Rossi after Road America domination: “that’s probably the best race car I’ve ever driven”

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Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

After absolutely dominating Sunday’s 2019 NTT IndyCar Series REV Group Grand Prix at Road America, Alexander Rossi has claimed that his #27 Honda was “the best race car I’ve ever driven.” Rossi took the lead of the race at the first corner and went on to lead every single lap of the race to eventually take the win by an astonishing twenty-eight seconds; one of the most crushing drivers in the modern era of IndyCar racing.

Rossi’s race weekend got off to a strong but frustrating start in qualifying. After entering the weekend with three second-place finishes in the previous four races, Rossi was determined to finally get back to the top step of the podium. In qualifying on Saturday, Rossi was fast. However, so was Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s, Colton Herta. The pair traded fastest lap after fastest lap throughout each session of qualifying; with both drivers having a sizable advantage over the rest of the field.

Ultimately, as had been the case in the previous rounds of qualifying, Herta would just about have the edge over Rossi. Herta would claim pole position for the race after executing two consecutive flying laps in the final round to take the fastest lap with tyres that were more up to temperature than Rossi’s. The gap between the pair would be just under two-tenths of a second.

Rossi was noticeably frustrated after climbing from his #27 Andretti Autosport Honda post-qualifying. However, in post-session interviews, Alexander took solace in the fact that he was at least ahead of the championship-leader, Josef Newgarden, who had qualified in fourth place.

“It came down to the end, but that’s the NTT IndyCar Series,” Rossi said on Saturday, “What we have week-in-and-week-out, and it requires perfection from both the team and the driver. It was a good day, I think in general for the No. 27 NAPA Andretti boys – and congratulations to Colton [Herta], he did a good job.

“It’s unfortunate to miss out on the point [the championship point awarded to the pole-sitter] that we need. But that’s the way it is. We’re ahead of Josef [Newgarden] and we’ll try to keep it that way.”

Credit: John Cote / Courtesy of IndyCar

All of Rossi’s frustrations after qualifying were all but eliminated right at the start of the fifty-five lap race on Sunday. Herta got the initial jump on Rossi when the green flag flew to start the race, but this was actually an advantage for Rossi. The Californian quickly ducked into the slipstream of Herta’s #88 Honda and used the tow to draw himself alongside Colton after the long run down into turn one.

Herta held the preferred inside line for the corner, but Rossi kept his car alongside through the corner and down the short chute into turn two. There, Rossi got the advantage by braking later into the corner before getting the power down more effectively than Herta. Rossi pulled clear on the exit of the corner and thus had the lead of the race on the run to turn three.

That exchange was the last time that any of Rossi’s rivals saw him for the rest of the race. Rossi soon began to pull away lap after lap after lap. After just ten laps, Alexander had pulled away by four seconds. On average, Rossi was half a second faster than the entire field every lap.

Rossi’s three pit-stops during the race were met without issue. What’s more, problems for Herta and numerous battles for the remaining positions in the top five only helped Alexander to further extend his advantage. With no cautions to bunch the field back together, Rossi would cross the line on lap fifty-five to take the chequered flag by a scarcely believable twenty-eight seconds.

Team Penske‘s Will Power and Josef Newgarden would take the final two spots on the podium. As a result, Newgarden now leads the championship by a reduced margin of just seven points heading into the next race in Canada. After the race, Rossi claimed that he and his team had been able to “state our intentions” in the title fight with the victory and that his car had been the best that he had ever driven throughout the entirety of his racing career.

Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

“These NAPA guys, what we did overnight, seeing what we were missing in qualifying yesterday, and qualifying hurt, but to be able to go do that [dominate] today was sensational and a huge thanks to the NAPA Andretti Honda team,” Rossi said on Sunday.

“Man, after thinking about it, that’s probably the best race car I’ve ever driven. It was just a win that we needed to do. We’ve been there and thereabouts, but the Penske cars were getting the upper hand on us. To be able to go out and win a race the way we did and state our intentions, we’ll regroup the next couple of weeks and come hard again in Toronto.”

Much of the speculation in the last few weeks and months regarding the driver market for next season has centred around Rossi and his long-rumoured move to Team Penske. Both sides have refused to deny the possibility, with Penske expected to return to a four-car organisation if they wish to welcome Rossi into the team. What’s more, the links between Alexander and Penske are already present due to the Californian’s participation in Penske’s Acura Daytona prototype entry in selected rounds of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Following his utter domination on Saturday, Rossi was asked in the post-race press conference if his considerations for his ride next season had been altered in any way due to the fact that he was able to utterly humiliate Penske by almost thirty seconds. Rossi simply told that he had “no considerations” and that his future was “in God’s hands.”

Speculation regarding Rossi’s plans for 2020 will certainly continue for the next few weeks and months. In the meantime, however, the series will take a two-week break before reconvening for the next round of the championship, the Honda Indy Toronto, which will take place on Sunday, July 14.

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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