Grosjean’s race in Barber made him an early championship contender

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Another second place in Barber took Romain to the top of the championship standings

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Joe Skibinski

Andretti Autosport driver Romain Grosjean becomes a championship contender after another fight for the win in Barber Motorsports Park. He took the pole and fought until the end with Scott McLaughlin for the win of the Children’s Of Alabama Grand Prix, his second 2nd place in a row.

Grosjean’s season took a major twist after 2 disappointing races at the start of the season. In St. Pete, his race ended in the wall while fighting for the lead with Scott McLaughlin. A racing incident that was credited, in part, to a lack of patience from the Frenchman, who had hotter tyres than the Kiwi and would have other opportunities, but decided to try and overtake on the first chance that he had.

Then, in Texas, he drove a good race until the second-last lap crash, when he drifted up into the side of David Malukas, impeding him from scoring another top-5 finish.

However, Long Beach was a breakthrough for him. He was runner-up in a mature Andretti 1-2, with Kyle Kirkwood taking the flag first. He had the opportunity to fight for victory but decided to play the team game and defend the result from a fast-charging Marcus Ericsson behind.

And now, in Alabama, Grosjean had another great drive. From pole, he led the race from the start, with Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward fighting him hard on lap 1. Then, the No. 28 crew decided to go with a 2-stop strategy and Team Penske decided to put all of their cars run a 3-stopper.

In an uninterrupted race, the track advantage would potentially have been sufficient to make Grosjean take his maiden win on the NTT IndyCar Series, but Sting Ray Robb had an engine failure in lap 37, which brought out the only yellow flag of the race, making the 3-stopper the best strategy possible.

On the restart, Scott McLaughlin was behind. At the last round of stops, he rejoined ahead of the Andretti. However, he was unable to defend on cold tyres and Grosjean took a courageous move around the outside of turn-15, which turned to the inside of the last corner. Arguably, the best move of the season to date.

But, McLaughlin had three-laps younger tyres, more fuel, and much more push to pass. Grosjean had a problem with his dash and, even though it indicated that it had 99 seconds of overtake, he only had 3. It made management much harder and left him vulnerable to the No. 3.

Suffering from a lot of pressure, he made his only mistake of the race, missed his braking point, and went wide at the turn-5 harpin. McLaughlin had only to stay alongside and use his push to pass to overtake.

Then, he had to defend from a fast-charging Will Power, but kept great pace, not giving the defending champion a chance to take his place.He finished second and now he is 5th in the championship, only 15 points behind championship leader Marcus Ericsson. In a close series, he can be regarded as a title contender.It’s a much more mature season for him than his first season with Andretti last year.

The Frenchman is arguably the fastest Andretti driver this season. He took two pole positions, the most of any driver in the field until now, an 11th place start in Texas, just behind teammate Colton Herta and qualified third in Long Beach, behind Kyle Kirkwood, which took pole position that Saturday. Then, a couple of podiums, the most of any Andretti driver.His prospects this season are much better than 12 months prior, it’s just a matter of time for him to take his maiden IndyCar win.

He is driving fast, but still with a hot temper at times. Grosjean has errors of judgment in moments that he should not have. However, with more patience, the former F1 star is a real threat for the Astor Cup.After his second runner-up place in a row, he is feeling positive on taking the first step of the podium sooner rather than later.“It’s done today, so on to the next one, Indy GP. I was fast in ’21. Last year was a bit more difficult.

“The two races we finished this year twice second. We’re knocking on the door, and eventually the door will open. So I am not too worried. As Will [Power] said, it’s super competitive, it’s tough. We have to push every single lap hard. Yeah, today they did a better job on the strategy.”

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Chris Owens