McLaughlin holds off Palou for season opening INDYCAR victory on the streets of St. Pete, top takeaways as well as how he won

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Scott McLaughlin was quickly becoming a legend and making a nice name for himself racing in the Aussie world. The New Zealander dominated the Super Cars Series amounting 56 wins and three championships in the process. But, McLaughlin wanted more. He was known for his racing prowess Down Under, but why harness his talents to just one corner of the world.

He wanted to feel challenged again and the best way to do both – come to the United States. His paychecks were being signed by Team Penske and after all, they have NASCAR and INDYCAR teams to offer here.

The best path?


So, McLaughlin made his first career start in the 2020 season finale on the streets of St. Pete. Less than two years later, he’s made the tough decision to come over here payoff.

McLaughlin, 28, not only won the pole for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete on Saturday, he’d win the race 24 hours later en route to his first career INDYCAR victory.

Scott McLaughlin is victorious in just his 19th career series start – Photo Credit INDYCAR Media Site

“Thank you to Roger Penske, everyone,” a worn out McLaughlin said after becoming the 249th career INDYCAR winner. “Yeah, Dex Imaging jumping on board, trusting me, and then Roger Penske and Tim Cindric giving me the opportunity to come here.”

This was huge for his psyche because after a rough go of it in his rookie season last year, he was down. He wasn’t used to not winning. 56 wins overseas was a lot. To go from that to being lucky for a top 10, well that hurt his confidence.

See, he came over here in the middle of a pandemic. For a family man that’s close to his parents, to go through a season like he endured in 2021 was difficult to not have them by his side either.

It was just he and his wife and that’s it.

“Yeah, I came over three times,” he said. “I had won straight back-to-back championships, and I know I’m a rookie and I wasn’t kidding myself, but at the same time it’s hard to go from the mindset of, okay, win every week and that’s all that matters, nothing less, to going, hey, I’d love a top 15. I don’t work like that. I’m a competitive bloke. I want to win. I want to get poles. I want to dominate races and not even worry about things.

“It definitely took — I did that for four years, and then coming here and was basically — it just mucks with your head, and you’ve got to be realistic about things, and I put a lot of pressure on myself, like why isn’t this happening, why am I sucking in qualifying when I’m good? I’ve done that before, I’ve proved that.

“It’s a mind game, man, and you’ve got to be on top of it. You’ve got to just believe in yourself.

“Like I said, Karly has been my absolute rock with that. She’s put the belief in me. I would be nothing without her.

“Definitely some hard times, but she’s pulled my head in, Roger’s pulled my head in, and we just got on with it. Speaking pretty candid, it’s just how it is. As a professional sportsman you go through highs and lows. You’re getting paid good money and you’re running 15th, it’s not good. For me it’s not good. I drive for the biggest motorsport team in the world. For me it wasn’t good.

“But I feel like today, this weekend, we proved that hard work, perseverance, you can get there, and I felt very proud of that.

“I miss my mom and dad dearly and my family. Wish you guys were here. What a day.”

The last time he’s seen his parents?

January 2020 he said. He last saw his sister during his INDYCAR debut in Oct. 2020. That was the last time for both.

“Yeah, I miss them dearly. My mom and dad, they’re the ones that got me here and made me believe in myself. My mom and dad have been infatuated with the USA for many years, and I guess that put the love of the USA and the want to come over here to the big leagues when I was a young kid, even way before my Supercars success.

“Then obviously I met just a guy named Roger Penske and we kicked it off. I’m tremendously grateful for the position my mom and dad put me in and the position Roger and Tim Cindric put me in.”

Is this now a breakout season for the Penske driver?

McLaughlin, wanted a second shot to see these NTT INDYCAR Series tracks. See, last year was the first time that he had even seen all but one of these circuits on the calendar.

The one exception?

St. Pete. That was his series debut in the 2020 season finale here. Technically, the 1.8-mile street course is his third trip here. That third trip is showing that we should watch out for McLaughlin in 2023 when he sees everywhere else a third time.

“I think the way that I’ve worked with Ben Bretzman, my new engineer, I think we can really start working on what we need,” he says. “We know what we want from a street circuit car, which we just showed that it’s going to be pretty good, so I’m excited for Long Beach. I’m heading back there for the second time.

“But I’m not kidding myself; I could quite easily be 20th next round. This is what INDYCAR is all about. This is why everyone loves it, why it’s becoming the world’s most competitive motorsport series. Proud to be a part of it, but it’s all about now — I’ll celebrate this, I’ll have a few beers, don’t you worry about that, but I’ll make sure that I get back on the horse, actually back on the simulator on Wednesday and got to get ready for Texas and then get ready for what’s ahead at Long Beach and a few things. It’s going to be hard, but I’m there.”

