The on again, off again rain finally cut short Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway around 4 pm this afternoon, leaving Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson short of completing their rookie tests. The drivers, who just completed their first season in Indycar, will have to wait until the open test in April to finish the final laps of phase three of the 40 lap test. The afternoon stoppage was the second one of the day, and there was not enough time to get the track dry for more running.
Grosjean needs two more laps at 215 mph or better, while Johnson needs about five laps.
Johnson had a bit of an advantage as he remains with his Chip Ganassi Racing team. Grosjean not only had the stress of his first time driving on the IMS oval, but also the concerns of his first day with a new team. It was his first day as a driver for Andretti Autosport.
Asked about the stress, Grosjean said,
“I think really the most stressful part was to know what my first lap speed was going to be. You grow up or move from there. I had no idea what to expect to get to 205. Then it went pretty smoothly, enjoyed
it. When you have to go above 215, that’s where the fun starts. ”
Grosjean felt at ease with the support he received
“I got some good explanation, some good tip from the guys, from the engineers also, James Hinchcliffe came in the morning, which I appreciated a lot. Michael was there, as well. When you’ve got those guys, they know what they’re talking about, so that was great to
be with them and to know what to do.”
Johnson fuflilled a childhood dream by running the oval in an Indycar.
“… just a special day to drive an INDYCAR at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I have truly, truly enjoyed it. It was a childhood dream come true. The experience is more than expected and something that I really, really enjoyed.”
He said today has heightened his interest in driving in the 500.
“(My interest) Definitely, definitely increased. I think
the look I had at Texas increased it and brought me here.
A little short on laps for what I wanted to experience today.
As comfortable as I felt my interest is at the highest it’s
been, certainly my comfort is at the highest it’s been. All
that said, there’s still a lot of work between now and really
pulling through with this opportunity.”
In an interview just after the day ended, Johnson’s face lit up when he was asked if today made him want to run the 500. While he admitted there is “still a lot of work to do” for him to be able to run in May, he seems determined to make it happen.
It was an exciting day to see two veteran drivers turn their first Indycar laps on an oval. For Grosjean, it was just the second time he had seen open wheel cars on the oval. Johnson, who has won at IMS four times in NASCAR on the oval, I enjoyed watching him run in a different type of car.
The rookie class for the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 could be very deep in talent and numbers. In addition to Grosjean and Johnson, there could be up to four drivers from this year’s Indy Lights Series, plus maybe a current NASCAR driver.