Nearly, but not quite for Romain Grosjean.
The 35-year-old Swiss-born Frenchman made a dramatic attempt to collect his first career win in the NTT IndyCar Series, but fell just short and was forced to collect a runner-up finish in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
After starting sixth in the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda, he utilized a two-stop strategy that also saw him as the only contender among the top five on the softer Firestone alternate (red sidewall) tires for the final stint of the 85-lap race.
Grosjean pulled off a strong move on reigning series champion Alex Palou entering Turn 1 to take second on Lap 70. He then zeroed in on leader Josef Newgarden, pulling alongside at one point before fading back and seeing a pair of late cautions, including one on the final lap, halting any chance of victory.
“We tried very hard,” said Grosjean, who now has three runner-up results in 16 IndyCar starts. “It was good enough for P2 but not good enough for a win, so next time.”
Overall, the result at Long Beach was much-needed after an early retirement left him with a 26th-place finish in the last round at Texas Motor Speedway. The combination of a fifth-place finish in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and his first podium of 2022 on Sunday, Grosjean now sits sixth in the championship standings through the opening three races.
“Yeah, I think it’s going well,” Grosjean said. “We had very, very little testing before we got to St. Pete. We were one day in Sebring and then St. Pete, and then two days that we wanted to test it snowed. Eventually got a test in Barber after Texas and got the car to better position.
“We had a small issue on Friday sadly so we lost Friday as a session on my side, so it’s never ideal, and I think looking at the race maybe, there’s stuff we would have done slightly differently, but yes, I think we had the right strategy. We had a good pit stop from the guys, good communication, and then a P2, so that’s pretty good.
“The car is straightforward to drive. There’s one thing I need to improve to make it a touch more to my liking, but I think we’ve got a very strong baseline and a car that can go super fast. It was my fault, just didn’t qualify well. If I had started P2 today, things would have been a little bit easier.”
When examining the final laps in pursuit of Newgarden around the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit, Grosjean doesn’t see a different outcome even if the caution doesn’t fall on the final lap.
“No, I think Josef had it,” Grosjean admitted. “I was looking at Turn 11, the hairpin, making a last-lap lunge maybe if I was close enough, but I don’t think I was close enough on that lap and Josef was driving well and not making any mistakes. It’s not ideal to finish under yellow, but I don’t think the result would have been much different.”