Grosjean on Pole for St. Pete

Romain Grosjean survived a crash filled fast Six to win the pole for tomorrow’s Firestone Grand Prtix of St. Petersburg. It is his second career pole. Grosjwean led a trio of Andretti Autosport cars in the Fast Six. Teammate Colton Herta will start second. Kyle Kirkwood will start sixth after a crash early in the final round.

The top six:

Romain Grosjean 59.5532 seconds

Colton Herta 59.96871::

Pato O’Ward 1:00.163

Marcus Ericsson !:00,4435

Scott McLaughlin No Time

Kyle Kirkwood No Time


The second round featured three cars from Andretti, three from Arrow Mclaremand three from Ganassi. Team Penske had just two cars advance- McLaughlin and Will Power.

Kyle Kirkwood had a great weekend going until he locked up the brakes and hit the wall on the first lap of the Fast Six. I still think he will have a strong race tomorrow.

We may be seeing the beginning of a rivalry between Arrow McLaren and Andretti. The teams have had the strongest cars all weekend. Whar=t a great story to dollow this year.

Grosjean’s pole is the 50th for the Andretti organization.

I tried following qualifying on the updated Indycar app. There are still some bugs to work out. The session time always started at 15:00 minutes and didn’t correct until about four minutes remained. The positions updated slowly, with a driver listed twice as his spot changed.

The new qualifying procedure did not profuce a radical change from the past.

The lineup sopuld make for a very interesting race tomorrow. Tire strategy and how the cautions fall-and there will be cautions- will determine the outcome.

Rinus VeeKay felt his lap was hindered and cost him a chanc to advance. He will start 24th. Veekay was in the top six early in his round 1 group and poised for a final run.

Indycar Season Preview-2023 Breakthroughs and Hot Seats

Today is the first in a series of preview articles as we head into the 2023 NTT Indycar Series season. Let’s take a look at four drivers who I think are going to have much improved years. Three are rookies from last year, and one young veteran I think is about to hit his stride. We will also look at some drivers who may be fighting for their jobs this year.

Drivers to Watch

Kyle Kirkwood

Kirkwood seems to be enjoying his new team. he has been quick in testing, as have his Andretti teammates. What remains to be seen is if his racecraft has improved. Last year Kirkwood sometimes tried too hard to overcome equipment deficits. the result was a lot of unforced errors and a 24th place finish in the final standings. He has the equipment and the team behind him to succeed this year. i expect to see a lot of the Kirkwood we saw on the Road to Indy in 2023. Will he win a race? I think that is possible, but not likely this season.

Christian Lundgaard

Lundgaard quietly earned Rookie of the Year in 2022, and showed steady improvement as the season went on. He earned seven Top 10 finishes, including two Top Fives and one podium. A year’s experience, backing by Hy-Vee, and an improving RLLteam should combine to see even better results for Lundgaard in 2023. I see him ending up in the TopTen at the end of the year.

David Malukas

A rough start to 2022 probably cost Malukas the Rookie of the Year title. He lost to Lundgaard by only 18 points. A driver who showed increasing maturity as the year progressed, Malukas drive to a brilliant second place at World Wide Technology Raceway. Malukas had one other top 10, at Iowa. He was the highest finishing rookie at the Indianapolis 500, but his lack of NASCAR titles cost him Indy Rookie of the Year. Of the three sophomores, I think Malukas is the most probable to eke out a win in 2023. Dale Coyne Racing doesn’t have the best equipment, but they know how to play the rules, and I think a race will fall his way.

Rinus VeeKay

It’s time for Rinus to stop teasing us. The potential is there for a breakout season. We have been waiting for the ECR driver to put together a solid, consistent season. VeeKay won the pole at Barber and finished third after a slow out lap following his second pit stop. He had a decent year in 2022 with six Top Tens and three Top Fives, but just one podium. Maybe we expect too much of VeeKay. I look for a top ten season finish and more regular top five appearances. A win is possible.

Hot Seats

Three drivers need to have really good seasons if they wish to stay in Indycar in 2024. One will be leaving his current team after the season, and this year is an audition for all the other teams. The other two have to show significant improvement in 2023.

