Step One Ambassadors encounter challenges at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Romain Grosjean and Chandler Smith, Step One ambassadors, both competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with IndyCar and NASCAR Xfinity, respectively. Each driver encountered unique sets of obstacles over the weekend, yet neither let up in their pursuit of the best on-track result possible.
Romain Grosjean kicked off his outing in Indiana with a strong P6 in Friday’s IndyCar qualifying. Saturday’s race start was tricky, with Romain getting caught up in the melee of a multi-car incident, shuffling him down the order. Luckily, however, he was able to continue in the Grand Prix. The race was marked by only one caution period six laps in length across its 85-lap duration. The Andretti Autosport driver was relentless in the pursuit to move back up the field, with his car possessing strong pace as demonstrated by Friday’s efforts. Lap after lap he dug deep, attempting to bring his No. 28 machinery forward to gain more points. Unfortunately, however, on the last lap, his efforts were thwarted by a mechanical issue that relegated the Swiss-French driver to a P18 finish.
Chandler Smith encountered mixed weather conditions during his time on track in Indiana, qualifying 18th for Saturday’s race on a drying track. A bold strategy call during a caution in the opening stage meant the Kaulig Racing driver pitted for slick tires before the race restart, ultimately propelling him up the field as he was able to fly around the fast-drying road course at a quick pace compared to the rest of the field. He earned stage points in the first stage as well as the second, where he had multiple on-track battles with cars around him with just minor contact as a result and a seventh-place second-stage finish. The No.16 car stayed out during a caution period that saw some cars going down the pit road. Unfortunately, on the restart lap, Smith and his teammate were both hit hard by a car behind, resulting in extensive damage and requiring a pit stop for repairs. The Chevy was unable to maintain position on the lead lap, mandating additional repairs in the pit lane before Smith ultimately was required to retire the car in the garage with several laps remaining due to a suspension issue, classifying him with a P34 finish.
Chandler Smith will hit the track at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York with NASCAR Xfinity this weekend.
Step One Ambassadors Compete Across Street and Speedway
Step One Ambassadors Romain Grosjean and Chandler Smith hit the track in Tennessee and Michigan with IndyCar and NASCAR Xfinity, respectively. Between a street circuit and a speedway, high-speed thrills and skillful racecraft abounded.
Romain Grosjean qualified P6 in Nashville in a delayed session, pushed back due to inclement weather which also limited practice time across Friday and Saturday. The Andretti Autosport driver got off to a lightning start, showing strong pace around the Tennessee-based circuit that saw nine drivers retire before completing the event. A total of nine lead changes occurred over the course of the 80-lap Grand Prix between six drivers, including Grosjean, who led for four laps before making his last pitstop on lap 53. The Swiss-French racer encountered a lot of traffic during his time on the track, utilizing much of his push-to-pass in the process. He took the early part of the race in stride on the black tires, then had to execute a long final stint on the alternate green tires while conserving fuel, doing so in great form. With only three laps left to run, a final restart post-red flag occurred which meant there was a sprint to the end, in which Grosjean ran clean and crossed the line in P6 at the wave of the checkered flag.
Kaulig Racing driver Chandler Smith qualified sixth for Saturday’s race at Michigan International Speedway. He made a quick move up one position at the start, before a caution period just four laps into the race in which he provided his team with feedback about his Chevy machinery’s handling. Several caution periods and restarts later, Smith found himself gathering points as he was in fourth place at the end of the first stage. His first pit stop, done during a stage caution, was multi-purpose as he came in for fuel, tires, and an air pressure adjustment. The No. 16 car finished just outside the points-paying positions at the end of stage two in 11th place. A subsequent stop included further car adjustments being executed, and Smith set about moving forward through the field, doing so successfully as he moved from 13th to 11th before the last yellow flag of the event was waved with just over 10 laps remaining. Unfortunately, on the race’s final lap, the Step One ambassador experienced a hit on his car on the left rear while battling for position, sending him into the wall on the outside and putting paid to his best efforts. He brought the car home safely, crossing the line in 20th place.
This weekend, Romain Grosjean and Chandler Smith each race again with IndyCar and NASCAR Xfinity, respectively, both in Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
Step One ambassadors experience challenging race weekend at Road America and Spa-Francorchamps
Step One Ambassadors Chandler Smith and Juan Manuel Correa hit the track in vastly different conditions and locations over the weekend. Smith competed at the classic Wisconsin-based road course, Road America in the bright sunshine, and Juan Manuel Correa took to the long-standing Grand Prix track widely known as the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit for a weekend of mixed weather conditions.
