Note: NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers are in Indianapolis Monday, Jan. 17 and Tuesday, Jan. 18 for the annual INDYCAR Content Day. Drivers meet with the media and work with series partners, tracks and broadcast networks to create content to be used during the entire 2022 season. Here’s a look at the first of two fun days.
Romain Grosjean is ready for the start of the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season – his first with Andretti Autosport – and he said his previously injured left hand is ready, too.
Grosjean had a pair of lengthy surgeries in November to repair damage suffered in the last race of his Formula One career – the fiery crash in Bahrain that captured global attention in November 2020. One of the recent surgeries lasted four hours, the other more than nine. But 120 stitches later and two months of healing has him in much better shape, and he’s now able to do several routine tasks, like using his finger to put on a shoe.
“Sometimes if I hit my hand, it would be painful,” he said. “It’s much, much better now.”
Grosjean, who moved his family to Miami during the offseason, said he also has been able to enjoy the Florida sunshine without being so careful not to expose his hand. The salty ocean water bothers him less, too.
Having both hands available also has been helpful while playing baseball for the first time in his life. Sons Sacha, who is 8, and Simon, 6, are playing the sport for the first time as it wasn’t an option while living in Europe.
The most difficult thing Grosjean now must do is live up to the on-track goals he discussed with Sacha. They thought it would be a good idea for Grosjean to earn seven podiums in 2022. He had three in 13 races last season with Dale Coyne Racing with RWR.
“I hope I won’t disappoint him,” Grosjean said.
Kanaan Aiming for No. 2 at Indy
Tony Kanaan’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge program with Chip Ganassi Racing was confirmed Monday. The Honda entry, which doesn’t yet have a confirmed number, will be sponsored by the American Legion.
Kanaan, who recently turned 47, said Indy is currently his only INDYCAR race for 2022, but he is not willing to say this will be his final season in the series.
“Do I have any things lined up for next year? No,” he said. “Do I still want to do it? One hundred percent. Do I think I can do it? One hundred percent – look what happened to Helio (Castroneves).
“My question would be what if we go and win No. 2 – are we coming back or not. I’m actually not announcing anything because I don’t know. I can tell you my intentions are (this year’s ‘500’) will not be the last one. Next year will be my 25th year in INDYCAR, and I think it would be pretty cool if I could do that.”
Nonetheless, Kanaan will be busy in 2022. In addition to trying to win his second “500,” he will compete in 10 Brazilian stock car races, six races in Tony Stewart’s SRX series and three Porsche Cup endurance races.
“It’s more races than I’ve done in the past 21 years,” he said.
DeFrancesco Has High-Profile Fans
INDYCAR rookie Devlin DeFrancesco shares commonality with legendary boxer Mike Tyson, who is an investor in Wesana Health, a psychedelic medicine company sponsoring the No. 29 Honda of Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport.
DeFrancesco and Tyson recently met during a dinner at a Los Angeles steakhouse, and Tyson tweeted support to DeFrancesco to his 5.7 million followers.
DeFrancesco, who trains with boxing in Miami, said Tyson gave him several tips about being a competitor. Tyson isn’t the only famous athlete to have tweeted about DeFrancesco in recent weeks. Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso did, as well. Alonso has 2.9 million followers.
Monday was DeFrancesco’s 22nd birthday.
Foyt Introductions Still To Come
Neither of A.J. Foyt Racing’s rookies, Tatiana Calderon or Kyle Kirkwood, have had the opportunity to meet team owner A.J. Foyt, who celebrated his 87th birthday Sunday. Kirkwood said he hopes to gain oval advice from the legend.
Calderon will be the first woman to drive for AJ Foyt Racing, and she will compete on the road courses and street circuits. Kirkwood is INDYCAR’s first driver to have won all three of the Road to Indy divisions – USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights. They will test Wednesday at Sebring, with teammate Dalton Kellett expected to attend in an advisory role.
Calderon might be new to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, but she has raced seemingly against nearly half the field at some point in her career. The Colombian started her single-seater career in Indy Pro 2000 in 2010 and 2011.
“Alex (Palou), Pato (O’Ward), Juan Pablo (Montoya), Callum Ilott, Conor (Daly), Felix (Rosenqvist in F3), and I’m probably forgetting someone,” she said. “Devlin (DeFrancesco) is another.”
Kirkwood said it occurred to him Monday morning that Content Day was like the first day of school for INDYCAR rookies. Thus, he has been waiting to be pranked by a veteran driver, although he might have lucked out that notorious pranksters Conor Daly, Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi are in Tuesday’s media session.
“Conor, especially,” said Kirkwood, who is obviously a student of this sport.
Odds and Ends
- Reigning INDYCAR champion Alex Palou said his team’s approach this season is simple. “We’ve been working as if last year we lost it,” he said.
- Conor Daly will drive Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Chevrolet in every race this season, which means team owner/driver Ed Carpenter will use a different car number for the first time since the start of the 2012 season. Carpenter, who debuted the number with Vision Racing in 2005 but used No. 67 for 10 races in 2011, said there are a couple of numbers being discussed, but the team has not yet committed to one.
- INDYCAR rookie Christian Lundgaard (No. 30 Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan) has a new at-home simulator and has been trying out INDYCAR’s tracks. One of them was Indianapolis Motor Speedway, site of the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 29. “It felt a bit easy, but I might have had too much downforce,” he said with a laugh.
- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato has a new team – Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing, driving No. 51. He also has a new teammate, David Malukas, and he noted that rookie driver and Indy Lights graduate is about half his age. “He’s 20?” Sato said. “(That’s) more than half my age.” Sato is 45.
- Seven of INDYCAR’s 17 races this season are scheduled to have a broadcast time no later than 12:30 p.m. (ET). Eight others will start around 3 p.m., and one will air beginning at 4 p.m. Frenchman Grosjean and Swede Ericsson noted that the schedule will make viewing easier for fans in their native Europe. Sweden and France are six hours ahead of INDYCAR’s East Coast audience.
- Grosjean said he reinitiated conversations with Mercedes-AMG Petronas principal Toto Wolff about a ceremonial last F1 ride. Wolff said they will work toward finding a date this year, although it won’t be the weekend of Grosjean’s home race, the French Grand Prix (July 22-24), as INDYCAR will be racing in the Iowa Speedway doubleheader.