Rossi after finishing runner-up in Indy 500: “Nothing else matters here but winning”

by Jordan Groves

After finishing as the runner-up in yesterday’s 2019 Indianapolis 500, a disappointed Alexander Rossi has cited a lack of horsepower in his #27 Andretti Autosport Honda as one of the many problems he had to negotiate during the race.

Rossi bounced back from pit-stop dramas and incidents with lapped cars to partake in a shoot-out for the victory with Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud in the final ten laps, with Rossi ultimately missing out on his second Indianapolis 500 victory by just two-tenths of a second.

Throughout the two-hundred lap race distance yesterday, it was evident that Chevrolet-powered cars had an advantage in overall top-end speed compared to the Honda-powered cars. Despite this, Honda-powered drivers such as Rossi were able to work themselves into contention by having greater fuel mileage than Chevrolet drivers; particularly Pagenaud who spent much of the race in the lead and thus burned considerably more fuel than his rivals.

Rossi’s race was made more difficult toward the closing stages of the race when, whilst contending for the lead, he suffered two slow pit-stops due to a faulty fuel rig. His first issue cost him around a second, whilst the second issue saw him lose a lot more time when the mechanics could not get the rig to engage into the car properly. Rossi would drop a number of positions as a result, but would crucially remain inside the top six.

After the race’s final caution period, the race would be restart with just thirteen laps remaining. Rossi had worked to the lead of the race and would soon come under assault from Pagenaud, who swept around his outside at turn one to take the lead. The pair would trade positions lap after lap for the final run to the flag, with Pagenaud ultimately taking the lead for the final time on the penultimate lap into turn three.

Rossi would remain in contention for the final lap of the race, but ultimately he was just not quite close enough to steal the win on the drag race to the finish line. Pagenaud would take the chequered flag and the win in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, with just two-tenths of a second separating Rossi from what would have been his second win in the famous race.

Credit: Karl Zemlin / Courtesy of IndyCar

As is always the case with the runner-up finishers at Indianapolis, Rossi was visibly devastated to have just missed out on the win. Post-race, he was asked what the cost him the victory in the final laps of the race:

“Horsepower,” Rossi simply replied. “That’s, unfortunately, the way it is. They [Pagenaud and Penske] did a great job. Obviously, he was on pole and led the most laps, but I think we had the superior car. We just didn’t have enough there at the end.

“Huge hat’s off to the entire No. 27 NAPA Andretti Autosport team. They’ve been fantastic all month, and I’m happy to get them a result. But unfortunately, nothing else matters here but winning.

“This one will be hard to get over, but at the end of the day, it was a great showing for the team and good for the points overall. But today will suck for a while.”

One of the other major talking points of the race had been Rossi’s major frustrations with lapped cars, particularly Oriol Servia in the #77 Team Stange Racing Honda. After his pit-stop problems, Rossi found himself in the top five of the race but he was also having to contend with Servia, who was trying to get his lap back on the leaders. This led to an intense battle between Servia and Rossi, with Alexander almost being squeezed into the pit wall on multiple occasions as he tried to squeeze his way by.

Rossi would eventually pass Servia on the start/finish straight, with Alexander wildly gesticulating at Oriol in the process; despite driving at almost 220-mph at the time. Rossi’s frustrations continued in post-race interviews, where he would accuse lapped drivers such as Servia of having “no respect.”

“There was a lot of lapped cars that had no respect for what we were doing,” Rossi said. “It was really unfortunate. Ultimately, I don’t think it really made a difference with the end result, but with 50 laps to go and cars are two and five laps down and blocking, it’s just disrespectful.

“We’ll deal with that another day. We just need to take the positives from this, and the positives are that the 27 boys did an amazing job to recover from a difficult pit stop, and I’m proud of them for that.”

Credit: Stephen King / Courtesy of IndyCar

When asked to comment on the incident with Rossi, Servia said in an interview with ‘Kickin’ the Tires’ that he had never intended “to make anyone unhappy” but that he had his own race to run and was trying to stay in contention to get his lap back.

“Any of those guys who had a car underneath me or was side-by-side, I let them pass,” Servia told ‘Kickin’ the Tires’ yesterday. “But, I cannot let guys pass one after the other, then I have no chance — I’m 20th in line again, forget it, might as well park. Whenever [Rossi] was by me, I actually lifted. I would have never lifted if I was going on the same lap.”

“I understand he’s frustrated, he wanted to win and I’m sure he wanted to pass me faster or easier. But he just couldn’t,” Servia added. “I don’t want to upset anyone but I had my own race to do and tried to do it the best for my guys.”

Despite the disappointment at having missed out on his second Indianapolis 500 victory, Rossi will at least take solace in the fact that he remains firmly at the sharp end of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series standings. Race-winner Pagenaud now leads the championship by one point ahead of Josef Newgarden, with Rossi currently sitting in third-place with a twenty-two point gap to Pagenaud.

Rossi won’t have long to go about seeking redemption. The next two races of the 2019 season take place this weekend at the doubleheader 2019 Grand Prix of Detroit at the Belle Isle Street Circuit. Race one will be run on Saturday, June 1, with the second race of the weekend taking place on Sunday, June 2.

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