Romain Grosjean might be the NTT IndyCar Series’ most popular driver among its fans, but after a couple of rough exchanges on Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, his popularity among on-track rivals is on the decline.
It started on lap 15 of the 90-lap contest as Andretti Autosport teammate Colton Herta tried to make a pass by swinging right on the front straight and found his No. 26 Honda being crowded towards the pit wall on the left by Grosjean’s No. 28 Honda.
“It was a hard fight,” Herta told RACER. “I didn’t really like that he moved once I was alongside him, especially for teammates. Once you get to the inside, you open up the line. As you could see me and [Andretti veteran] Alex [Rossi] do for that each other. But he didn’t want to do that. That’s OK. I think he just raced a little harder than me and Alex would do for the future.”
Herta was measuring his comments while speaking about an Andretti stablemate while Graham Rahal wasn’t as kind when recounting the lap 87 clash where Grosjean hit his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda during pass at the hairpin.
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“Good racing with [Rossi], Colton, Scotty [McLaughlin],” Rahal told IndyCar Radio. “Good racing with a lot [of drivers]. Just one particular guy [Grosjean] not so clean. We’re gonna have to have a little sit down; a little conversation, about what the hell is going on here.
“I think the drivers need to get together — all of us — because I’m not the only one with a problem. It’s quite a significant number of drivers that have had run-ins with this guy. As I said on TV, when the roles are reversed, officiating had better be consistent…because it’s gonna be reversed at some stage. I’m not gonna play nice. This guy has overstayed his welcome.”
Grosjean finished seventh, best of the four Andretti drivers while Rahal finished eighth, best of the three RLL entries after being passed by Grosjean not long after their contact.
For his part, Grosjean shrugged off the incident as a consequence of close racing and the difficulty level of passing on the Barber circuit.
“Yeah, we touched a couple of times but it was good racing,” Grosjean said. “It was tough out there; just, you know, Barber is a very good track but it is very hard to pass, especially when you’re a train [of cars]. If the car in front of you doesn’t have anyone in front then you can try a different line, but they were all in line, so it was quite tricky.”
As he looked at the replay, Grosjean commented, “So, here we touch a bit, and then here we touch again so it’s good racing. I guess it’s IndyCar — wheel-to-wheel action!”
Asked whether he thought IndyCar race control should take action over the incident, Rahal responded, “I’ll let you guys decide. But as another driver in the series told me, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,’ and it’s kind of been his reputation over his whole career over in Europe and we’re learning his reputation quickly here. So, to me, if race control doesn’t want to do anything then they’re not going to do anything, but when we go and punt him they better not do anything to me — which, in the past I’ve been penalized for a lot less than that.”