NEWTON, Iowa — After losing three positions on a late pit stop, Romain Grosjean was frustrated near the end of Saturday’s Hy-VeeDeals.com 250.
Grosjean entered the pits in eighth place with the rest of the IndyCar Series field under the caution for Ed Carpenter’s wall contact. The Formula 1 veteran exited the pits in 11th place and Grosjean went into attack mode after the Lap 174 restart.
“I just thought at the restart, I’m just gonna go really hard and really go for it,” Grosjean told TobyChristie.com.
Grosjean was as high as sixth place in the last stint of the race but then fell back to his eventual finishing position of seventh, his best result since finishing fourth at the race at Road America in June and his best oval racing finish.
The Swiss-born Frenchman got 10th immediately after the restart when Scott McLaughlin slowed and pitted with a loose rear wheel. Grosjean snatched ninth place on Lap 175 from Christian Lundgaard and was in eighth six laps later. The No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda moved up to seventh place around Scott Dixon on Lap 195 and passed Jimmie Johnson for sixth place on Lap 232.
Dixon went back around Grosjean for sixth on Lap 242 and Grosjean stayed there until the end of the race, finishing one lap down to eventual race winner Josef Newgarden.
“We had a good race car, I’m proud of the guys,” Grosjean said. “I think there’s few things we can try to improve it tomorrow. I burned my rear tires, so the last ten laps I was really hanging in there. Couldn’t really pass Kellett, lost lots of space there, but it was good fun.”
Grosjean started 10th and was as low as 25th in the 26-car field after his first pit stop on Lap 58. After getting back on the lead lap under the caution for Felix Rosenqvist’s wall contact, Grosjean climbed to eighth place before the final caution of the race on Lap 164.
Short oval racing has become a massive learning experience for the second-year IndyCar racer. Grosjean raced for the first time on an oval last year at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and he began to appreciate the intricacies of oval racing in that race, particularly short ovals and the lessons it can teach about driving a race car fast.
“Today when you pass everyone, you feel like you’re the king of the world,” Grosjean said. “And then you’re hanging in there and you feel like you’re not good. But short ovals are really fun. Indy 500, it’s something unique. Texas is the only one like that, I wasn’t a huge fan of because you can’t really use the high line, and that’s something that I love doing.
“I love short ovals because it’s really good fun. There’s a lot going on, there’s a few racing lines and the team did a good job with the car. So I’m happy with what we got today and we need to rest for tomorrow.”
Grosjean did use a third groove on a restart and went three wide in Turn 4, but said that a third groove for Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 will depend on the wind direction. A third groove was usable in the first two turns but not in the final two corners late in the race.
With as much fun as Grosjean had at Iowa and with Formula 1 racing in France this weekend, Grosjean was candid about who on the F1 grid would have enjoyed racing at Iowa.
“Fernando Alonso, he’s like 40 but he’s (racing) like he’s 20 years old and Kevin Magnussen would love it.”
Grosjean starts 11th in Sunday’s Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300. That race will air live on NBC with the broadcast starting at 3:00 p.m. ET and the green flag waving a half hour later.