Indianapolis 500 Pre-Race Week: All Posts, One Place

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My MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and I got into Indy on Wednesday, and have been at the track flat out since Thursday. In case you’ve missed any of our extensive coverage leading up to the 98th Indianapolis 500, we put it all together in one easy-to-bookmark post, with each link below. Enjoy!

TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY (Indy 500 Media Day/IMS Community Day)
Indy 500 Drivers go across North America for media day duties
Carpenter, Hinchcliffe developing friendly rivalry; offer great banter at Media Day
Sunoco to sponsor Indy 500 rookie-of-the-year award
2014 Indianapolis 500 Practice Analysis

THURSDAY (IMS Media Day)
IndyCar’s Sam Schmidt set to unveil SCI Challenge in bid to cure paralysis
The new Dallara IL-15 Indy Lights chassis is officially revealed
Scott Dixon trying to quench six-year thirst for milk at Indy
Josef Newgarden pays it forward by helping a stranger, then eating Chipotle
After 2013 near-miss, Hunter-Reay confident ahead of this year’s Indy 500

FRIDAY (Carb Day)
Indy 500 drivers are choosy about their milk in victory lane
Indy 500: JR Hildebrand working in harmony with pole sitting Ed Carpenter’s team
Good cause and increased comfort level highlights Pippa Mann’s third Indy 500
Tony Kanaan leads final practice for Indy 500
Chaves beats Brabham by inches for Freedom 100 Indy Lights win (VIDEO)
Can RLL, Servia stealthily strike at Indy again? Includes Dan Patrick Show video
With Indy 500 prep complete, Kurt Busch starts looking ahead for the double
Indy 500: What will Carlos Munoz do for an encore?
Ganassi protege Sage Karam turns in stellar Carb Day ahead of Indy 500 debut
Indy 500: Even with draft, Will Power fine with leading at white flag

SATURDAY (No on-track activity)
Indy 500: Experience is a virtue for former champ Jacques Villeneuve
Standard six first-timers plus Kurt Busch to fight for Indy 500 rookie glory
Juan Pablo Montoya looking forward to Indy 500 return
2014 Indy 500 Driver-by-Driver One-Liners
Indy 500 Festival Parade Round-Up (VIDEO)

SUNDAY 
Franchitti set to pace field from outside the cockpit
Can Helio finally turn dream of fourth Indy 500 win into reality? 

TOWNSEND BELL’S INDY INSIGHTS
Monday: How Townsend Bell puts a deal together
Wednesday: His broadcast and driving balancing act
Thursday: Townsend’s take on IMS’ latest month of May format
Friday: Analyzing the week of pre-race practice and qualifying
Saturday: Off-track time management
Sunday: Shifting to race day, beast mode

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

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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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.”