It’s Fall Break For Some, But Not All

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The 2021 IndyCar Series finished less than two weeks ago. You would think teams and drivers would be scattering to parts unknown, for what could be known as Fall Break. That has not been the case, however. Teams are making driver announcements; either regarding who is leaving their team or who is joining it. Some drivers are even turning laps this week, in preparation for 2022.

Wednesday’s Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) for Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was a hit and miss affair. Both drivers got enough good seat time to feel comfortable in their first-ever laps of the historic 2.5-mile oval, but they spent a good part of the day dodging raindrops. The result was a very disjointed day that ended with both drivers coming very close to completing the three-phase evaluation, but both were a few laps short.

Although IndyCar officials proclaimed that they both had passed ROP, they were both told they needed to complete the remaining laps during the IMS Open Test on April 20-22 of next spring. That sort of sounds like; “Congratulations! You’ve inherited $10 Million. Now just send us a check for $5,000 so we can process it”. OK, maybe that was a bad example, but it seems like if IndyCar was going to make them complete the remaining laps of ROP, they would not have said they passed, but I digress.

Both drivers seemed elated over their day on Wednesday, but for different reasons. Jimmie Johnson said it fulfilled a childhood dream to turn laps in an Indy car at the historic oval. Johnson said he was surprised that he pretty much ran the same racing line on Wednesday that he did in a stock car, when he ran eighteen races on the oval and won four of them. He also said it intensified his desire to run the race in May, although he stopped short of committing to it. Still, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t.

Romain Grosjean was elated as well, but his joy was more introspective. He couldn’t help but look back on where he was this time in early October of last year – staring at the end of his career at Haas in Formula One, after Guenther Steiner had already told Grosjean and teammate Kevin Magnussen that their services would no longer be needed after the end of the 2020 season ended in December.

Then came the terrifying accident at Bahrain in November that came ever so close to taking the life of Grosjean. Just a few short months after his fiery crash, Grosjean announced he would be joining the NTT IndyCar Series with Dale Coyne Racing for the non-ovals. It did not take long for Grosjean to realize how much happier he was in IndyCar. After winning the pole for the GMR Grand Prix in May and finishing second in the race, it became apparent how much the US fans had taken to Grosjean, his demeanor and his story. It also occurred to him that he was wishing he could be taking part in the Indianapolis 500, with practice starting just a few days later.

We all know the story of how Grosjean gave fellow-rookie Scott McLaughlin a run for his money in the Rookie of the Year battle, despite the fact that Grosjean missed the double-points paying Indianapolis 500 and the double-header at Texas – the equivalent of missing four races. Grosjean practically drove the wheels off of the car at Laguna Seca, in a third-place finish. Just a few days later, he was confirmed in the No. 28 DHL car at Andretti Autosport. A few days after that, he was turning laps in his new car on the oval at IMS for one of the most prestigious names in racing – Andretti.

Grosjean could not help but reflect on the events he had experienced first hand over the past twelve months. Couple that with how well he felt about his ROP session at IMS, and you can understand the near-euphoria that Grosjean was feeling on late Wednesday afternoon, after the rain finally won.

While two drivers spent an emotional day at IMS, that is not the end of IndyCar activity on the giant oval for this week.

There is a tire test scheduled for today at IMS, with each engine manufacturer allowed to provide one car. The Honda team will be Meyer Shank Racing, while the Chevy team will be Arrow McLaren SP. Most likely the two drivers will be Helio Castroneves and Pato O’Ward.

I suspect that later this month, there will be some type of aero test on the IMS oval, as the series continues the evolvement of the aero screen. Don’t forget that the new hybrid engine package is scheduled to be introduced for the 2023 season. It’s way to early to expect see the new engine on the track, but I’m wondering what the timeline for testing will be. That is a test that I’d like to see…and hear.

Fall Break for Oilpressure: Speaking of Fall Break, I am going to take a little bit of a Fall Break myself. I was already planning to take off this coming Monday Oct 11. Susan and I already had plans for the weekend, and it was going to prevent me from writing over the weekend. But the middle of next week just got too busy that it was going to be difficult to write for Wednesday and/or Friday.

Those that follow me on Facebook know that I bought a new car last week. After ten years, I am parting with my old friend – my 2012 Honda Civic Coupe with a 5-speed manual stick-shift. It has been my favorite car ever, and I’ve been driving Hondas since 1981.

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Plus there is nothing wrong with it – except for the fact that it is ten years old and I’ve put 195,000 miles on it (it’s been to a lot of races over these past ten years). I had planned to keep it another year or two, but this world-wide car shortage was worrying me, and I think it is going to get worse over the next year or two. I didn’t want to have my Civic die unexpectedly, and not be able to replace it with something I wanted.

With me about to turn 63 and gas prices continuing to go up, I decided to forego the manual transmission and get my first hybrid. Last Friday, October 1, I became the proud owner of a 2022 Honda Insight. I knew the color (Cosmic Blue) and trim package I wanted, and the dealer had told me one like I wanted would be in by the end of the month. Sure enough, it arrived on-time exactly the way I wanted it. I’ve had it for a week now, and so far I love it. Those that know me, know I’m not trying to save the planet – but I like the promised 55 mpg. So far, it’s been pretty close to that. The salesman took a photo of Susan and me taking delivery at the Honda dealership last Friday.

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They wouldn’t give me much at all for my trade-in, so my son is getting it. That way I still get to keep the old friend in the family. He is flying in Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday will be spent transferring the title, insurance and all that fun stuff. It’s been exactly a year since I’ve seen him (he moved to Idaho last October), so my evenings will be spent visiting with him and catching up.

Therefore, with Susan and me being busy this weekend, and my son flying in on Tuesday – I’ve decided to focus on family and let this site rest for a week. I will return here on Monday October 18. Thanks for your understanding as I take a much-needed Fall Break.

George Phillips

4 Responses to “It’s Fall Break For Some, But Not All”

  1. Well earned.

  2. James T Suel Says:

    Enjoy your break!

  3. Enjoy your break.

    Skip & Kathy

  4. Enjoy your new car (What a beautiful shade of blue!!), your son’s visit, and a break from your column.

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