By David Morgan, Associate Editor
The runner-up step on the podium has become a familiar place for Romain Grosjean in his short time in the NTT IndyCar Series, with the driver of the No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda finishing second for the third time in his career in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Grosjean, who showed speed throughout the weekend, rolled off sixth when the green flag flew and kept himself near the front of the field for the majority of the day.
In an effort to gain an advantage over the other leaders, Grosjean’s team elected to put on the alternate Firestone reds during their final pit stop of the day on lap 56, while the others stayed with the primary Firestone blacks for the run to the finish.
After Simon Pagenaud’s off-track excursion into the landscaping around the fountain in Turns 2 and 3 brought out the caution and stacked the field back up, Grosjean had his chance to make a run at the leaders from fourth place.
Despite having to avoid Marcus Ericsson’s spinning car on Lap 67, Grosjean was able to make up the lost time, eventually catching and passing Alex Palou before setting his sights on leader Josef Newgarden and the chance at scoring his first IndyCar Series win.
Grosjean became Newgarden’s shadow as the laps wound down, as it seemed to only be a matter of time before he would try and make his move for the lead. However, before that could happen, another caution flag flew on lap 76 when Jimmie Johnson and David Malukas crashed in Turn 8, setting up a five-lap sprint to the checkered flag.
Though he was able to keep pace with Newgarden on the final restart, Grosjean wasn’t able to capitalize down the stretch, finding himself a half-second in arears of Newgarden’s Chevrolet when the caution flag flew on the final lap to bring the race to an early end.
“Very close, but not close enough,” Grosjean said. “It was fun. You know, we had the right tire strategy the last caution. I thought it was going to be great.
“Lost a bit of time when Marcus (Ericsson) stuffed it in front of me. I didn’t catch Alex (Palou) with the first overtake. If that one had worked, I think it was a win, but he did really good braking to defend his position. Had to wait an extra lap and use an extra 15 seconds of Push to Pass.
“Then Josef was up there. He made one mistake, but I just couldn’t use it. I have to be honest the Chevy engine was really fast on the straights, so I couldn’t quite keep up. Very happy with P2 today. First podium with the DHL colors. It’s a great day and I’m looking forward to more.”
Grosjean added that despite the caution on the last lap, he didn’t think the end result would have changed, with Newgarden holding the outright speed advantage.
“I think Josef had it,” Grosjean said. “I was looking at Turn 11, the hairpin, making a last-lap lunge maybe if I was close enough, but I don’t think I was close enough on that lap and Josef was driving well and not making any mistakes.
“It’s not ideal to finish under yellow, but I don’t think the result would have been much different.”