INDIANAPOLIS — Romain Grosjean is gearing up for his 1st Indianapolis 500 start. But, if things went differently over a decade ago, he’d be a chef right now and not getting ready to strap into his No. 28 Dallara-Honda for Sunday’s 106th Running.
As to how?
First you have to look at how much attention Grosjean is getting now as a driver. I mean, how could he not. This is a driver who made 179 career starts overseas in Formula 1 including one that nearly took his life. Now, he’s here in the NTT INDYCAR Series and if not for being kicked out of a cooking class over a decade ago, maybe he wouldn’t have had a chance of racing in the year’s biggest motorsports event around this globe.
He made his F1 debut during the 2009 season with Renault. However, they told him at seasons end they wouldn’t bring him back for the full campaign in 2010. That irked him. So, he pursued a path outside of motorsports as a career change.
Grosjean loved cooking and wanted to possibly become a chef. So, off to cooking school he went. Until he did. He didn’t last long. Not because he wasn’t a good cook or anything because he actually is. He’s published cookbooks. It’s because he was too old for the class and they actually told him to leave.
“Well I wasn’t kicked out. I wanted to enter a cooking class after 2009. So early 2010 I was told I was too old,” Grosjean told me from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday. “They didn’t want me so it was okay. So I went back to Formula 1. It worked out well.”
I’d say it did. He raced and made a nice living for 11 more years in F1. He still had always had the cooking passion and was the cook of his household before COVID hit.
“It used to be me but during COVID I launched my e sports team and some businesses so it was quite busy back home,” Grosjean continued. “My wife started cooking and really started loving it and enjoying it so she does most of the cooking now.”
That has Grosjean starting on the Outside of Row 9 for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). He’s come a long way from not having any oval interest when he first came over at the beginning of the 2021 season.
Last year, Grosjean raced the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing/Rick Ware Racing. He excelled. He was having fun in a race car again. So much so, ovals weren’t so off limits as he thought. He tested at World Wide Technology Raceway and liked it enough that he raced there last August. He liked that so much that he wanted to race full-time this year.
That led him to Andretti Autosport. He did his rookie test here with Jimmie Johnson last October. Now, he’s slated to begin his first Indy 500 start.
“Well I feel more at home in the car on the oval than I did back then,” Grosjean told me on his thoughts now compared to being here in October. “It feels more and more natural driving the car and knowing where it needs to go. I still feel a long way to go. I’m very much a rookie. Last year I wasn’t a rookie on road and street courses. I didn’t feel like I was a rookie last year. On ovals, I did Gateway last year, a lap at Texas and now I’m here. There’s still a lot I feel like I can learn. I’ve never been in a car for 2 1/2 + 3 hours. I’ve never run that long of a stint.”
He’s also learned that this is a 500 mile race too and that he doesn’t need to push hard every lap.
“I need to push myself to be patient which isn’t my No. 1 quality,” he says.
As far as if he’s living up to what he’s expected a Month of May to look like?
“I came with no expectations. I didn’t know what was going to go into. Just get ready for it and go with the flow. The days are quite long. The biggest part of how much the track changes from a few degrees of weather, wind or sunshine.”
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