INDIANAPOLIS — 2 years after Andretti Autosport put 4 cars in the Fast Nine Shootout here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they only put 1 car in the top 6 Rows for next Sunday’s 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). If I told you that you could have 3 guesses on which of the Andretti cars would advance to Sunday’s Shootout, I don’t know if you’d have come up with Romain Grosjean.
Marco Andretti just won the pole here in 2020. Colton Herta has qualified in the top 10 in all 3 of his previous attempts including a Front Row starting spot just last year. Alexander Rossi was second quickest on Fast Friday and has placed his car in the top 11 in 5 of his 6 tries.
Instead, it was Grosjean who looked so uncomfortable on Thursday. He circled the 2.5-mile oval with a four-lap average of 232.201 mph which made him 9th on Saturday.
Grosjean admitted that his qualifying draw did help. He went out 5th this morning as which 5 of the top 6 qualifiers all advanced to the Fast 12.
“I think the day was very straight forward,” he said. “We had an easy first run. The car felt good, and we played conservative on the downforce. I think I was lucky to draw a small number, so I was happy to start fifth qualifying.
“Honestly, those were fairly straight forward and not too complicated. Tomorrow conditions will be different. Probably going to have to trim more to try to go faster, but so far so good.”
Still, as the lone Andretti representative in the Shootout, is that going to be enough to gain a pole? Sometimes, having the luxury of a teammate to help setups off with could gain you that little bit of extra to get further up the grid.
Grosjean as a rookie doesn’t have that while almost everyone else does. Only he and Takuma Sato are without a teammate on Sunday.
“My engineer would tell me to just go with the feeling which I did today,” he told me. “It worked pretty well. It’s definitely not advantageous, but I think it’s not disadvantage.
“We know what we’re doing, and we should have a good car tomorrow. I think the condition is going to be different, but luckily, we have a practice session, so that should help us to get everything ready for quali.”
Grosjean though still took a liking to the whole atmosphere and even said while his kids weren’t here this weekend, they were doing some funny cheering back at home.
“I think it’s all the rituals and tradition around here, right? The picture after the qualifying lap. I didn’t have my family today, but I was glad to make the family picture with my engineer and his wife. They are like my family here in the U.S. for me.
“I know my kids were booing everyone going after me on TV, so they wouldn’t — it’s very bad, but I was very proud of them. (Laughing)”