LONG BEACH, Calif. — Stop me if this sounds familiar.
In the final laps of Sunday’s (April 16) Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Swiss-born Frenchman Romain Grosjean was closing in on the leader, an American former champion of Indy NXT. Both drivers were searching for their first win at the historic Southern California street circuit and Grosjean was on the back foot, unable to use as much push to pass as he’d like. As the laps ticked by, he watched out the aeroscreen as someone else took the twin checkered flags on Shoreline Drive.
For the second year in a row, despite his very best efforts, Grosjean came up just one position short. He’ll celebrate another NTT IndyCar Series podium, but will have to wait at least a few more weeks for his first IndyCar win. Agonizingly, the 2011 GP2 (now Formula 2) feature race at the Hungaroring is his most recent first-place finish in any form of motorsports.
Again, Romain is the runner-up.
It’s a third consecutive heartbreak to start the season for the former Renault, Lotus and Haas F1 wheelman. On the streets of St. Petersburg, late-race contact with Scott McLaughlin took both drivers out of a battle for the lead. A strong top-five run last time out at Texas Motor Speedway ended with a spin into the wall and a caution that handed the win to Newgarden. Now in Long Beach, Grosjean must listen to his teammate describe the elation of winning his first IndyCar race while he fields questions about how it feels to finish second, again.
But his answer is simple and lighthearted: “It’s better than finishing third for two years in a row.”
Speaking to the media, including Frontstretch, from the Long Beach Convention Center, Grosjean continued: “I didn’t even want to go for the win today [after the results from] the first two races.”
“I tried [to go for the win] a couple of times last year … If we had won St. Pete and finished on the podium at Texas, things would have been slightly different. But we did not, and for everyone I think it is more important that [Andretti Autosport] are first and second then just trying to go for the win. We’re going to Barber [Motorsports Park] in two weeks, I’m not worried. We’re going to have a fast car. We could win Barber, we could win [the Indianapolis road course] … an Indy 500.”
It wouldn’t be controversial to claim that Andretti as an organization struggled in 2022, and Grosjean clearly failed to match the results of his teammates Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi. While they won once each, Long Beach was his only podium result.
But now that the Andretti Hondas are the class of the field on the road and street courses that make up the majority of the IndyCar series calendar – topping the charts in preseason testing at the Thermal Club, sitting on pole and leading the most laps at St. Pete and Long Beach – Grosjean has a car that can win week-in-week-out for the first time in over a decade.
That certainly impacts the calculus. Now that “championship” is a word in Andretti’s vocabulary, Grosjean can afford to go home with a good points day. And that’s going to be an adjustment.
Driving for midfield F1 teams or Rick Ware Racing, or even last year’s Andretti Autosport, Grosjean needed to seize every opportunity with both hands, not knowing when he’d get another. That’s given the racing world highlights like his 2021 pass on Jimmie Johnson in WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew, and lowlights like the Spa-Francorchamps start crash that earned him a one-race suspension in 2012.
But that’s no longer the case. Grosjean has led laps under green or finished on the podium in every race so far this year. He has contended for the win every time he’s taken the green flag. That’s got to be a relief.
Although, says Grosjean: “The big relief is when I win a race. Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.”
Well, this year, Romain Grosjean has hope. That makes a difference.
About the author
Jack Swansey primarily covers open-wheel racing for Frontstretch and co-hosts The Pit Straight Podcast, but you can also catch him writing about NASCAR, sports cars, and anything else with four wheels and a motor. Originally from North Carolina and now residing in Los Angeles, he joined the site as Sunday news writer midway through 2022 and is an avid collector (some would say hoarder) of die-cast cars.
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