After finishing second to Josef Newgarden at the NTT IndyCar series race at Texas two weeks ago, a visibly frustrated Alexander Rossi said he was getting tired of being a bridesmaid.
While his performance since finishing 22nd at the Indy GP had been spectacular — he finished P2, P2, P5 and P2 in the four races since then — his lack of a win while usually finishing behind a Team Penske car was beginning to get to him.
The Andretti Autosport driver took out all of his frustrations Sunday at the Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America, leading all but one lap and rolling to a 27-second win over Will Power. The victory was the seventh of his career (60 races) and pulled him within seven points of Josef Newgarden in the season standings with seven races remaining.
“We have been quick through the whole season, but we just haven’t really had it come our ways many times as we want for one reason or another,” Rossi said. “To come out and be able to do what we did today is a huge testament to the whole organization. It’s what we needed, for sure. We’ll enjoy tonight and get to work on Toronto tomorrow morning.”
Rossi, who said the car he had Sunday was “the best he’s ever had” started the race in the second position next to polesitter Colton Herta, but got to work quickly, getting a nose in front of the 19-year-old in the first corner and pulling clear into the lead by the end of Turn 3. He surrendered the lead for just one lap (to Graham Rahal) on the final round of pitstops to match his performance in Long Beach, where he also won from the pole and dominated the race.
“I was able to get a pretty good tow off of him into Turn 1,” Rossi said. “I knew that clean air was important. When I had the window there on the outside, I went for it. Clean air gives you the ability to manage your pace and tires and fuel and kind of just control it from there. That’s what we were able to do.”
This was also Rossi’s best run at Road America in IndyCar, as he had never finished 13th, but it was his third win at the track to go along with two wins during the 2008 Formula BMW Americas championship season when he was 16 years old.
“My last time here was 2008,” Rossi said. “Eight years had gone by (when I came back in 2016) and I felt things kind of came full circle just by being here, competing in IndyCar. The fact now that we’ve been able to win here is pretty cool.”
It was also a much-needed performance, but for a different reason, for runner-up Power, who kept his fading championship hopes going for at least another weekend with his best finish of the season. This was only the third podium of the season for Power, whose previous best finish was a P3 at St. Pete and Detroit 2.
“I actually never saw Alex, I felt like I was in my own race with Josef (Newgarden),” Power said. “Yeah, that’s all we had. It was a very clean day for us. Good start, no mistakes, reasonable car. Yeah, we simply did not have the pace to run with Alex, and I’ve rarely said that in my career.”
Though Newgarden’s lead in the points (402-395) was very much thinned, he still heads to the Honda Indy Toronto at the top of the classification. Despite not being thrilled with his car all weekend, Newgarden just keeps piling up the points after notching his sixth podium on the season. He’s already doubled his podium finish total from last year, and with seven races to go is just three away from the nine he had in his 2017 championship season.
“Yeah, we obviously didn’t have enough today, we were a little shy,” Newgarden said. “Probably a lot shy actually, but we were trying to do what we could to catch back up, hold our ground. I think even guys behind us were very quick towards the end, so trying to hold our ground was tough in a lot of ways.
“We were kind of in lockstep most of the day, pushing as hard as we could. What you saw is what we had.”
Rahal, who finished third at Texas, was fourth Sunday to pick up his second Top 5 in a row, while Scott Dixon finished fifth. Dixon, who spun in Turn 5 on the first lap after incidental contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay and returned to the race in dead last, raced his way through the field to keep himself 97 points back in the championship
The race’s biggest mover was Felix Rosenqvist, who started 18th and finished sixth, while Indy 500 champion Simon Pagenaud, who entered the weekend third in points, started 16th and finished in 9th place.
Photo credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media