Romain Grosjean happy with second in GMR Grand Prix, unhappy with traffic

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In only his third NTT IndyCar Series start, Romain Grosjean challenged for his first career win until he gave up the lead late in the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to Rinus VeeKay, who scored his first win in his 19th start. Grosjean earned his first podium finish instead.

“I think we’re kind of disappointed to be second but also super happy, and I was telling the team, look, guys, that’s a great day,” Grosjean said in the post race press conference. “You can’t be disappointed being second. That’s fantastic.”

“We’ve had a strong car all weekend. We were leading the race quite easily in the first stint. We got a bit unlucky with traffic and back markers. I think that cost us a chance to go for the win, but also Rinus was quite fast on a different strategy.

“The right one, I guess.”

Grosjean opted to start on faster red tires, but when he made the mandatory switch to blacks for his third stint, he lost enough pace to allow VeeKay to pass him and then extend his lead in a series pit stops in the second half of the race. VeeKay secured the win with a dramatic three-wide pass over eventual third-place finisher Alex Palou and Jimmie Johnson, who they were lapping.

VeeKay started on blacks after saving a set of reds in qualification. That allowed him to pick up the pace at the end.

Grosjean started the race from the pole for the first time in his IndyCar career.

“But we’ve done great work, and sitting second in my third race starting in IndyCar, it’s pretty big,” Grosjean continued. “It is a tough championship. There’s super good talent here, super fast drivers.

“Yesterday I felt amazing in qually. This morning in the warmup we didn’t get quite it right and we made some changes for the race, and that worked well.

“I think I did a pretty good job at the first rolling start leading the field, kept myself first through the first corner and then the restart felt a little bit more natural to me, so that was good, as well, and the car was very, very nice. I still think there is a few areas we can work and improve. That’s what we’re going to do.”

And while Grosjean was incredibly happy to finish second, he was able to identify the challenge that may have cost him the victory. Lapped traffic, both in the pits and on track, denied Grosjean the opportunity to stay in contact with VeeKay at the end of the race.

“I think (VeeKay) still came out with a good lead and also I was behind two cars leaving the pit lane; back markers,” Grosjean said. “So it was a tough day in terms of overtaking people.

“I know it’s a really good track with a really good straight line, but when the lap cars are using their Push-to-Pass, it’s hard to get by, and then obviously you’re going to push harder on your tires and get a bit of a harder time, and you just can’t really do the pace you want.”

Once back on track for the final segment, Grosjean was stuck behind Sebastien Bourdais, who ended the GMR Grand Prix 19th as the first driver one lap off the pace. Bourdais was going just fast enough to keep Grosjean behind him, but slowly enough to allow VeeKay to build on his lead.

“I think every series is different, and you’ve got blue flags issued everywhere,” Grosjean said. “In Formula 1 I was shown the blue flags quite a bit over the last few years and it was terrible for us. The leader complained that it wasn’t good enough.

“Here today obviously I wish it was on more often because I was the guy that was chasing them, but it’s the rule that IndyCar uses. Is there room for improvement? Probably. Is there a perfect solution? No. But definitively I think traffic cost us the win today.

“I think the fact that the back marker can use the Push-to-Pass to defend from the leader, that’s a bit more annoying.”

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”