Juan Manuel Correa
Step One ambassador Juan Manuel Correa experienced a challenging FIA Formula 2 Championship race weekend at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The American-Ecuadorian racer narrowly missed out on points in Sunday’s Feature Race but displayed admirable grit and determination at the Belgian venue. After impeding Jack Doohan in qualifying, JM was forced to start from 22nd for Saturday’s shorter Sprint Race but made a good start to rise to 19th during the opening phase. The Van Amersfoort Racing driver came out on top in an ongoing battle with Clement Novalak and Kush Maini over the opening laps and battled forward to 17th – a position he held to the checkered flag.
A disqualification for JM’s team-mate, Richard Verschoor, promoted him to 16th in the final Sprint classification. In a thrilling Feature Race, which was shaped early by damp track conditions, JM displayed a strong comeback performance but was unfortunately impacted by a penalty post-race. While JM kept his nose clean at the start, a collision between Dennis Hauger and Ayumu Iwasa led to an early Safety Car. On lap four’s restart, JM leapt forward, and by first passing Arthur Leclerc and continuing his battle, the 23-year-old was closing in quickly on the top 10. When the pit phase of the race opened, JM slotted into the points-paying positions before boxing for fresh tires himself. An incident with Jak Crawford, however, when running in ninth, led to a second Safety Car and after the restart, JM lost ground to slip outside of the top 10. JM finished 12th in the Feature Race but due to a 10-second time penalty for the incident with Crawford, finished 16th.
Step One ambassador Chandler Smith qualified for Saturday’s race at Road America in 16th position. At the start of the race when the green flag waved, he made quick work of moving up the field several positions, but soon found himself unable to maintain the fast-paced lap times. Less than ten laps into the race, he was in the position in which he began the race, reporting issues with his rear tires as a caution occurred due to a stopped car on the track. He received fuel, new tires, and an adjustment in air pressure. Chandler’s race restart was strong, but he was unable to hold position within the lap, however, overtakes did occur shortly after the fact as well as his top lap time thus far. Unfortunately, on lap 20 of the race, Chandler’s brakes failed as he went rapidly down the main straight. To avoid hitting the wall at turn-on head-on, in a quick-thinking maneuver the Kaulig Racing driver jolted his machinery into the wall on his left side and scrubbed off speed in the process, though the hit was still heavy, and his race finished. Chandler was checked and released from the infield care center, being classified in 37th place at the race end.
This weekend, Chandler Smith hits the track at Michigan International Speedway with NASCAR Xfinity and Romain Grosjean competes on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee with IndyCar.
The Tricky Triangle, an oval double-header and a classic European circuit tackled by Step One Ambassadors
It was a trio of race tracks this weekend as Step One Ambassadors Chandler Smith, Romain Grosjean, and Juan Manuel Correa all competed simultaneously across three different series. Smith took on a layout known as The Tricky Triangle, Grosjean dove into two races at Iowa Speedway, and Juan Manuel Correa competed at a long-standing European circuit, the Hungaroring.
Juan Manuel Correa
Step One Motorsports ambassador Juan Manuel Correa battled to a competitive top 10 finish at the Hungaroring as the FIA Formula 2 Championship returned to the technical Budapest-based venue. After tricky qualifying, Saturday’s shorter Sprint Race proved to be a complex affair, and after receiving a three-place grid penalty for impeding Amaury Cordeel in qualifying, JM started from 19th. A hotly contested first lap saw the American-Ecuadorian racer get into a consistent rhythm as the race found its beat. A three-way incident in Turn One on lap 12 triggered a brief Full Course Yellow, and JM resumed the race in 15th. Unfortunately, a steering wheel issue forced JM to pit and removed his hopes of a top-10 finish despite his competitive comeback in the early stages of the race.
With hopes and aspirations renewed on Sunday, the 23-year-old displayed one of the comeback drives of the season. JM navigated the perfect opening lap to slice through the field with clinical precision to hold 10th. He set out on applying pressure on Oliver Bearman but was stuck behind the Briton for most of his opening stint before pitting for fresh tires with the hope of performing the undercut. Upon completing his mandatory pitstop, JM set out with a statement of intent by posting the fastest lap of the race and continued to close in, now holding 15th. As the alternate strategy unfolded, JM returned to the top 10 and held ninth until the chequered flag waved on lap 37 to score two points and overtake Roman Stanek in the Drivers’ Championship.
Chandler Smith competed at Pocono Raceway, well known as The Tricky Triangle for 90 laps around the Pennsylvania-based track. Qualifying on the day prior to the race resulted in Chandler slotting into 16th for Saturday’s race start. The Kaulig Racing driver swept his way forward five positions, just barely missing out on collecting points in the first of three stages while reporting overall positive feelings in the car other than on the exit of turn three. The position gained continued into the second stage resulting in points at the end of it, the No.16 sweeping in for fresh tires and fuel shortly afterward. A big incident ahead of Chandler occurred after a race restart but he safely cleared it and continued laying down lap times. More fuel was required as the laps wound down, and he emerged toward the back of the pack, with the expectation that cars ahead would need to follow suit and he’d gain positions. Yet another caution led to the call for fresh tires and another fuel top-up, and the conclusion of the race found Chandler in 20th place after the overtime laps wound down.
