Rossi feature on how bad luck has plagued his last 2 seasons and if he feels like these issues are wasting the prime of his career

Alexander Rossi has to be frustrated but the California native isn’t necessarily letting it show. He’s taking his season in stride when most would be boiling over with rage. Before you get to now you have to rewind back to 2017.

The Andretti Autosport driver seemed to be on a quick path to a championship once he won his second career NTT IndyCar Series race in Watkins Glen during that 2017 season. From the Toronto race that season through the one at Road America in 2019, Rossi had six wins, 16 podiums and 22 top five finishes in a span of 33 races. But, over the last 33 races, he’s yet to win, has just 7 podiums and 10 top fives.

He was second in the championship in 2018 and third in 2019. But, this dip started during the middle of that ’19 season which is why he didn’t hoist the Astor Cup championship trophy that season and why he’s hasn’t yet overall.

He had just one top five finish, a podium in Road America 2, in his first nine starts of 2020. Then, they finally turned things around in Mid-Ohio last September to close the year off with four podiums over the final five races. In the offseason, Andretti Autosport dropped a full time team and made some big internal changes to get this ship righted.

Unfortunately for them, it’s still not turned around. The organization has one win which came by Colton Herta in the second race of the year. Rossi, has no podiums to show for it — hence the frustration.

Is this team related or bad luck related?

“I think it was just situations, right?” Rossi told me on Wednesday. “Like I think you look at how the first two races went, there was a lot of speed there, then we weren’t able to qualify in Texas, then I got hit before the green flag with Conor in Texas, then the GP was pretty good, then we ran out of fuel on lap 30 at the 500, then Detroit we were really strong, all that happened.

“Yeah, I mean, the pace has been great; it hasn’t really resulted in much. Obviously with the field now, every small mistake and issue and mis-step in setup decisions from session to session has a bigger effect than it used to. It requires everyone to really be perfect throughout the weekend.

“It is what it is. I think the Indy GP, this past race was good. Nashville we obviously had good pace, but it didn’t result in anything. Yeah, I mean, I think it’s all down to some circumstances ultimately.

“But, yeah, as I’ve said many times before, I think the team’s done a great job from last year to this year in terms of how we go about the race weekends, pit stops, understanding the offset from the aeroscreen, all those things we’re in a much better position than last year. It just hasn’t really meant a whole lot quite yet.”

If it wasn’t for bad luck, Rossi would have won by now – Photo Credit INDYCAR Media

Does he ever doubt himself because of these misfortunes? Does he feel like he’s wasting prime years the last two seasons? I mean the potential has always been there but the results aren’t showing for it like they used to.

“Yeah, it’s a good question,” he told me.

“I think there’s certainly days where you feel like that. Again, at the end of the day you lose way more than you win in this sport. You have to be motivated by failures and losses. If you’re only motivated by winning, it’s going to be a tough road.

“I think we all as professional racing drivers learn that early in our careers, in go-karting at 13, 14 years old where you can only win a couple races a year on a great year.

“It is what it is. We’re focused forward and just executing the best we can every single opportunity that we go.”

See, he’s not getting any younger. He’ll be 30 next month. He has to see the rise and speed of these younger drivers and knows that if he wants to achieve greatness in this sport, time is of the essence.

Luckily, things are starting to come back around once again. He has a pair of top five results, both the only ones of the season, in the last three races. He has four top seven result in the last six overall. Is this the start of the turn of the corner again?

“I think we’re close,” Rossi continued. “I think if you look at the raw pace of the cars, I think it’s there. Despite all that, you look at where Colton is in the championship. I mean, you’d expect him to be in the top three, right, based on some of the performances he’s had? It doesn’t really necessarily mean anything if you’re not able to score points on Sundays.

“I think the team for the most part, I’d said we’re 85, 90% of the way there, which is again, like I said, a huge step. I think everyone kind of picked themselves up through the off-season and really carried on. We can’t let kind of the misfortune take the wind out of our sails and keep on every single weekend.”

So what is it that they are they missing to prevent them from getting these top fives and turning them into podiums? The speed is there, but what’s been plaguing them the most?

For starters, he’s right in the sense that bad luck is the big key.

Rossi, started off the year with a first lap crash in the season opener at the Barber Motorsports Park. A week later, he endured an incident in St. Pete with Graham Rahal. Then came a crash on the first lap in the second Texas race, only to be plagued with bad luck from the first caution in back-to-back weeks in Indy and Belle Isle 1, a broken wing in Belle Isle 2 and a bad caution flipping strategy in Nashville.

Last season came a crash while having a race winning car in the season finale on the streets of St. Pete. In Gateway was another first lap crash. For the Indy 500, came a questionable penalty on pit road while having a car that ran in the top three most of the afternoon. For Road America 1 came an early problem. Same for the Indy road course on July 4 last year with a mechanical issue. His ECU failed him at the start of the season opener in Texas.

But, when things go right, it really goes right.

How important is it for him to end the year with a win? He ended last year hot and it didn’t translate well over to this year. Is it important to do so again in hopes of starting 2022 off better?

“It is what it is,” he said. “I think the team is really doing a good job in a lot of areas. I think we had a good weekend in general at the GP. I think Nashville was really strong for the team. Yeah, I mean, I think coming out of the summer break, I think the pace and performance has been there.”

It all starts this weekend at the World Wide Technology Raceway. It’s a place where Andretti Autosport hasn’t fared well at over the years. Rossi would admit, short ovals like this one is a spot to where AA had a deficit to the big teams. That’s why they chose to test here last month in hopes of closing that gap. Did that test pay off?

“We’re really looking forward to this weekend. We had a great test back in July at Gateway. We were one of the few teams that tested there so we have an idea of what kind of the track is going to have for us on a one-day event. The tires are a little bit different for the weekend as well.

“We feel good about kind of our homework that we’ve done and the momentum that the whole organization has.”

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