Romain Grosjean makes oval debut at Gateway in preparation for August race

Grosjean oval debut Gateway
Dale Coyne Racing
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Romain Grosjean made his oval debut in a multicar test at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway this week as he prepares for the NTT IndyCar Bommarito Automotive Group 500, on August 21, 2021 (8 p.m. NBCSN).

Grosjean entered the 2021 season only committed to running the road and street courses, but after watching the 105th Indy 500 on television in Switzerland with his family, he decided it was time to add an oval to his schedule in preparation of a 2022 Indy 500 run and announced Gateway would mark his debut.

Grosjean completed 166 laps around the 1.25-mile oval during the test, which was the third-most among the drivers present. His fastest lap of 177.445 mph landed eighth on the unofficial speed chart among 11 drivers.

With a time of 25.363 seconds, Grosjean was less than second off the pace of Andretti Autosport drivers Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi, who were fastest and second-fastest in the session, and better than oval veterans Sebastien Bourdais and Ed Carpenter.

The test was not completely incident-free for the former F1 driver. Grosjean had a lazy spin off Turn 2 during the session, but did not damage his car.

Grosjean’s successful test came on the same day Jimmie Johnson announced he would test at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the end of August, also as a possible precursor to running the 2022 Indy 500. In a Zoom news conference on Tuesday, Johnson revealed that he texted Grosjean asking for tips on handling the ovals.

Both Grosjean and Johnson entered the 2021 season with plans to run on road and street courses only, but the lure of the Indy 500 proved too great.

“Today was pretty good. It was my first time on an oval and it’s very, very different from everything I’ve done before,” Grosjean said in a release. “So, obviously, there’s a lot for me to learn on ovals, from the feel of the car, to how to go fast, to the feeling of knowing what I need in the car.

“I want to say that everyone that thinks driving on an oval is easy, is getting it completely wrong! It’s actually very tough, and special, but I had a lot of fun.

“We went through the day and gathered a lot of information. In that aspect it was super positive. We worked well and we learned that we could extract more performance from the car which is great. At the end of the day, on the last, long run the car felt very nice and I was happy with it. I think that was key for us today, getting some key data, getting me comfortable in the car and being able to attack on a long run. Now we can put it all together when we come back in a few weeks for my first oval race. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The first three of four oval races on the 2021 calendar had Pietro Fittipaldi behind the wheel of the No. 51 Dale Coyne Honda. He finished 15th and 21st in the Texas Motor Speedway doubleheader and 25th in the Indy 500.

The Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway will be a one-day show with with practice, qualifying and the race all on the same day.