Jack Harvey

We still aren’t sure what kind of a driver Jack Harvey is. Harvey had just one Top ten in 2022. That will not be good enough this coming season., I hoped for better results since he joined the series. For 2023, a different sponsor, different car number, and new crew may help Harvey rise to the level that fans have expected of him. I’m not expecting a win, but a final spot in the top 15 would be a significant improvement.

Romain Grosjean

I don’t know Grosjean’s contract status, but I thought when he joined Andretti, he would be a consistent contender for podiums and wins, 2022 was not a good year for Andretti overall, but I thought the former F1 driver would enhance their program. It didn’t happen. Grosjean has been quick in testing during the preseason, and he seems to feel the team has a better baseline heading into 2023. A win is possible, but more top five and top ten finishes are needed.

Felix Rosenqvist

Rosenqvist will depart Arrow McLaren at the end of 2023. In 2022,he had to fight to keep his job, and he showed himself to be up to the task. In 2023 his objective si to show the other teams that he belongs in Indycar. I think he does, and I have no doubt Rosenqvist will show well this season. A win will be tough given his teammates and the competition from other teams,but look for Rosenqvist to have a deal in place with a new team for 2024 before the season ends.

Grosjean Sees Stronger Season for Himself, Andretti

Romain Grosjean came away from the Spring Training tests at The Thermal Club optimistic about the upcoming NTT Indycar season. I spoke with at the St. Pete track build, where the driver of the number 28 DH car for Andretti Autosport represented the series.

He enjoyed his time with Lamborghini at Daytona, but is now fully focused on having his best Indycar season.

About Thermal Club, Grosjean found it “different or better than what we expected really. The facility was amazing , the track was actually pretty good for testing so we actually learned a fair bit of stuff from the two days of of testing.”

Grosjean at Long Beach last year. He finished second.

Grosjean said the team left California ahead of where they were at this point in 2022.

“We have a better baseline that we had last year,” Grosjean said. “We have one more test in Sebring before coming here. We’re going to work on our street setup. Last year we were quite competitive. We should have won Long Beach, almost had the pole in Nashville, so we know on street courses we’re pretty good.”

The team’s dynamic is “pretty good I like Kirkwood andColton as well as Devlin. We’re good, we’ve got a good team. I’m excited to get the season going.”

Grosjean hopes to score his first Indycar win in 2023, but admits it is going to be tough with 27 cars.

Grosjean Leads Practice as Track Record Demolished- Update with Time Sheet

Romain Grosjean led an Andretti/Meyer Shank attack on the track record in morning practice for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The top six were below the track record.

Andretti Autosport cars took three of the top four spots. Meyer Shank Racing has a technical alliance with Andretti.

I would still not discount pole chances for Will Power or Marcus Ericsson.

The session ran clean for the first 30 minutes. Jimmie Johnson had another wall contact bringing out the red flag. Johnson was3 cleared to drive this morning and is still eligible to qualify.

Graham Rahal brought out a red flag for contact. With six minutes remaining, David Malukas hD contact with the outer wall just past the fountain.

This morning ‘s session was the first instance of Indycar’s new practice policy. The schedule allowed 60 min for the 45 minute practice. The clock stopped on the red flags and drivers had the full 45 minutes of green flag running.

Qualifying will be interesting. I will have qualifying groups up in a bit


Some Teams Still Looking for Speed

Today’s schedule:

Gates Open 7:45 AM-1:30 PM

8:00AM – 8:45AM Indy Pro 2000 Race 2
9:00AM – 9:45AM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice 2 Peacock
10:00AM – 10:45AM Mazda MX-5 Cup Race 2
11:00AM – 12:00PM SRO GT America Race 2
12:30PM – 1:45PM NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qualifying Peacock

2:00 PM-2:30 PM Indy Lights Autograph Session Fan Village

3:00 PM- 4:00 PM Indycar Autograph Session Fan Village

4:00 PM-6:00 PM Party in the Park North Straub Park

8:00 PM Fireworks

On track activity is packed into just five hours today. The Indycar field has just 45 minutes to prepare for qualifying. Andretti Autosport had three drivers in the top 10 Friday while Team Penske and Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing each had two drivers near the top. The team that puzzled me the most was Arrow McLaren SP, who had Felix Rosenqvist 16th and Pato O’Ward 20th.

