INDIANAPOLIS – Romain Grosjean, whose Formula One career ended in a blaze of fire last November, used a scorching-fast qualifying lap to claim his first NTT IndyCar Series pole Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Swiss-born driver from France, who still has scars from his fiery crash on the first lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix on November 29, 2020, ran a fast lap of 1:09.4396 around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Friday evening.
The former Formula One driver will start on the pole in Saturday’s GMR Grand Prix in the No. 51 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.
“The feeling, I had forgotten what it was,” Grosjean said as he celebrated the pole as an IndyCar rookie. “Amazing. When I saw the group, I was in today, I thought, ‘Oh, Dear.’ Those last few laps I was on it. What a day for us.”
Even after the crash in Formula One with Haas F1 Team last November, team owner Dale Coyne believed Grosjean could be a race winner in the NTT IndyCar Series. He was determined to hire him.
“You look at his resume and look at how great he was before he got into Formula One, we knew he could win races and win poles, and that’s why we hired him,” Coyne said.
Grosjean was able to withstand some fast laps from Josef Newgarden at the end of the Firestone Fast Six, while countering with some fast laps of his own, to claim the pole.
Newgarden, who won the first race of a doubleheader on the IMS road course last October, starts second after running a lap at 1:09.5865 in the No. 2 Chevrolet for Team Penske.
“I did a pretty good lap to be honest with you, we just got beat,” Newgarden said. “It’s a lot of work to finish second, so I can’t be disappointed about that. Winning, at the end of the day, is what is important.
“Look, Grosjean is a great driver and I’m not surprised. You can get a jump on any car in this series, and they can win. That’s the great thing about this series, anyone can win. Ultimately, we put in a lot of work at Team Penske and that makes us successful. We have what we need to win this tomorrow.
“Romain is in a great position, let’s just get through the start and fight it out tomorrow.”
Jack Harvey’s No. 60 Honda was third at 1:09.6528, followed by Alex Palou’s 1:09.7118 in the No. 10 Honda. Rookie driver Scott McLaughlin lines up fifth in the No. 3 Chevrolet for Team Penske, with Conor Daly’s No. 20 Chevrolet rounding out the “Fast Six” at 1:09.8862.
Big names that missed the “Fast Six” included Colton Herta, who starts seventh; three-time winner Simon Pagenaud in 10th; three-time GMR Grand Prix winner Will Power in 12th; Alexander Rossi in 14th and six-time and defending series champion Scott Dixon in 16th.
Another Indy car rookie in Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, starts 23rd. Two-time Indy 500 winner and 1999 CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya starts last in the 25-car field.