Romain Grosjean Leads Andretti 1-2 In IndyCar Series Qualifying Saturday At St. Petersburg
Story By: PAUL KELLY / INDYCAR – ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Romain Grosjean led an Andretti Autosport sweep of the front row in qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on Saturday, winning the NTT P1 Award for the second time in his career.
Grosjean, from France, led the Firestone Fast Six with a best lap of 59.5532 seconds in the No. 28 DHL Honda on his final trip around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit that hosts the opening race of the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. Teammate Colton Herta qualified second at 59.9687 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
It was the first pole for Grosjean since May 2021, when he took the top spot for the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course as a series rookie after a decade of driving in Formula One.
“Last year was a really good end of the year, good winter testing,” Grosjean said. “We got here, and I said, ‘Boys, yeah, I think we’ve got something.’ We put it out.”
The 100-lap race starts at noon ET Sunday, with live coverage on NBC, Peacock, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and the INDYCAR Radio Network. A 30-minute pre-race warmup starts at 9 a.m., live on Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Grosjean’s pole lap completed his rollercoaster of a day. He spun off track in Turn 13 in the morning practice, with his car becoming stuck. Four hours later, he was celebrating the NTT P1 Award with his wife, Marion, and their three children, attending their “home” race from their residence in Miami.
It also marked a powerful return to form for Andretti Autosport, which won just two races and three NTT P1 Awards last season. Grosjean was winless and didn’t earn a pole last year in his highly anticipated first season with Michael Andretti’s team.
“I knew last year that something was just not coming my way,” Grosjean said. “We worked hard to find something.”
Pato O’Ward will start third as the fastest Chevrolet-powered driver in the field after a top lap of 1:00.0163 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
“Man, those Andretti cars are quick around here,” O’Ward said. “We knew that coming into the weekend. I’ve got to say the team arrived here with such a good package for me compared to last year. Last year we truly started on the back foot. We’ve got a car to fight with tomorrow.”
2022 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Marcus Ericsson qualified fourth in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, with a top lap of 1:00.4435 thrilling a merry band of supporters from his native Sweden in the sun-splashed grandstands.
Kyle Kirkwood will start fifth in the No. 27 AutoNation Honda as he earned a spot in the Firestone Fast Six for the first time in his young NTT INDYCAR SERIES career and in his Andretti Autosport. Kirkwood drove for AJ Foyt Racing last season as a rookie.
Reigning race winner Scott McLaughlin rounded out the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 3 DEX Imaging Team Penske Chevrolet.
Neither Kirkwood nor McLaughlin recorded times during the Firestone Fast Six due to separate incidents, with their best times from the second segment establishing their starting spots. McLaughlin spun exiting Turn 12 late in the session, triggering a red flag and erasing his two quickest laps to that point. That incident left time for only one more flying lap in qualifying for the remaining drivers in the Fast Six.
Kirkwood’s dream weekend to this point took a turn early in the Firestone Fast Six. He slid through the grass and into the wall in Turn 14 as he was approaching his first flying lap. Kirkwood was fourth in both practice sessions leading into qualifying, but his Andretti Autosport crew will have extra work this evening rebuilding the damaged nose and left front of his car.