By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH, Calif. – A new chapter will begin for Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 team in 2022, announcing Friday that Romain Grosjean will compete in the entire 17-race schedule for the organization next season.
Grosjean will replace Ryan Hunter-Reay in one of the sport’s most recognizable cars. DHL will also stay with the team as it’ll be their 12th straight year sponsoring the No. 28 Honda-powered entry.
In his first 12 NTT IndyCar Series starts, Grosjean has won a pole and reached the podium three times, including last Sunday at Laguna Seca. Now with a multi-year deal established, October 6th is the day when Grosjean tests with his new team for the first time.
“I came to IndyCar not really knowing what to expect. Not even knowing if I could hold a steering wheel. To be racing for poles and podiums, not to far of a win. Now to join one of the biggest teams in motorsports, it’s a big task,” said Grosjean. “I’ve embraced America and the fans, who’ve given so much. Now I’m ready to turn left.”
Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti is very excited about the team’s future thanks to the Grosjean acquisition.
“I’ve watched him for many years in Formula One. Even with teams where he wasn’t in a competitive situation. He always gave it 110 percent,” Andretti said of Grosjean.
“No matter what situation was which is my type of driver. When he did come to IndyCar, I was very anxious to see how he would adapt with the cars and did exactly what I thought he would do. He was competitive right away.
“Then the next question was how he was going to do on an oval. He went out at Gateway and drove the wheels off them. At that point, we knew we had the right guy. I’m really excited about it and so happy to continue our relationship with DHL, who we consider family as well.”
For now, the competitive nature of Michael Andretti kicked in as the team are looking for its third straight Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach victory.
“He better not (get his first win) this weekend. He needs to save it for us,” Andretti said.
“If I do remember, that’s where you won your first race,” Grosjean replied.
“I won my very first and last race here,” Andretti commented.
As mentioned already, Sunday at Long Beach will mark the end of Hunter-Reay’s tenure with Andretti Autosport that has lasted 12 seasons. In those years, Hunter-Reay won a championship in 2012 along with 15 IndyCar victories.
“Ryan is a part of the family,” said Andretti. “That was planned before the season. It was no surprise for Ryan, but I want to shout out to him. He’s done so much and always be a part of our family.”
Long Beach will also mark Grosjean’s final chapter at Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing, a team he’s enjoyed his time with.
“The choice to join Andretti was very clear. But calling Dale was tough,” said Grosjean. “We’ve built a strong relationship and gave me a chance when I wasn’t sure of going racing. It turns out I’m okay, but I really want to thank Dale for the opportunity. He made me happy again.”
On top of having a full-time gig, Grosjean’s family is planning to move to Miami which is a part of stepping out of his comfort zone. His three kids are already eager to live in the United States, even saying they’re not going to miss Switzerland whatsoever.
“In life, every decision has a challenge. Coming to the U.S. was a challenge. It could’ve gone not well,” said Grosjean.
“After a month and a half in the states, in a bus. They didn’t want to go back to Europe. I was like, ‘Wow! They’re ready.’ They’ve enjoyed the two races they went. But we’re happy and are moving to the states.
“Is it for two years? Five years? Forever? I have no idea. But we’re ready to discover something new for the family. It’s a new chapter in our life.”
Additionally, Miami was a viable choice for Grosjean because his kids already approved to get their education and for wife Marion, it’s a direct flight to France where she continues working as a broadcaster.
“The kids made the exam to enter school in Miami. Big news for us, so we’re going to be in Miami,” said Grosjean.
“My wife still works in Paris and loves to fly sometimes. There’s a French group for our kids, so if we go back to Europe, they wouldn’t lose any years at school.
“The kids said, ‘When are we moving?’ I said, just finish the year and we’re there before Christmas.”
The 106th Indianapolis 500 is set to have a tremendous crop of rookies with Grosjean and Callum Ilott confirming their 2022 status Friday. It could also see Jimmie Johnson join the fray as he’ll participate in the Rookie Orientation Program at Indy next month.
Winning Rookie of the Year honors will be one thing but having Grosjean’s face on the Borg-Warner Trophy is another can of worms. Grosjean will go into it like any other race. Not having the mindset of entering to win right out of the gate because taking things a step at a time is crucial.
DHL is also no stranger to Indy excellence with Hunter-Reay winning the 2014 Indianapolis 500. That itself is what fueled the international brand of having Grosjean as their driver.
Despite having a strong relationship with Andretti Autosport, DHL’s CEO of Express Americas Mike Parra said it would’ve been tough from a promotional standpoint had Grosjean not run the entire oval schedule.
“That was a big part of the decision process,” said Parra. “We had that discussion with Romain if he was comfortable with that because that was extremely important. To have a driver just do street course for us was going to be difficult.
“Romain said no. ‘My family and I are in it to win it. We are in it for ovals as well.’
“That was a big part of our decision-making factor.”
Parra added that it’ll be tough moving on from Hunter-Reay but thrilled of the opportunity with Grosjean.
“Romain is globally known. We’re a global company and it’s a great fit,” said Parra. “(DHL) are equally excited to have Romain in the car.”