Truex not happy about decision to put Gordon in Chase

5 Comments

With Jeff Gordon as the 13th driver for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, Martin Truex Jr. is now officially the guy that’s gotten the worst deal out of the controversy stemming from last Saturday’s race at Richmond International Raceway.

Truex was knocked out of the Chase after NASCAR penalized Michael Waltrip Racing substantially on Monday, allowing Ryan Newman to ascend to the second Wild Card transfer spot. On Friday, NASCAR put Gordon into the Chase, which caused Truex to air his frustration over still being left out of the post-season run.

“I’m not even sure what to say at this point. I’m kind of at a loss for words,” Truex said on Friday according to Jenna Fryer of The Associated Press. “How they make a spot for somebody – they kick me out to make a spot for somebody and then they don’t do the same for the other guys?

“It’s just unfair and nothing I can do about it.”

Last Saturday at Richmond, MWR’s Clint Bowyer spun out with seven laps to go to start the whole thing. At that time, the spin wound up enabling Truex to earn a Chase spot, while Newman and Gordon were left out.

But while NASCAR maintains it was unable to prove that Bowyer’s spin was deliberate, the sanctioning body would nail MWR on radio communications between Brian Vickers and team general manager Ty Norris that had the former being told to pit with three laps left.

Two nights later, NASCAR delivered its punishment: 50-point penalties for Truex, Bowyer and Vickers; probation for their respective crew chiefs; a $300,000 fine; and an indefinite suspension for Norris.

The penalties were especially hard to swallow for Truex after he had driven valiantly over the last two races with a cast on his broken right wrist, sustained in a crash last month at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“We ran third at Atlanta. We had a 20th-place car at Richmond, we battled our tails off to finish seventh with it and really, that’s as far as it goes for me,” Truex said.

“When the race was over, I wasn’t aware of what happened, what the cautions were for. I didn’t know the 55 [Vickers] pitted at the end…It’s a difficult situation, like I said, for all of us. Just ready to move on.”

Truex may be ready to move on, but it doesn’t change the fact that it seems wrong for him to be on the sidelines of this year’s championship battle after he had raced so hard to clinch a post-season berth.

Gordon, the second addition to the Chase in the last five days, showed some sympathy for Truex’s plight on Friday.

“He drove his butt off [at Richmond],” said Gordon. “I raced with him in the closing laps and he raced hard. You could tell what he was racing for. The guy didn’t do anything wrong. For that, I felt bad for him. But we didn’t get to see the race play out.

“We don’t know what the results were going to be because of the circumstances of that spin changed everything. That, to me, is the only reason I’m accepting being in in the 13th, because under normal circumstances I would say, ‘No, that’s not right.'”

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
0 Comments

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area. The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean, who finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full season, said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps another his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”