INDIANAPOLIS — You don’t know what you don’t know. Prior to 2021, Romain Grosjean didn’t know much about the Indianapolis 500. Who could blame him? He grew up overseas and his racing path took him towards the Formula One direction.
He came over here in 2021 and was willing to try out the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. However, it was only going to be on the road and street courses. Ovals were off limits. No real interest in them anymore.
Fast forward to now. Grosjean is about to embark on his second Indianapolis 500 start. From a wide-eyed experience in 2021 when he felt during the GMR Grand Prix that he wanted to maybe do this, to testing in October of that year to see if it can be real, to actually doing so a year ago, Grosjean is getting the whole experience and one that has him amazed on just how special this race truly is.
During the media availability on Thursday, Grosjean sported a customary sponsor shirt. However, if you look closer, he also had a Riley Children’s Hospital pin attached too. I asked him about it. He gets it. In two years, he’s already figured Indianapolis out and loves what he’s learned and sees.
“That’s amazing to feel it in the city,” Grosjean told me on Thursday morning in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway victory podium. “They embrace totally. “You know, we can show up at the Brickyard Golf Crossing anytime we want and we have a tee time and people are excited to play with us or let us through the golf course.
“And yeah, you go to Riley and the kids love racing. You’re with them and you go downtown and everyone wishes you good luck and know what’s happening. So I got a super cool experience about the atmosphere here.”
Sounds like Grosjean has caught the Indy bug. Bad news for him, it’s not curable. The only treatment is to come back every May to satisfy that hunger. It’s that special. You talk to anyone out in those massive grandstands and typically everyone of them has a number. That number being how many years that they’ve been coming here and why they’ve brought newcomers back with them.
That’s how you get 325k+ in attendance on race days here and why Grosjean is back this year and would love nothing more than to come back again next year too.
“They’re gonna come back,” Grosjean said on his kids perspective of this place. “I mean, they’re amazed by how many people are here on race day and what was that like.”
Will they see their daddy drinking the milk on May 28?
Grosjean was getting comfortable in practice on Wednesday but feels like he’s getting more and more comfortable inside of the car in general here.
“Yeah, it’s getting better,” he told me. “I know a little bit more on what I need from the car. A lot of people told me Year 1 was the easiest. “I think like yeah, two is easier in terms of knowing what’s coming and knowing what to expect and knowing kind of what to do is the car.”
He’s done a much better job acclimating to his second season with Andretti this year. He’s scored two poles and a pair of runner-up finishes. He had a car capable of winning in St. Pete, Long Beach and Barber. He comes to the Indy 500 fourth in points and has a very realistic shot at this year’s championship.
Before we get there, we first have Indy and a discipline that he admits that he didn’t know much about.
“I’m starting to cook my own recipe,” he said on if he’s able to convey what he wants in a setup here yet. “I’m starting to know exactly what I want. We all have different feels and different needs in the car. I think I’m getting much better understanding what kind of setup I want to run and what I need personally for the car.”