Romain Grosjean will remember his maiden IndyCar oval race at Gateway last weekend as a momentous experience that was both amazing and complicated.
The Dale Coyne Racing driver, who wasn’t scheduled to sample the thrills of oval racing at the start of the season, enjoyed his baptism of fire on the 1.25-mile track in Illinois, a well-suited venue for a rookie.
Grosjean qualified P15 for the 260-lap race and clocked in 14th, but the Frenchman’s breathtaking display at one point during the evening rendered his final position in the pecking order irrelevant.
The former Haas driver played it safe at the outset, steering clear of a succession of crashes and caution periods but holding his own in the thick of the pack.
But with one third of the race under his belt, the driver of the #51 DCR Dallara-Honda got going, and for the better part of 20 laps, Grosjean indulged in a sensational passing masterclass over a collection of IndyCar veterans that mesmerized the fans and elevated him into the top ten.
And the oval rookie would have perhaps finished further up the order without the unfortunate timing of a caution period that put the purple racer a lap down. Regardless, Grosjean had undoubtedly showed his promising potential.
“I finished my first oval race,” he said. “Some of the parts were amazing, some of the parts were more complicated. It was a very, very good experience.
“We tried a strategy that didn’t quite go our way, so the end result isn’t as good as our race, but we had a fast car, we learned a lot.”
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The complicated part included an out lap on lap 125 that brought him too close for comfort with the wall, but the perilous moment had at least taught Grosjean a lesson.
“I made a couple of mistakes on cold tyres and got into the marbles,” he explained. “
“I was able to save it and I managed to make some good passes, but we were unlucky on the strategy, and it didn’t work out and we didn’t get our lap back.