Romain Grosjean defies the odds to take first career IndyCar pole at IMS

Romain Grosjean defied all odds to take his first career IndyCar pole position at the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The rookie edged out two-time champion Josef Newgarden in only his third weekend with Dayle Coyne Racing. This marks the Frenchman’s first single-seater pole since his GP2 days in 2011.

It is also the first pole position for Dayle Coyne Racing since 2018, when compatriot Sebastian Bourdais topped qualifying in Pheonix.

Penske’s Newgarden lost out by only 0.128s but starts in a promising position for the race tomorrow.  Seven out of the last eight here have been won by Penske, will they add to that tally?

GMR Grand Prix, Scott McLaughlin. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski.

Scott McLaughlin was arguably just as impressive, sneaking into the Fast Six for the first time in his career and starting in fifth position after his incredible weekend at Texas Motor Speedway behind Meyer Shank’s Jack Harvey in third and Chip Ganassi’s Alex Palou in fourth. Ed Carpenter’s Conor Daly rounded out the Fast Six.

Grosjean only just barely made it through Round two, following a surprise exit from Indianapolis Road Course expert Will Power. The Australian spun on the penultimate corner and was prevented from restarting with a clutch issue. He had previously made it into the Fast Six on eight of the last nine attempts at this circuit. The four-time IMS winner will have some work to do starting tomorrow’s race in twelfth.

Colton Herta, who today signed a new multi-year contract extension with Andretti Autosport, missed out on the Fast Six in seventh, while Rinus VeeKay starts just behind in eighth.

Ed Jones made it two Dayle Coyne Racing cars in the Top Ten, outpacing Penske’s Simon Pagenaud in tenth, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal eleventh.

GMR Grand Prix. O’Ward. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski,

Free Practice pace-setter Alexander Rossi will start fourteenth after just missing out on Round Two, ahead of reigning champion Scott Dixon, who starts two places further back in a disappointing sixteenth. Second-place driver in the championship, Pato O’Ward starts a further two places back 18th.

Jimmie Johnson was slowest in his qualifying group but will start twenty-third ahead of Dalton Kellett and IndyCar returnee Arrow McLaren SP’s Juan Pablo Montoya, who had his two quickest laps deleted for holding up  Alex Palou.

STARTING GRID:

  1. Grosjean
  2. Newgarden
  3. Harvey
  4. Palou
  5. McLaughlin
  6. Daly
  7. Herta
  8. VeeKay
  9. Jones
  10. Pagenaud
  11. Rahal
  12. Power
  13. Rosenqvist
  14. Rossi
  15. Ericsson
  16. Dixon
  17. Sato
  18. O’Ward
  19. Hunter-Reau
  20. Bourdais
  21. Kimball
  22. Hinchcliffe
  23. Johnson
  24. Kellett
  25. Montoya

Grosjean joins Dale Coyne Racing for the 2021 IndyCar season

Romain Grosjean is to join Dale Coyne Racing for the 2021 IndyCar season. The French driver will make his debut with the Rick Ware entry and will race in all 13 road and street races.

This heralds a remarkable comeback narrative after being dropped from the Haas F1 team alongside teammate Kevin Magnussen. There were question marks looming as to whether Grosjean may altogether retire from racing after a near-fatal high-speed accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix left him with multiple degree burns, broken ribs and a dented confidence.

“It was never an option,” Grosjean said, concerning any doubts following the Bahrain accident. “I felt like I wanted to go back racing.”

The soon-to-be rookie has no qualms about returning to top tier racing, excited about the prospect of a return to competitiveness.

“What I want is to be happy and enjoy my time in racing,” Grosjean said during his Twitch stream, suggesting there is a pathway to longevity in the American single seater series: “And if I do, I would stay longer for sure. And if things don’t go to plan, I would come back to Europe but I think its going to be great.”

During Dale Coyne Racing’s official press conference Romain stated he had been in early contact with the American outfit: “I got in touch with Dale last year before Imola and I really felt that they were enthusiastic about getting me on board. I’ve been watching the races, the series looks super competitive, the cars look fun to drive.”

Romain Grosjean, Haas (Joao Filipe, DPPI / Haas F1 Media)

Santino Ferrucci, who drove the #18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, left the series for the NASCAR Xfinity Series to compete for Sam Hunt Racing, and Alex Palou, who drove the #55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda, left the team to replace Felix Rosenqvist at Chip Ganassi Racing. Grosjean will be teammates with Ed Jones who will replace Ferrucci in the #18 Vasser-Sullivan Honda.

Grosjean will join Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson, Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais as the ex-Formula 1 drivers on the 2021 grid.

Achieving a respectable 10 podiums, 391 career points and a fastest lap in his time in F1, he will be looking to add to his list of achievements, aiming to get up to speed as soon as possible.

On the subject of his injuries Grosjean was in optimistic spirits: “It’s going okay. My left hand is still quite marked but it’s uglier than it is bad I will say. It’s all working well, the left-hand ligament was pulled away so I’ve had surgery.”

He will get his first test in his new machinery on the 22nd February at Barber Motorsport Park. There are reservations whether he will be fully fit by that point but he iterated it is not long away.

“The first test is the 22nd of February. I may not be 100% but [I will be] good enough to do well. By race one I am going to be ready and I’m not going to worry about it. I have been in the gym. It was a difficult call for the doctor but we knew there were more risks of delaying the healing. With the season postponed a little bit it all played into my hand, if I can use the play on words.”

French racing drivers have had a good open wheel record in the United States. Sebastien Bourdais holds the most consecutive IndyCar championships 2004-2007 (4) while Simon Pagenaud is the last European to win the championship in 2016.

With a sporting comeback story such as this, this will hopefully give fans who were still reluctant to follow the IndyCar series more reason than not.