Alexander Rossi will go down in history as the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500, having triumphed in only his second career oval race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.
The American secured victory after conserving enough fuel in the final stages of the 500-mile race around the 2.5-mile oval in his Andretti Herta Autosport entry, whilst his rivals around him failed to make the fuel numbers required and were forced to pit over the last few laps.
For a driver that was sitting on the sidelines when his Formula 1 dream appeared to end when Manor Racing decided not to retain him after a five-race stint in 2015, Rossi was handed a lifeline at the beginning of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, when the Andretti Autosport and Bryan Herta Autosport partnership was formed, and he was drafted in as the driver of the #98 machine.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” reflected Rossi. “In February I wasn’t even thinking about IndyCar and now we’ve just won the Indy 500 and thanks to an amazing group of people who gave me an opportunity to come here this year, relatively unknown in American junior formula and they gave me the shot.
“I have to thank Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta for giving me such a wonderful race car all month. We ran out (of fuel) in Turn 4 and we were clutching it and coasting it down the back straight.
“We knew it was going to be tight but Ryan (Hunter-Reay) helped give me a tow to the finish the last couple laps there and it was an amazing result.”
His first oval experience came at the Phoenix International Raceway back in April, but the experience of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a completely different proposition, but for a rookie, Rossi drove superbly throughout the Month of May, staying out of the walls, and leading the most important lap of his career to date.
“There are few words to truly describe how I’m feeling right now,” said Rossi after his triumph. “I really was focused on taking it one lap at a time – the emotional roller coaster of this race is ridiculous.
“There were moments I was really stoked, really heartbroken, really stoked. We rolled the dice and came through and made it happen. This is unbelievable and I have no doubt it’s going to change my life.
“But we did it, and I have to say a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported me – my incredible family, Bryan, Michael and my amazing team, my phenomenal partners who have put so much belief in me, and every single person who has supported me to this point. Thank you.”