The Andretti Autosport driver with the least amount of oval experience posted the five-car team’s fastest speed on Saturday in qualifying for the Indy 500 while three veterans and another rookie missed out on making the Fast 12.
It was a strange day for the squad as Romain Grosjean ended the session ninth on the speed chart while the next closest Andretti driver (Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner) was down in 20th. Marco Andretti’s second run—after finding electrical issues and a meandering Takuma Sato on the first go-round—landed in 23rd, just ahead of first-timer Devlin DeFrancesco in 24th. After an engine failure during his first qualifying attempt, Colton Herta produced the 25th-best speed on his second run, last within the team.
“It sucks that we’re [this far back], I’m not going to lie,” Rossi remarked after his run.
Herta offered a similar assessment.
“It was a pretty disappointing day,” he said. “We didn’t really do much and the running that we did do was pretty under par. We need to look and see what we did wrong and hopefully make corrections so that we are better in the race.”
It’s only qualifying ahead of a 500-mile race, but team COO Rob Edwards says it was a disappointing day outside of the one bright spot offered by Grosjean.
“We always care, right? That’s why you do this,” he told RACER. “And, you know, we’d ideally like to be like Ganassi with five guys in the Fast 12, but we’re not there. It’s certainly been a challenging day between Marco’s run getting compromised and then Colton’s engine issue. Clearly conditions were much better for those first 16 cars or so when they went. It was the pretty disappointing, but obviously we have to execute in the race, which is the important part of the month.”
If it weren’t for Grosjean’s fortuitous early qualifying run in favorable ambient conditions, the moods would have been darker.
“Romain did a great job qualifying [for the] first time here and, even for someone like Romain, it’s pretty challenging; pretty intimidating,” Edwards added. “Credit to [Grosjean’s race engineer] Olivier [Boisson] and Romain as they decided on a route they were going to go and delivered and executed on that route.
“He’s an intelligent guy; intelligent driver. The benefit is he’s surrounded by a lot of people that have won this race in the engineering room, right? Between [Andretti Technologies affiliates at Meyer Shank Racing] Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, our Alex Rossi, and then the experience that Mario and Michael Andretti have got, he’s a fast learner and I think we’re seeing that today.”