Smiles and good vibes were aplenty for Romain Grosjean after qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber Motorsports Park on his 35th birthday.
The former Formula 1 driver will grid up seventh for tomorrow’s 90 lap race – just ahead of Team Penske’s two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and barely missed the Firestone Fast Six.
“What a day, seventh in qualifying, that’s clearly above expectations!” expressed Grosjean. “But being so close to the Fast 6, obviously, I was really hoping we would get in but it’s still really great.”
Grosjean is making his IndyCar debut for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing spent 10 seasons in Formula 1 racing both Renault/Lotus and the American-based Haas F1 Team. His tenure in F1 ended hastily after a fiery crash in last November’s Gulf Air Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The Frenchman entered his IndyCar debut with limited experience in the series. He partook in a meager three offseason tests at Barber, Laguna Seca and Sebring prior to this weekend. He showed an uptick in practice from 21st in P1 to 17th in P2. That trend continued in qualifying as he broke into before turning his qualifying performance.
He blasted into the second round in qualifying ahead just behind subsequent pole sitter Pato O’Ward and ahead eventual Fast Six contestants Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon.
A berth into the Fast Six looked imminent before two-time Barber winner Will Power dispatched him by a scant by .0690 of a second.
Nonetheless, the driver of the No. 51 Nurtec Dot Honda was pleased with the progress he has made so far.
“The Dale Coyne Racing with RWR team really helped me to understand the qualifying tires. We’ve done really good work with the set up and I think we know where to look to go faster which is very positive. We’re going to enjoy this today but let’s focus on tomorrow. We have 90 laps of racing to do, I need to learn tire degradation, fuel saving, refueling, pit stops, how an IndyCar race goes. So, still a lot to learn tomorrow but I’m really happy with today.”