Romain Grosjean went high, went low, went forwards, and went backwards in his first oval race. Between the big saves as he chased the car up the track and the learning moments in between, the Frenchman also put on a passing clinic as he demoted a number of NTT IndyCar Series stars while rocketing inside the top 10 on merit with the No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda.
He eventually finished an unrepresentative 14th thanks to the unfavorable timing of a caution period, which put his car down a lap late in the contest. Overall, though, Grosjean proved he was a fast competitor and a faster student of this decidedly American form of racing.
“I finished my first oval race,” he said. “Some of the parts were amazing, some of the parts were more complicated. It was a very, very good experience. We tried a strategy that didn’t quite go our way, so the end result isn’t as good as our race, but we had a fast car, we learned a lot. I made a couple of mistakes on cold tires and got into the marbles. I was able to save it and I managed to make some good passes, but we were unlucky on the strategy and it didn’t work out and we didn’t get our lap back.”
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Rising to as high as eighth, Grosjean was one of few drivers to make multiple passes during a stint. With no real expectations to set for himself, the 34-year-old should leave WWTR with a clear understanding that he belongs on ovals and can run inside the top half of the field.
“For a while, it was absolutely incredible,” he said. “I’m happy with this first oval race. I’m a little dizzy right now but tomorrow should be better!”