Romain Grosjean hit the Iowa Speedway oval for a double-header race weekend, his fourth showing at the speedway. Grosjean put on a strong qualifying run on Saturday morning ahead of Race 1, securing himself an 8th-place start for that race, which was his best Iowa start. Romain showed confidence and drove clean laps, but unfortunately was caught up in traffic issues throughout the race and couldn’t run the high line, making his outing even more challenging. As a result, this shuffled him backward to an 11th-place finish. Sunday’s Race 2 saw him start from 20th, where he quickly wasted no time making up positions. Romain sliced his way forward with decisiveness, gaining eight positions during the 250-lap event. However, a tricky restart led to being blocked behind a slow car in front and losing positions, after which his forward momentum stalled as the tires no longer gave the Swiss-French racer the same feeling. Ultimately, he crossed the line in 12th after the exciting race, securing solid points in both Grands Prix across the weekend and making strong progress learning on an oval track.
Next up… This weekend, Chandler Smith hits the track at Road America in Wisconsin and Juan Manuel Correa is competing in Belgium at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Oval and Street Racing Thrills in One Weekend for Step One Ambassadors
Two very different kinds of racing circuits were on offer for Step One Ambassadors Chandler Smith and Romain Grosjean this weekend. Between a United States East Coast oval track in New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a close-walled street circuit in Toronto, Canada, both open-wheel and closed-cockpit motorsport abounded.
For Kaulig Racing driver Chandler Smith, in Friday’s qualifying session, he secured a second consecutive pole award at New Hampshire Motor Speedway at his NASCAR Xfinity weekend. Come race day, he led the field from the front, never once relenting in his demonstration of speed and showing high-level confidence in fighting at the pointy end of the cars on track. Smith finished the race on the podium in second place, having also secured solid stage points throughout the race’s three stages.
Romain Grosjean competed on the streets of Toronto with IndyCar starting the race in ninth after a rainy Saturday qualifying session hampered his efforts. Grosjean showed strong pace during Sunday’s Grand Prix and spent a portion of the time fighting toward the front of the field, placing the speed in his Andretti Autosport machinery on display. Unfortunately, his race came to an early end after making contact with the barriers at turn 10 of the circuit, and he was classified as P22 at the conclusion of the race.
This weekend, Chandler Smith competes at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania with NASCAR Xfinity, Romain Grosjean hits the track for an IndyCar double-header at Iowa Speedway, and Juan Manuel Correa will be back racing with Formula 2 near Budapest, Hungary at the Hungaroring.
Juan Manuel Correa narrowly misses out on points at Silverstone
Step One ambassador, Juan Manuel Correa, narrowly missed out on a top 10 finish in the FIA Formula 2 Championship’s return to the iconic Silverstone International Circuit.
The American-Ecuadorian racer started both Sprint and Feature events from 22nd after a challenging qualifying but recovered from a difficult start by finishing close to the points on Sunday.
Saturday’s Sprint Race took place in full-wet conditions, and although the poor weather generated an unpredictable, constantly evolving environment, JM enjoyed a competitive start.
He gained ground on the opening lap by overtaking Ayumu Iwasa and team-mate Richard Verschoor before a Safety Car paused all action when Brad Benavides was tipped into a spin and hit the wall.
JM continued to hold position during the race’s restart, but unfortunately slipped to 20th after being re-passed by Verschoor.
Nevertheless, the 25-year-old settled into a rhythm and enjoyed a close battle Amaury Cordeel to finish 19th after overtaking Ralph Boschung in the closing stages.
In stark contrast to Saturday’s weather, Sunday’s Feature Race took place in perfect conditions, and produced some of the closest racing of the 2023 season.
After securing a clean getaway from the final row of the grid, JM ascended to 20th after five laps of running and continued to gain ground when the pit phase opened on lap seven.
This coincided with a Safety Car, caused by a stoppage for Cordeel, and prompted JM into the pitlane for a change of tyres, from where he emerged in fifth place.
Action was resumed on lap 11, although the Safety Car swiftly made another appearance when Roman Stanek, Dennis Hauger, and Frederik Vesti made contact moments before the restart.
The race was restarted for a second time on lap 15 of 29, and JM made immediate progress by overtaking Clement Novalak for fourth, with his eyes glued to the fight for the podium.
As the race raged on, and JM’s tyre performance started to deteriorate, however, he was unable to maintain pace with his closest competitors.
Unfortunately, JM lost ground in the closing stages, and despite fighting gallantly, finished just shy of the points, taking home 11th.
JM’s 2023 Formula 2 campaign with Van Amersfoort Racing will continue on July 22-23 at Budapest’s Hungaroring.