCR) championship in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Michael Lewis and Taylor Hagler drove the No. 77 Hyundai Veloster N TCR to the class crown, while BHA’s No. 98 and No. 33 Hyundai Elantra N TCR entries finished second and fourth in the standings, respectively. Hagler became the first female driver to claim a Michelin Pilot Challenge title, while Lewis added a second championship as a Hyundai driver to his 2019 class triumph.
“We had a great year again in the Michelin Pilot Challenge in IMSA,” said Herta. “This year we introduced the Elantra N TCR, alongside our venerable Veloster N TCR. So we had a dual program, with two Elantras and two Velosters going, and we were able to bring home the driver’s championship, the manufacturer’s championship and the team championship.
“They don’t always go as well as this year did, so we’re definitely trying to enjoy it as much as possible.”
Maybe, but Herta’s team has been impressive since joining the series – taking the TCR driver and team titles in 2019 (missing the manufacturer crown by a single point) before sweeping all three championships the past two seasons.
BHA started out running a single Indy Lights car in 2009 before entering a car for Dan Wheldon in the 2011 Indianapolis 500. That small but mighty effort ended with a surprise second Indy victory for Wheldon. After five years on his own, Herta forged a partnership with Andretti Autosport, and the Andretti/BHA with Curb-Agajanian car driven by Alexander Rossi claimed an even more remarkable victory at Indianapolis in 2016.
Herta drove for Michael Andretti’s IndyCar and IMSA sports car teams from 2003-08 (including a class victory in the 2007 Twelve Hours of Sebring), and he credits Andretti’s expansive vision as a team owner as a huge influence to diversify BHA into sports car racing with Hyundai.
“I take a lot of inspiration from Michael in that regard,” Herta said. “He runs cars in multiple disciplines, and he’s built a really substantial business by having a very diverse motorsport platform and offerings. So I’m inspired by that, but I’m also a little bit daunted by it, because Michael is really good at it. We’re trying to evolve in a similar sort of way.
“I’m lucky to have great people in the team, top to bottom. Sean Jones and Eric Chase are partners on the IMSA team, but you don’t hear that much about them and what they do behind the scenes.
“We have a tremendous partnership with Hyundai; we’re very fortunate to be aligned with that brand in a really significant way,” Herta continued. “We want to continue to grow that business. We’re going to have six TCR cars on the grid next year in the Michelin series (including those that BHA prepares and supports for other teams). … Those are cars we built from the ground up. We literally bought Elantra N cars from our local dealer, stripped them out and turned them into racing cars. I’m really proud of that project, so we want to keep doing a great job for Hyundai and growing that.”
Clearly, Herta is not afraid to dream big. But he’s also pragmatic enough to chase growth at a manageable pace.
“If we had tried to do what we’re doing today back in 2009, I’m certain I would have failed miserably at it,” he admitted. “But I’ve learned and continued to evolve, and we’ve grown a bigger staff that’s allowed us to do the things that we’re doing now. And we keep trying to do bigger and better things.
“I’d like to do something in the WeatherTech Championship, possibly with Hyundai. We have a great group of people, from the engineering and the management side, and I believe if we rolled any car into the work bay right now, they could operate it at a very high level.”
Herta continues as a co-entrant with Andretti Autosport in the Indianapolis 500, but his more significant interest in the IndyCar Series is his 21-year-old son Colton, a six-time race winner (two more than Bryan managed in his career) and 2022 championship favorite. The senior Herta serves as his son’s strategist during races.
“I have a lot of awe for what he’s doing,” Bryan Herta said. “It’s an incredible time in my life because I get to be on the radio with Colton. That’s a unique thing to be able to share with him, and I know it’s not going to last forever, so I’m trying to savor every minute of that.”