Grosjean Pole- From Flames to Fame

Photo: Romain grosjean hug chief mechanic Olivier Boisson after winning the pole. Photo by Mike Silver

Romain Grosjean leaping from his burning car in Bahrain is finally put away. Grosjean won the pole for tomorrow’s GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He did not win the pole by default. Grosjean had to hold off two time series champion and multiple pole winner Josef Newgarden to achieve the top spot for the race. The pole is just the third all time for Dale Coyne racing and the first on a natural road course. Sebastien Bourdais won a pole on the oval at Phoenix in 2018. Mike Conway took the pole for Detroit Race 2 in 2016.

In a qualifying session which saw points leaders Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward struggle and pokle master Will Power cause a red flag in Round 2, Grosjean joined three other fast six newcomers- Conor Daly, Alex Palou, and Scott McLaughlin to fight for the pole along with Jack harvey and Newgarden.

“Amazing,” Grosjean said. “When I saw the (first qualifying) group I was in, I was like, ‘Oh, dear, if we can get out of the first group, we’re going to be OK,’ and we did. That last few laps, we were on it. What a day for us.

“I’m happier than I have been in a very long time.”

In the only other natural road course run this year, at Barber, Grojean started 10th and finished seventh. His getting to the Fast Six wasn’t much of a shock, but earning the pole was.

Notes on a Strange Day

The wierdness wasn’t reserved for qualifying. The practice sessions had some odd happenings as well. In session 1, Alex Palou’s team discovered a water leak before he got on the track. Palou missed the entire session. Palou bounced back to get in the Fast Six.

During the first practice we learned that Max Chilton and Carlin Racing withdrew from this weekend. Chilton was unable to return from England because of a travel issue. Today’s issue has no effect on their 500 entry.

Scott Dixon developed a clutch issue during the afternoon practice, Unlike Palou, he did not recover in qualifying and will start 16th. two spots ahead of Pato O’Ward. Dixon and O’Ward are first and second in points. Newgarden and Palou,, third and fourth in points, start second and fourth.

Juan Pablo Montoya looked quite uncomfortable in the third Arrow McLaren SP entry. He struggled to get the car through the final turns.

Conor Daly made the Fast Six for the first time. It has been a long time since Ed Carpenter racing has been in the Fast Six.

Newgarden and Palou were the only members of the Fast Six who have won a race. The series is on about as level a playing field as it has ever been.

Team Penske still does not have a pole this season.

A. J. Foyt Racing had a promising beginning to the season. All thee cars will start 20th or worse tomorrow.

Grosjean Joins Coyne/ Ware for Road/Street Courses

Romain Grosjean will run the road and street courses in car 51 for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing in 2021. The former F1 driver escaped serious injury in a fiery crash at the Formula 1 race in Bahrain in November. He had severe burns to his hands.

Grosjean began his Formula 1 career with Lotus in 2011. He had 10 podium finishes and was in the top 10 in the season standings in 2012 and 2013. The last five years Grosjean drove for Haas F1, a team that struggled constantly. He is looking forward to racing in a more competitive series.

Grosjean’s first test will be February 22 at Barber Motorsports Park, site of the NTT Indycar Series opener April 18.

Grosjean becomes the sixth former F1 driver in Indycar. He joins Sebastien Bourdais, Alexander Rossi, Max Chilton, Takuma Sato, and Marcus Ericsson in the series.

“Although, I’m not ready yet to take on the ovals! IndyCar has a much more level playing field than what I have been used to in my career so far. It will be exciting to challenge for podiums and wins again. My left hand is still healing, but we are just about ready to get back into the race car and to start this next chapter of my career, Grosjean said.”

Grosjean said it was a familty decision to not run the ovals this year, but he hasn’t completely ruled out running at Gateway.

“If I were 25 and single with no kids, I’d run the ovals,” he said.

Team owner Dale Coyne is thrilled with his new driver.

“We’ve been talking to Romain for some time now, even before his accident at Bahrain. He has shown interest in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for the past several months and we’re very happy that he has chosen to pursue his career with us and excited to welcome a driver with his pedigree to America, the Series and our team. We feel that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Series.”

Team co-owner Rick Ware added, “We’re thrilled to be entering our first full season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing with Dale Coyne Racing, and to have a driver of the caliber of Romain Grosjean to run the street and road courses makes it that much more exciting for us. We’re looking forward to this season.”

Ware said the team will announce its oval drivers and sponsors in a couple of weeks. it sounds as though there may be multiple drivers in the 51 for the ovals.

A third car, number 52, is entered for the Indianapolis 500, and “probably 4-5 more races,” according to Coyne. He has no plans for a third full time team.

Coyne begins testing at Barber Motorsports Park February 22 and will also test at Laguna Seca March 1. Coyne said the team will have four test days before the first race at barber April 18.

Back later with some quotes from the teleconference.