Chip Ganassi Racing didn’t have any driver higher than 15th place Marcus Ericsson.

The practice round today will be run in cooler conditions than Fridy’s late day session. The temperature at 12:30 when qualifying starts is expected to be 76 degrees and sunny, rising to 78 by the time the Fast Six begins.

Indycsr decided not to alter it’s qualifying format in spite of a larger full time grid and even more cars at some events. We saw a few cars backed up in turn 10 yesterday trying to make a gap, but not a huge line. A qualifying round may look different.

Yesterday’s fastest driver, Romain Grosjean, said about his session,

“I think we’ve got a very, very strong baseline, but I think there’s a little bit more to come if we put it all together. Hopefully we can
find that and have fun for the rest of the weekend.”

Will Power said about qualifying this season,

“It will be very tight qualifying sessions, and it’ll come down to whether you get a clean lap and don’t get held up, if someone doesn’t back
up or you don’t go through a yellow. Yeah, it’s going to be
that sort of year, which is great. I think it’s very good, very fun.”

Today will be a fun day. Practice and qualifying can be seen on Peacock.

Grosjean Leads First Practice

New year, different team, but Romain Grosjean hasn’t missed a beat. The second year driver led the first practice of the season at the Firestone Grand Prix this afternoon. Grosjean’s first run for Andretti Autosport turned a quick lap of 1:01.0525. His teammate, Colton Herta, was second fastest, 0.1042 seconds behind.

Six teams finished in the top 10, including three who switched teams for 2022- Grosjean, Simon Pagenaud, and Jack Harvey. Rookie David Malukas ended the session 10th.

Among the other rookies, Kyle Kirkwood was 12th, Devlin DeFrancesco 13th, Callum Ilott 22nd, Christian Lundgaard 25, and Tataiana Calderon 26th.

Defending series champion Alex Palou ended the day 17th, Marcus Ericsson in 15 was the fastest of the Ganassi drivers.

The session was halted briefly when Jimmie Johnson went into the runoff area in Turn 10 and returned to the track with his brakes on fire.

The results:

Rain Cuts ROP Short; Grosjean and Johnson Have Long Wait to Finish

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.

These photos by Joe Skibinski of Indycar sum up the day. Race cars and dark clouds

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.

Romain Grosjean photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

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.”

Jimmie Johnson photo by Chris Owens Indycar

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.

Update from IMS- Rain Delays Rookie Tests

A damp morning pushed back the start of on track activity by 10 minutes this morning. Jimmie Johnson left thepits first Romain Grosjean followed. Both drivers did an installation lap and returned to the pits. Johnson left to begin Phase 1 of his roomie test. Grosjean started out, but the yellow light came on for moisture at the south end of the track.

Johnson had completed five laps with a top speed of 208 mph.

Track drying efforts halted after a soaking rain hit the track.

Track drying has just resumed. More rain may arrive around 3:30.

Here are some photos from this morning.

Johnson, Grosjean Take Next Step in Indycar Careers

Photo: Romain Grosjean set for his new team.

Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean hope to complete Rookie Oientation tests at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today in preparation for their Indianapolis 500 debuts next May.

Jimmie Johnson. Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Johnson did not run any ovals in 2021, while Grosjean ran one, At World Wide Technology Raceway. Grosjean did a great job on his initial oval run.

Today’s activity begins at 10:30 am. ROP was originally scheduled to begin at noon, but was moved up because of a chance of rain this afternoon. The Turn 2 viewing mounds are open. There is no streaming of the tests.

Each car gets three sets of tires for the three phase test.

Phase 1- 10 laps 205-210 mph

Phase 2- 15 laps at 210-215 mph

Phase 3- 15 laps at at 215 + mph.

It will be hard to get used to seeing the 28 car with someone other than Ryan Hunter-Reay in it.