By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Pole sitter Romain Grosjean had the race at the palm of his hands, but a sequence of mid-race action changed everything. Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis turned from dream day into a bittersweet P2 finish after leading 44 of 85 laps.
In spite of coming up 4.9510 seconds shy of winning in his third start, Grosjean certainly made his presence known.
“That’s really a great day,” said Grosjean. “I thought we did really good work this weekend. We led at the start of the race and we’re super fast.”
The Frenchmen mastered the rolling start and restart with ease that it appeared it was going to be his first of many IndyCar victories. However, one man decided to enter the chat and that was Dutchman’s Rinus VeeKay.
When VeeKay pitted on Lap 37 for used alternate Firestone reds, Grosjean’s insurmountable lead hit some roadblocks. On two separate occasions, Grosjean dealt with another ex-F1 racer in Takuma Sato, who was trying to stay on the lead lap.
Grosjean’s No. 51 Dale Coyne w/ Rick Ware Racing Honda would finally pit on Lap 43, switching from reds to blacks. VeeKay’s herculean driving put him in prime position to be right on the back of Grosjean.
All credit goes to VeeKay navigating through traffic much easier. It all made the difference. Once Grosjean exited pit road, fresh vs. cold tires quickly ensued with the former reigning supreme. VeeKay took the top spot away on Lap 45 and never looked back. More so during final pit stops because VeeKay was well ahead of him and went on to score his maiden IndyCar victory.
While VeeKay took the top step of the podium, the strong Indianapolis crowd embraced Grosjean’s amazing run. Due to finishing P2, Grosjean got his first major podium since the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.
“The people are really behind me. I can tell and feel the support. It’s been incredible,” Grosjean commented. “You’ve seen me smiling in the U.S. and we’re happy to race. The team did super good, but got a little bit unlucky with the slower cars and traffic. P2 for our third race in IndyCar is not too bad.”
Grosjean won’t compete again until the Belle Isle doubleheader June 5-6, but moved up six spots in the championship standings. Thus, he’ll leave the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course 15th in points despite not running the ovals.
Pietro Fittipaldi will pilot Grosjean’s No. 51 Honda for the 105th Indianapolis 500. He’ll hope to be one of the 33 drivers competing instead of one of two going home.