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IndyCar Birmingham

Grosjean: Fifth runner-up finish “hurt” after leading so much

Romain Grosjean says finishing as bridesmaid at Barber Motorsport Park hurt because an untimely yellow flag played into the hands of the three-stopping winner Scott McLaughlin.

Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport Honda

After fending off fellow two-stoppers Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou in the opening laps, polesitter Grosjean controlled the opening stint. But Sting Ray Robb’s Dale Coyne Racing with RWR-Honda ground to a halt just a few laps after Grosjean’s first of two stops, and it also prompted the fastest three-stoppers to make their second stops before the full course caution was called and the pitlane closed.

That allowed Scott McLaughlin onto Grosjean’s tail for the restart, and while he weathered that storm, when he pitted on Lap 60, McLaughlin remained out and laid down three fast laps in clear air, before making his third stop.

The Penske driver emerged ahead but on cold tires, and Grosjean made a superb pass on his quarry at the final turn. However, he was having to drive to a fuel number having stopped that much earlier, and so he just couldn’t shake off McLaughlin. He kept him behind until running wide at Turn 5 on Lap 72 of the 90-lap race.

“Ah, it hurt, I’m gonna be honest,” said Grosjean, who has now taken three pole positions and five runner-up finishes but is still seeking his first win. “The three-stop never wins in Barber but today the pits stayed open and that gave McLaughlin the edge on the three-stop.

“I mean, look at the [other] two-stoppers, they were 20s behind. We had an incredible car and [I] drove really well, gave it 100 percent, but we just got unlucky with that yellow. Michael came and said, ‘Don’t get your head down, that’s one of the greatest drives I’ve ever seen,’ so what do you want to say? I gave it all. It was good with Scott, and congrats to him, he deserved the win.”

Grosjean was rendered impotent in his defense of the lead when he ran out of push to pass boost, having gone easy on it – as obliged by running a two-stop strategy – through the first two-thirds of the race, as he had at the previous race in Long Beach.

“I wondered if I had a glitch on the dash,” he said. “I believed I had 99s left, the next time I looked it was zero. Maybe I just used it more than I thought I was! Making the most of it, after Long Beach.”

In the late stages, he was under attack from the charging Will Power, but Grosjean said he wasn’t worried.

“I knew Will was coming but his reds would be at the end of their life,” he said, “so I wasn’t too worried about it. I was more worried about the fuel number and tires getting cold and making a mistake.”

Remarking on the big picture, he said: “We got good points today, and our day will come. Today was like St Pete, we got unlucky, so on to the next one.”

Grosjean outperformed his Andretti Autosport teammates, who were also on two-stop strategies. After mediocre qualifying results, Kyle Kirkwood, Colton Herta and Devlin DeFrancesco finished 12th, 14th and 23rd respectively, 35, 42 and 62s adrift of Grosjean.

Grosjean is fifth in the championship but only 15 points behind leader Marcus Ericsson.

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