Speedway, IN — Surnames imply so much in any enterprise, or actually any nook of the world. However in American auto racing, they’ll imply every part. Particularly on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the place final names are acknowledged way more rapidly than firsts. It is a universe that’s nonetheless dominated by the likes of Andretti, Unser, Foyt and different bloodlines which have lengthy coursed by Gasoline Alley.
“Indianapolis is certainly a spot the place final names can actually imply one thing to folks, and I am lucky that mine does,” says Colton Herta, a 19-year previous wunderkind who will make his Indy 500 debut on Sunday. His father, Bryan, has been a mainstay of American open wheel racing for greater than 1 / 4 century, successful 4 instances as an IndyCar driver and two Indianapolis 500s as a crew proprietor. “There’s positively a stage of strain and expectation that comes with sure names. However I do not know if there are a lot of that increase eyebrows fairly like this one does.”
Herta takes his finger and faucets the identify embroidered over the left breast pocket of his crew uniform. It reads “Steinbrenner.”
The co-owner of Herta’s racecar is George Michael Steinbrenner IV. Sure, he is associated to that George Steinbrenner, the late proprietor of the New York Yankees. Well-known for purchasing probably the most storied franchise in skilled sports activities and pulling it out of the doldrums. Notorious for his inflammatory management type and quick-trigger/high-dollar hiring and firing practices. George IV is The Boss’s grandson and son of Hank Steinbrenner, part-owner and co-chairman of the Yankees.
“Each time I enter a brand new room there are all the time going to be preconceived notions in terms of my identify,” the youngest Steinbrenner confesses. “However I additionally consider that how I deal with myself once I stroll into that room is what determines how folks will understand me in the long run. So, I attempt to do this the appropriate approach.”
In different phrases, when a 22-year previous child walked into his crew’s storage on the Racing Capital of the World, a storage together with his identify over the door, crew members of a sure age did not instantly go working for his or her lives. He’s so soft-spoken, way more like uncle Hal than father Hank, they usually go about their enterprise with out even realizing he is within the room. “You do not have to fret, guys,” he says, grinning. “There will not be any pink slips in your locker.”
By the best way, that age, it isn’t a typo. He’s truly 22, the youngest Indy 500 crew proprietor by a few a long time and likewise the youngest in IndyCar’s century-plus historical past. And sure, his driver is just 19. They love to hang around, sleep on one another’s couches and play racing video games on Xbox. However on March 24, in addition they grew to become the youngest proprietor and driver to win an IndyCar race, profiting from a race that extremely labored itself into their favor at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
“It was so spectacular, and we knew that we had a automotive that might win, if every part fell our approach,” Steinbrenner recollects, nonetheless with a tinge of disbelief even two months later. “It simply occurred approach sooner than we anticipated, or than anybody anticipated. Even the juggernauts, with all the massive names and sources and the historical past, they nonetheless the appropriate chemistry. They usually nonetheless want slightly little bit of luck. They nonetheless have to have these one or two proper folks in place and have these one or two issues to fall their approach, good, to win.”
Type of just like the Yankees?
“Sure, that applies even to the Yankees.”
Chemistry between the proprietor and driver has by no means been an issue. They first met six years in the past on the Lime Rock Park highway course in Connecticut. Steinbrenner was 16 and nonetheless in highschool. Herta was 12 and simply beginning out within the lowest ranges of open wheel racing. They hit it off instantly, and when Herta left to race in Europe, his pal George found out how one can tunnel round intercontinental viewing restrictions to look at Colton’s races on-line.
Rising up in Florida, George IV beloved baseball. He nonetheless does. That is the Steinbrenner in him. Nevertheless, there was some auto racing in that bloodline, too. His father briefly dabbled in NHRA Drag Racing within the 1990s (earlier than The Boss shut that down). And his grandfather frequented the Indy 500 within the 1970s when he had a partnership with crew proprietor Pat Patrick, an open wheel legend.
But it surely was the opposite half of George IV’s DNA, his maternal facet, that tugged him towards the racetrack. His cousin Tony Renna was a driver on the IndyCar ladder. Uncle Chris Simmons is among the most profitable race engineers of the fashionable IndyCar period. And after his mom divorced Hank, she married Sean Jones, who raced within the Barber Saab growth sequence within the 1980s and shaped a lifelong friendship with one among his rivals, Bryan Herta.
