SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson both passed their rookie orientation programs (ROP) for the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dodging intermittent rain showers, both drivers were able to move through most of the three phases of their rookie tests. Both drivers were able to turn the required 10 laps at 205 and then 15 laps at 210 mph in the first two phases of the test. As they were progressing through the third phase, rain moved in.
Despite not going the full 15 laps at 215+, both drivers were given the nod by IMS stewards to have passed their rookie tests and will now be allowed to run in the open test coming up in April, as well as run with the full field when practice starts for the Indianapolis 500 in mid-May.
Johnson said he had a mental checklist coming into the session.
“What a great experience,” Johnson said. “Certainly as we got onto our second set of tires things became more normal for me out on the track. The (racing) line is still the line if it’s a Cup car or an Indy car.”
Johnson won four Brickyard 400’s on the oval during his time in the NASCAR CUP Series.
Romain Grosjean, on the other hand, was going into the session completely blind. Other than iRacing virtually, the former Formula One driver had never turned a lap in any car at all at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
“There’s something out this place,” said Grosjean. “I know the road course for sure, but oval I only knew it cycling. So, doing it in a car was fun.”
Grosjean is now with Andretti Autosport driving the #28 DHL Honda. He only ran the road courses last season in his rookie year for Dale Coyne/Rick Ware Racing. This upcoming season he plans to run the full season including ovals, road courses, street courses, and the Indianapolis 500.
Johnson is still not committing to anything yet when it comes to running ovals or even just the “500”.
“Being here today is definitely a step closer in doing that,” Johnson said. “First step was Texas, not this step here today. I honestly wish I could have run more laps.”
Both drivers were unable to get enough practice time to be able to turn any laps at qualifying speeds. They had some help from veteran drivers Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, and Marcus Ericsson who were all on hand to lend some help to the two drivers in figuring out the race track.