The fastest four-laps of Romain Grosjean’s tenured racing career took place on Friday in the first of two days qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.
The 36-year-old Swiss-born Frenchmen is one of the six rookies that will be competing in this year’s 106th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”. Regardless of previously running on two other ovals at the WWT Raceway at Gateway and Texas Motor Speedway, Grosjean is still learning speedway-style racing.
This week’s practices so far have not been smooth sailing for the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda team. Grosjean had a couple occasions where the car would push off the racing line in Thursday’s six-hour session. The biggest save was where he slightly overdrove Turn 1, slid up towards the wall but recouped the car and continued on.
Past Fast Friday and heading into qualifying with boost turned up and cars ready to be trimmed out, Grosjean was able to reach the Fast 12. He stands as one of the two rookies still alive to win pole for the Indy 500, with Jimmie Johnson being the other.
“I think the day was very straight forward,” Grosjean said. “We had an easy first run. The car felt good, and we played conservative on the downforce. I think I was lucky to draw a small number, so I was happy to start fifth qualifying. Honestly, those were fairly straight forward and not too complicated. Tomorrow conditions will be different. Probably going to have to trim more to try to go faster, but so far so good.”
This year, Grosjean is with second team in his IndyCar career and the Andretti organization knows success at the Brickyard. The two latest teams to win an Indy 500 pole position are Andretti and Chip Ganassi Racing.
Since the cars unloaded, the Hondas out of the CGR camp have been stout and put all five of their machines in the top 12 of qualifying.
“Ganassi has been very impressive,” Grosjean said. “And since we started running the long runs and the organization and five cars in the Fast 12, that’s pretty good. I think Chevy is a bit stronger. I’m not supposed to say that word, but running a bit stronger. Who knows? Tomorrow, conditions will be different.”
Since the move to the United States after Grosjean’s stint in Formula 1, he has had a lot of ‘firsts’ despite his professional career reaching well over a decade. With all but one race on the road and street courses in his rookie campaign, Indy is simply another new experience.
“I think it’s all the rituals and tradition around here, right?,” said Grosjean. The picture after the qualifying lap. I didn’t have my family today, but I was glad to make the family picture with my engineer and his wife. They are like my family here in the U.S. for me.
“I know my kids were booing everyone going after me on TV, so they wouldn’t – it’s very bad, but I was very proud of them.”