Haas F1’s Romain Grosjean targets Sonoma for possible NASCAR debut

Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean believes the best chance of making his NASCAR debut will come at Sonoma in late June.

Grosjean expressed an interest in trying out NASCAR after joining Stewart-Haas co-owner Gene Haas’ new Formula 1 operation for its debut season in 2016.

The Frenchman confirmed to NBC Sports in February that he had discussed the possibility with Haas and restated his desire when speaking ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. Grosjean admits he still needs permission.

“So far I haven’t spoken with my wife!” Grosjean said.

“Definitely I want to do it. I think it’s something we’ve discussed since day one. It would be great experience. When it’s going to happen, I don’t know. It’s 21 races, it’s quite a tight schedule already in Formula 1. Of course, you don’t want to start on an oval, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable.”

Grosjean’s best opportunities for a road course appearance come with the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma on June 26 and the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen on August 7. However, the race at The Glen would cut into F1’s three-week summer break.

“That’s a problem,” Grosjean said. “Sonoma is better, I think.”

Sonoma may be better for Grosjean, but it would create a brutal five-weekend run of racing that involves a great deal of travel.

After the Canadian Grand Prix on June 12, Grosjean will venture to Azerbaijan for the nation’s first F1 race on June 19 before potentially heading to California to make his NASCAR debut.

Following Sonoma, Grosjean would then need to go straight to Austria for the next F1 race on July 3, which is then followed by the British Grand Prix one week later.

A key note is that Stewart-Haas Racing would not be allowed to field an additional car for Grosjean at either event. He would have to drive for another team. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Rule Book permit teams to field four cars only “unless otherwise authorized by NASCAR.” Richard Buck, managing director of the Sprint Cup Series, told ESPN.com’s Bob Pockrass that no team could field a fifth entry for a rookie. A potential opportunity could come with HScott Motorsports, which is aligned with Stewart-Haas Racing and fields two cars for Michael Annett and Clint Bowyer.

Grosjean ruled out racing on ovals in NASCAR and IndyCar, including the Indianapolis 500.

“I love watching the race, but I’ve never been attracted by it, so Le Mans 24 Hours yes, Rally Monte Carlo yes, but ovals… I’d probably miss turning right,” Grosjean said.

Having previously raced in GTs, Grosjean is no stranger to closed cockpit racing. Although he conceded there would be much to learn in NASCAR, it is a challenge he relishes.

“It’s probably a bit heavier and more powerful,” Grosjean said of Cup cars. “The brakes don’t look to be the best brakes in the world. There’s a lot of contact as well. A few things to learn, but why not? It would be fun.”