That is why younger George was at Lime Rock Park six years in the past, to look at the son of his stepfather’s good friend race. Just a few years later, after one semester at Stetson College, Steinbrenner referred to as his stepfather and mentioned he was transferring to Indianapolis to discover a job in racing. Jones referred to as Herta, who gave Steinbrenner a job as a “busboy” on his Rallycross crew.
“Nobody desires that job,” Colton Herta explains. “In the future you are taking out the trash, the following you are choosing up lunch. And whenever you’re engaged on the race vehicles, you are largely simply cleansing them. Rallycross vehicles, they get actually soiled. George is a wonderful automotive polisher. He may have in all probability written a examine and bypassed all of that work. However that is not how he wished to do it. He wished to earn it. That is George.”
Steinbrenner knew he wished to be a crew proprietor, not a driver. Any racing desires he may need had had been erased on Oct. 22, 2003, when Renna, his cousin, was killed throughout a take a look at session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. George was solely 6 years previous and it rattled him. It rattled the entire household. But it surely did not preserve them away from the racetrack.
“The possession curiosity got here pure to me due to my grandfather, there isn’t any query about that,” he explains. “And I feel that is why I wished to do each job within the race store, even when briefly. That helps me be a greater proprietor, understanding how every part works and every part that everybody does. After we would go to races in St. Petersburg, IndyCar racing proper there at dwelling, I used to be taking psychological notes all the time. I wished to know all of it. I nonetheless do.”
George Steinbrenner IV celebrated as Colton Herta gained the IndyCar Basic in Austin, Texas, on March 24. Joe Skibinski/IndyCar/AP
That is why this yr’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg felt like such a through-the-looking glass second. Over the winter, he struck a take care of Harding Racing, which had simply accomplished its first IndyCar season. Steinbrenner had fielded vehicles within the Indy Lights Sequence (assume AAA baseball) as a companion together with his father and Michael Andretti, hiring pal Colton Herta to be one among his drivers. Now the 2 mates had been transferring as much as the massive leagues with newly named Harding Steinbrenner Racing.
There in St. Pete, in Steinbrenner’s personal yard, with a grandstand stuffed with family and friends, he wasn’t there to look at the race with them. He had a automotive within the race. Even nonetheless, he does not keep in mind having any “a-ha” moments of reflection. “No. I used to be too busy bugging everybody on the crew about our race technique,” he recollects. “What sort of tires had been we going to begin the race on?! That is what I used to be eager about.”
This complete month of Could in Speedway, Indiana, has felt like dwelling, too. He has lived in close by Carmel for a number of years now, so Indiana is dwelling. Regardless of their everlasting ties to Tampa and the Bronx, the Steinbrenners are literally Midwesterners, so all of it feels very pure to George IV, as does being in Gasoline Alley. At the very least, till it comes time for the homeowners’ conferences.
That is when his “how I deal with myself once I stroll into that room” rule actually kicks into impact.
“There’s Roger Penske. There’s Michael Andretti. There’s Chip Ganassi. There’s A.J. Foyt. What do I do when I’m within the room? I preserve my mouth shut, that is what I do. I pay attention,” he says. “And if I’ve any questions, I whisper them to Bryan (Herta) or I wait till later to ask him in personal. I wish to ask them sooner or later. The one approach I can do that’s to look at and be taught and be grateful that they permit me to be in that room and at this racetrack with them.”
As he wraps up his thought, a fan in a Yankees T-shirt calls out and asks for an autograph. One other fan walks by in an Atlanta Braves cap and Steinbrenner jokingly shouts out, “Hey, you are carrying the unsuitable cap!”
The man factors to George Steinbrenner IV’s hat, black with the inexperienced lettering of sponsor Inexperienced Power Sustainable Options (GESS), with the distinctive Harding Steinbrenner Racing brand on the facet. “You’ve got obtained the unsuitable cap on, too, Steinbrenner!”
The Younger Boss chuckles quietly and tugs on the invoice of his lid. It seems to suit simply nice.