Today’s question: To which NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver would you like to give a Christmas present this Saturday, and what is it?
Zach Horrall: My present under the Christmas tree is going to Romain Grosjean, and inside is a breakout 2022 season that reinvigorates his racing career. It’s no secret Grosjean’s Formula One career left much to be desired: just 10 podiums in nearly a decade of racing. But his rookie campaign in the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season showed signs of greatness: three podiums and one pole in 13 starts. His performance has us all thinking that his F1 career really was the product of driving a back-marker Haas F1 car, and given then right opportunity, he can shine. Grosjean has repeatedly expressed how much fun he is having, and it has been punctuated by the wide smile on his face every weekend. His excitement is infectious, impacting everyone around him and even opening international drivers’ eyes to INDYCAR. Grosjean deserves a chance to show how high-caliber of a driver he is, and my gift to him is the opportunity to do so in 2022. After the way he raced on the IMS road course in 2021, I fully expect him to snag one, if not two wins at IMS next season. And if you listen to the crowd on race weekends, he’s already becoming a fan-favorite, another deserving nod to the Frenchman. All of his success in the new Andretti Autosport ride is also a gift to us: the chance to see a driver realize his full potential in thrilling fashion (remember his drive at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca?). This present has quite a nice bow on top, doesn’t it?
Paul Kelly: A championship-caliber season for Alexander Rossi in 2022. Every series needs a driver who is willing to stir up some aggravation, both on and off track. That guy in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES is 2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Rossi. He was in the thick of the title chase in 2018 and 2019, and it was delightful. Rossi’s combination of super-aggressive moves on track and passive-aggressive snark off track toward sniping rivals adds a lot of spice and color to any title race. Last year’s stretch run to the Astor Cup was fantastic, but all the protagonists seemed to get along well. There was almost too much peace on Earth, goodwill toward all – to use a Christmas theme this week! – for me. Can you imagine if Rossi was added to that championship race recipe during the 2021 season? Man, the crossfire among drivers would have been so fun, as Rossi’s insouciant needles and barbs would have riled up his rivals to varying degrees. So, yes, we all need a lot more Rossi in our title chase in the 2022 season.