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Colton Herta’s hauler catches fire on way to St. Pete; car escapes damage

Nate Ryan looks at the young drivers taking IndyCar by storm, the veterans ready to repeat and the newest changes in the series as IndyCar prepares for its season opener in St. Petersburg.

The hauler carrying the No. 88 Dallara-Honda of Colton Herta to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg caught fire early Wednesday morning.

A spokesperson for the team confirmed the incident happened less than 10 miles from reaching the race course. Andretti Autosport used its other transporters to move the pit equipment and car to the racetrack where it would undergo further evaluation.

As of Wednesday at 9:35 a.m., Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport’s evaluation at the track found the car had only minor and cosmetic damage that was caused by heat, smoke and water.

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“We have no current reason to believe that any competition or mechanical aspects of the 88 car have been damaged or compromised,” the team said in an email Wednesday to “Our Indy Lights team is already in Florida for testing and is now en route to St. Pete to help evaluate and assess. Additionally, we are sending a team of IndyCar crew members from Indianapolis to St. Pete today in advance of the team’s full arrival (Thursday).

“We are also preparing backup pit equipment at the Indy race shop. This equipment and a spare transporter will depart Indianapolis today as well.”

WFTS reported the fire happened on I-275 in St. Petersburg. WFLA reported no one was injured in the fire. Several southbound lanes of the highway were shut down for more than hour as the flames were doused.

Herta, 19, had an outstanding rookie season in 2019, notching two victories (including the season finale) and becoming the youngest winner in series history.

In a tweet posted Wednesday morning, Andretti Autosport confirmed that no one was harmed, thanking its transporter drivers and local first responders