Paddock Buzz: Grosjean Drives JHR Closer to First Podium

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Ricardo Juncos Romain Grosjean

Juncos Hollinger Racing continues to make progress toward its first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES podium finish after a strong showing Sunday in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

Romain Grosjean finished fourth in the No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, the team’s best-ever finish in its third full-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Callum Ilott scored the team’s previous best of fifth last September, also at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

“It was a good race,” Grosjean said. “I knew we had a fast race car. It was very a physical race. Very hard. I think we did an amazing job all weekend. Very proud of everyone. Fantastic job. It was close to the podium.”

Grosjean, who started eighth, had an intense battle with former Andretti Global teammate Alexander Rossi for the final podium spot. Rossi drove his No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet past Grosjean on Lap 71 of 95 for third.

“I was coming for Rossi,” Grosjean said. “We’re friends, so it’s all good.”

Grosjean was on the opposite tire strategy as Rossi and wanted to see the chaotic ending of the race remain green. Instead, three cautions for nine laps over the final 20 circuits of the race didn’t allow Grosjean the benefit for using the harder and more durable Firestone Firehawk primary tires compared to Rossi, who had three-lap-older Firestone Firehawk alternate tires that wear more quickly.

“We will keep working,” Grosjean said. “We keep getting better.”

Grosjean has three top-10 finishes in eight starts in his first season with JHR, including two in a row. He climbed from 14th to finish seventh in the XPEL Grand Prix at Road America on June 9. The result Sunday was his third top-10 finish in four WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca starts for three different teams. His best finish was third with Dale Coyne Racing in 2021.

Rossi Building Momentum with Podium

Rossi earned his best NTT INDYCAR SERIES finish in the last 21 races with a third-place result. The last time he finished on the podium was in the Sonsio Grand Prix in May 2023 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It was a good day for the organization,” Rossi said after all three Arrow McLaren drivers finished in the top 12. “I think our pace out front, pushing, was certainly better than what we could do once it kind of switched to a fuel race.

“Nonetheless, it was a great job by the team all around to manage a difficult race with the strategy flipping back and forth. Kind of wild there with all the restarts at the end. Ultimately, we'll take a lot of positives from this weekend and build on it going into Mid-Ohio.”

On the first pit sequence, Rossi entered pit lane second among the top contenders for the race win. Team Penske driver Scott McLaughlin, who was the only driver in the top 10 of the starting lineup to begin the race on the Firestone alternate tires, pitted on Lap 22. Rossi came to the pits two laps later.

That maneuver paid dividends. Once the opening pit sequence ended, Rossi had his No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet in the lead. He’d stay there for the next 10 laps, including increasing his advance to nearly a five-second gap over second-place Kyle Kirkwood.

The race flipped with Luca Ghiotto crashing his No. 51 GAV Air Technology Honda for Dale Coyne Racing on Lap 36, bringing out the first caution flag of the afternoon. Rossi led 12 cars down pit lane on Lap 37. Thirteen drivers, including race winner Alex Palou, stayed on track.

Rossi wouldn’t regain that track position in the lead, but he remained in the hunt for the podium racing in the shadows of second-place finisher Colton Herta the rest of the way.

“I think we were able to just start strong this weekend,” said Rossi, who was eighth in both practice sessions this weekend and qualified fifth. “Obviously, qualifying was strong for us. We know how important qualifying is to get a good result in this championship. We knew we had a good shot at it today.

“I was glad we were able to manage the race and have good pace kind of in all phases. It was a welcome change of pace. Hopefully it gives us a good foundation, good framework to go forward for what few road courses we have left in the year.”

The next race is on another natural road course for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid on July 7. Rossi has six top-10 finishes in his last seven Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course starts, including a 2018 win with Andretti Global and crossing the finish line 10th last year in his first season with Arrow McLaren.

“I think it’s just understanding,” Rossi said on carrying this finish forward. “You know why we are good. It’s always easy to Monday morning quarterback when you’re bad. It’s a little harder to understand why are we so good.”

Siegel Biggest Mover in Arrow McLaren Debut

Nolan Siegel overcame a spin in Turn 2 on Lap 41 to become the biggest mover of the race, climbing from 23rd at the start to finish 12th in his debut in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

"Securing the biggest mover of the race, so overall I think it was a successful day,” Siegel said. “It wasn't without its challenges, but everyone pushed through and kept at it all race long. We were able to make up a ton of spots at the end there.

“I'm really happy with the No. 6 NTT DATA Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. The car was truly the best it's been all weekend, and it was really fast all day. A lot of this was because of the pit stops that the crew did and the strategy that was called. I'm grateful for my crew and can't wait to work with them more in the future."

Siegel said Friday that quantifying a successful debut weekend would be hard after being announced this week as the driver of this car. He said as long as he learned the team, the car and how everyone operates, he would be happy if he finished.

Overcoming those challenges to finish in the top half of the 27-car field is a fine starting point.

Rasmussen Continuing To Learn

Last September at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Christian Rasmussen secured his third championship in four years, staking claim to the 2023 INDY NXT by Firestone title. That comes after a 2020 championship in USF 2000 and the 2021 title in Indy Pro 2000.

Last year’s title paved the path to becoming a rookie NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver this season with Ed Carpenter Racing.

“I love racing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca,” Rasmussen said. “I have great memories, the latest being locking up the INDY NXT championship.”

Rasmussen left more memories in Sunday’s 95-lap race. He overcame a practice crash Saturday to finish 13th a day later.

“We had a pretty good start,” said Rasmussen, who picked up five positions in the first three laps. “We were moving forward on the red (alternate) tires. I think what held us back was our stint on black (primary) tires. Overall, we turned a messy race into a pretty solid result. I am happy about that.”

Rasmussen said there was probably more speed in his No. 20 Guy Care Chevrolet to finish higher, but mistakes in the race relegated him further down the finishing order.

One mistake was his improper pit exit on his final pit stop on Lap 67, earning a drive-through penalty.

His best two finishes have occurred in the last four races. Rasmussen charged from 24th at the start of the 108th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge to 12th, the highest-finishing rookie in the 33-car field. A week later on the tight Detroit street circuit, Rasmussen earned a career-best qualifying effort of 13th. The next race at Road America, Rasmussen worked his way into the top 10 in six laps.

Odds and Ends

  • Palou became the third NTT P1 Award winner to win the last five NTT INDYCAR SERIES races at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
  • Since 2022, Palou has 25 top-three finishes in NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition, most among all drivers. Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power are both tied for second with 17.
  • Palou heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the points lead for the second consecutive season. Last year, he led Marcus Ericsson after the first eight races by 74 points. This year, he leads Power by 23.
  • Honda is 5-for-5 in victories at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca since the NTT INDYCAR SERIES returned there in 2019 after a 15-year hiatus.
  • In INDY NXT by Firestone competition, Louis Foster’s dominance was complete this weekend. He pulled off a “grand slam” sweep of every performance category. He led both practice sessions, won the pole for both races in qualifying, led all 70 combined laps in the two races and turned the fastest lap of both races.

Foster turned a 19-point championship deficit to Jacob Abel into a 35-point lead following his weekend sweep. Andretti Global has won five of the seven races this season,