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Can Romain Grosjean win the 2021 IndyCar rookie of the year award?

Jake Nichol September 20, 2021
AUTO: AUG 14 INDYCAR - Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix
Photo by Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ex-Formula One driver Romain Grosjean stared in the IndyCar race at Laguna Seca, taking a third podium of the year. He’s in with a shout of winning the Rookie of the Year award – but can he and who could stop him?

Grosjean stars at Laguna Seca with third place

Former Haas F1 driver Grosjean qualified in 13th on his first visit to Laguna Seca in California.

His Dale Coyne with Rick Ware Racing team deployed an alternate strategy for the Frenchman.

He ran the faster red Firestone tyres in the final stint, putting in some daring moves at the corkscrew as he charged through the field.

After he moved up into third place, he began to lap, at times nearly two seconds a lap quicker than leader Colton Herta.

Grosjean’s charge was halted briefly when he came up to lap NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson’s teammate, and championship leader Alex Palou was running second, with their Chip Ganassi team telling Johnson to try and slow Grosjean down.

At the corkscrew however, Johnson defended Grosjean’s lunge – the two lucky to avoid serious damage after contact.

Although Grosjean closed up to Palou, he did not have enough to attempt any kind of overtake.

He claimed his third podium of the season – and first not at the Indianapolis road course.

Grosjean earned 36 points for his third place finish.

As well as the 35 for the place, he also received one bonus point for leading at least one lap – during an earlier pitstop cycle.

He moved onto 266 points and into 15th place in the standings.

Although he is out of the title race, there is something in IndyCar 2021 that Grosjean can win.

Romain Grosjean in contention for IndyCar Rookie of the Year award

As the name suggests, the Rookie of the Year award is given to the IndyCar rookie who finishes highest in the championship.

Although some rookies like Christian Lundgaard and Kevin Magnussen have taken part in 2021, it has only been in single races.

There have been three main rookies in contention for the award this year – although rookie in this context is something of a misnomer.

They are 10-time F1 podium finisher Grosjean, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Johnson and Scott McLaughlin – a triple Australian supercars champion.

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

McLaughlin was the only one of the trio to commit to a full season with Grosjean and Johnson skipping the ovals due to a lack of experience on them in an Indycar.

This made him an almost certainty for the Rookie of the Year award as he’d four races more than the other two.

Going into the season finale this weekend at Long Beach, McLaughlin has 286 points to Grosjean’s 266.

Johnson has struggled at times, but has looked good in the last couple of events. He has 95 points.

What must Romain Grosjean do to win Rookie of the Year award?

Simply put, Grosjean must out score McLaughlin by 20 points to leapfrog the New Zealander.

On the two street circuits this season, the two have not yet cracked the top 10.

At St Petersburg, the second race of the season, McLaughlin brought his Team Penske machine home 11th, with Grosjean 13th.

Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

In the inaugural Nashville race, Grosjean was 16th.

McLaughlin was clobbered by teammate Will Power and took 22nd.

Across the season, Grosjean has six top 10 results, compared to five for McLaughlin.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.