After scoring his third runner-up finish in the last four races of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi has commented that he disappointed to have been narrowly beaten to the victory in last Saturday’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. Rossi had to settle for second place on Saturday night after Team Penske‘s Josef Newgarden moved into the lead in the closing stages.
Heading into last weekend’s race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Rossi had just taken over second-place in the championship standings following on from the Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader event the weekend prior. With a fifteen-point gap to championship-leader Newgarden, Rossi was hoping that his strong pace shown in the first oval race of 2019, the Indianapolis 500 at the end of May, would be a precursor to a great result on the high banks of Texas.
After Friday’s qualifying session, however, this did not look to be the case. Rossi qualified in a lowly eleventh-place, with his two-lap qualifying run average almost 2-mph slower than pole-sitter Takuma Sato. After the session, Rossi claimed that he had not had the best of opening laps on his qualifying run and that he was hoping to move up in the race the following day.
“It was a disappointing run for the GESS / Capstone car,” Rossi said on Friday, “I think we had a faster car than qualifying showed. We missed it on Lap 1, we’ll look and see why that was tonight and go from there. It’s fast laps, but there’s a chance to make up spots tomorrow.”
As has been a common theme across most oval races in recent years, Rossi showed early on in the race that he was on a mission. He, along with Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta, looked to be among the few drivers who were able to make passes with relative ease.
Rossi eventually found himself into the top-five as the race drew near its conclusion. A string of passes, coupled with the elimination of previous front-runners such as pole-sitter Takuma Sato, Colton Herta, Scott Dixon, and James Hinchcliffe – the latter three being eliminated in late wrecks – Rossi would find himself in second-place for the final restart of the race with just over ten laps to go. Penske’s Josef Newgarden benefitted from a great pit-strategy on his final pit-stop to find himself in the lead of the race.
On the restart, Rossi was not quite able to mount an assault on the run into turn one. However, after a few laps, he started to apply the pressure. Alexander managed to draw alongside Josef on several occasions, always through the tri-oval and into turn one, but he would always find himself on the outside for the corner and thus in a position where he would have to back out and allow Newgarden to hold the lead.
Ultimately, Newgarden would hold-off the hard-charging Rossi to secure his third win of the season, with Rossi finishing under a second behind to take his third second-place finish in the last four races.
Post-race, Rossi would state that he felt as though he could have taken more of a risk in his battle for the win with Newgarden and that he was disappointed to have seen Josef emerge in the lead of the race after the final pit-stops.
“I think we had a good car, could obviously get a good run on him [Josef Newgarden] off of Turns 3 and 4. Lane 2 was really never there for me,” Rossi said on Saturday, “We could get halfway around the outside, then [I] would have to bail out. [I] could have maybe taken a bit more of [a] risk. It was a pretty low percentage [chance of overtaking]. I didn’t think a lot of guys were making it happen.
“Ultimately, then it became about trying to beat him for the line, but we took out a lot of the tyre life going in Lane 2 there, so we just didn’t have the rear tyres there at the end to stay close to him. That sucks. I mean, I didn’t see him up front all day. All of a sudden, he appears in P1. Obviously, they’re doing a good job. He had a fast car once he got in front. Ultimately I think Scott [Dixon], myself and Colton [Herta] in terms of fuel mileage and where we were going, were looking pretty good there till the end.”
With Newgarden winning the race ahead of Rossi, a twenty-five point gap now separates the pair in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship standings heading into the next round of the season. The 2019 REV Group Grand Prix at Road America will take place on Sunday, June 23.