LEXINGTON -- Colton Herta is the first NTT IndyCar Series racer born in the 21st Century.
The 19-year-old Californian also had the fastest practice lap Friday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a permanent road course that opened almost four decades before Herta was born.
GALLERY: Friday afternoon at Mid-Ohio for IndyCar Series Honda 200 practice
Photos from around the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Friday afternoon, including the second practice session of the day for Sunday's NTT IndyCar Series Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio. Rookie of the Year candidate Colton Herta, who drives for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, had the fastest lap in the afternoon session in 1:05.7292 in his No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda. Veteran Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, teammates for Team Penske, were second- and third-fastest Friday afternoon.
Veteran racer Will Power hopes a fast finish Saturday in qualifying, earning him the pole for Sunday's NTT IndyCar Series Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio, sets him up for his first win of the season.
He knows the two practice sessions pale in comparison to the qualifying scheduled for Saturday for Sunday afternoon's Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio.
But forgive the series Rookie of the Year candidate if he enjoyed the moment.
Herta, who drives for Harding Steinbrenner Racing, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 5.7292 seconds in his No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda just before the afternoon session ended.
He was all smiles after shaving more than a second off his morning practice, a session in which he finished 12th out of the 23 racers tackling the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course.
He nailed the lap after switching to the optional Firestone red tires in the closing stages of the 45-minute session.
“I picked up 1.1s — that’s a pretty big step up for how short the track is,” Herta said. “And there’s some pretty big points where you’re gonna gain time — Turn 12, it really grips up when you have these reds, Turn 2 and Turn 4 and 5.”
Herta trails Swedish racer Felix Rosenqvist, 27, of Chip Ganassi Racing by 34 points in the top series rookie race. Rosenqvist had the fourth fastest lap on Friday in 1:06.0218.
"It's really close right now," Herta said.
Herta, currently 14th in the series points race overall, said he would rather focus on how he is faring against the entire field, not just rookies. He has the credentials for it, already the youngest winner of a pole and a race in the history of the sport.
Sitting next to series veteran and 2019 Indy 500 champ Simon Pagenaud after practice sessions on Friday, Herta then admitted he knew Rosenqvist leads all rookies.
Pagenaud, 35, who had the second-fastest lap Friday in his No. 22 Menards Chevrolet (1:05.9313), didn't let the youngster off the hook.
“You don’t know (the order), but you know,” Pagenaud said with a smile, eliciting a grin from Herta.
“Exactly,” Herta said. “(Being Rookie of the Year) would be great, but honestly I’m just focused on not running with the rookies but running with everyone, trying to be the best with everyone.”
Pagenaud, who also won the NTT IndyCar Series points championship in 2016, said Herta has been a "breath of fresh air" this season.
“He (has) showed tremendous speed on the road course, certainly pushed the old guys. That’s what we need.”
“At the end of the day, it’s about being complete,” said Pagenaud. “That’s what (the rookies) are trying to do. It’s fun to watch from my seat, for sure.”
A third and final practice session is planned Saturday morning with qualifying scheduled to begin at 2:35 p.m.
The green flag is scheduled to wave Sunday at 4:05 p.m. for the 90-lap race.
NEWGARDEN CRASH: The Friday afternoon session included a scary moment when 2017 Mid-Ohio winner and current points leader Josef Newgarden crashed.
Just after Herta turned his fast lap, Newgarden lost the back end of his No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevy into Turn 9 on his first lap on reds, skating into the tires and damaging the rear wing.
"Mistake on my end cost us some time, but we'll be back tomorrow and ready to get after it," the 28-year-old Tennessee-native posted on his Twitter account Friday evening.
FORMER BUCKEYE GRAND MARSHAL: Former Ohio State football standout Bobby Carpenter, a former first-round NFL draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, was selected to be Grand Marshal of the Honda Indy 200.
He will offer the command to start engines for Sunday’s 90-lap race (4 p.m. ET, TV: NBC, Radio: Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, SiriusXM Channel 209).
The Lancaster, Ohio, native co-hosts the popular “Carpenter & Rothman Show” radio show airing weekdays in Columbus.
ROAD TO INDY: Oliver Askew, 22, won the pole for the pole for the opening race of the doubleheader weekend for Indy Lights.
The current championship leader and driver of the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Dallara IL-15, Askew earned his fifth pole of the season with a lap of 1:11.680.
Askew was 0.2704 faster than teammate Robert Megennis (No. 27 Andretti Autosport).