Before we get to 2023, you have to eye 2022 and he, like Alex Palou, won the first race of their sophomore campaigns. Palou, won last year’s opener at the Barber Motorsports Park and used that to prevail to his first series championship.

Can McLaughlin?

“It’s a great monkey off the back and it puts us — a tremendous confidence booster as a team, but like I said, we’re not kidding ourselves,” he says of his outlook. ‘We’ve got to keep working, keep working harder because all the teams are going to come back at us strong. You look at Ganassi, they’re probably not amazing in qualifying but they were very fast in the race today and pushed me to no end and passed a few cars.

“Yeah, I’m not kidding myself. Just keep pushing on and we’ll be okay.”

The last three winners of the season opening race to the INDYCAR season have all gone on to win the title that year.

“I think this is top-3 moment of my life,” McLaughlin said. “I’m not going to rank them, but they are Bathurst — no, I can’t say that because my wife would be mad. No, top four. My wedding, my marriage; Bathurst 1000 victory; my first championship in Supercars; and then my first victory in INDYCAR. To win on both sides of the world is pretty cool. My phone is absolutely going ballistic in my pocket right now, and I can’t wait to respond to a lot of the messages.”

How He Did It

The top starting spot was a huge advantage for McLaughlin. Team Penske though elected to use the ultimate strategy play though since he and his teammate Will Power shared the front row. McLaughlin, went with the faster Firestone alternates. Power, would go with the primaries. 9 of the top 10 starters were on McLaughlin’s strategy but Power was the opposite.

Power, slid to fourth on the start while McLaughlin pulled away. Power though, came storming back to get back up to third before the opening round of pit stops. Meanwhile, Alex Palou charged from eighth to the top five behind these two and Colton Herta.

On Lap 24, rookie David Malukas crashed in Turn 3 to bring out the first and only caution period of the 100 lap race. Prior to that, a three stop strategy was taking place. 13 of the 26 starters had already pit. 13 didn’t.

So, on Lap 27 under the caution period, McLaughlin led all the rest with the exception of Alexander Rossi down pit road. He’d exit ahead of everyone too. But, the field was now flipped. Which strategy would win out?

Due to no more yellows, the two stopper was the preferred way. McLaughlin and his pit crew were flawless and really never passed as he was the leader of the two stop strategy drivers all race long.

Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward were the top drivers on the three stop strategy but neither could make it work.

Rossi, pit on Lap 37 and handed the lead to Dixon. The six-time series champion would lead the next 11 laps before passing the torch to Rinus VeeKay who’d stretch his fuel until Lap 62. Was that too early?

McLaughlin took the lead back over and pitted one lap (Lap 64) after Herta did on Lap 63 to cover. VeeKay and Herta would have to save to make it to the end. McLaughlin would have to for a few laps but easily make it the 35 laps to the checkered.

Palou pit on Lap 65 and Power on Lap 66. It would be McLaughlin ahead of Palou, VeeKay, Power and Herta among their strategy.

O’Ward peeled off on Lap 73. It left Dixon ahead of that five car grouping but Dixon having to stop one more time. He’d do just that on Lap 79 giving way to McLaughlin for the final 20 lap sprint to the finish.

McLaughlin had a fierce battle with Alex Palou in the end – Photo Credit INDYCAR Media Site

He’d drive a perfect final stint in becoming the 20th driver ever to take a Penske powered car to victory lane and also giving Penske their sixth win in the last nine years on the Gulf Coast track including 3 in the last 4 years.

Still, it was more difficult than initially expected.

On Lap 85, McLaughlin led Palou by 2.3264-seconds. But, he had Jimmie Johnson ahead. Johnson, is Palou’s teammate. He wasn’t going to make life easy for McLaughlin. Five laps later, the lead was down to .7843-seconds.

“Really struggled those last couple laps just to keep my head and then save the fuel and all that sort of stuff,” McLaughlin said.

It was still below a second at .7905-seconds on Lap 95. Two laps later, it was down again to .3815-seconds. At the white, it was up to .3176-seconds.

Palou, was there but couldn’t pull it off.

“It was close. It was really, really close, but I don’t think we had the pace he had today,” Palou said. “Like he was on rails, and he knew where to go fast and where to obviously save some fuel at the end.

“I was just there trying to make some pressure so hopefully he made a mistake or anything, but no, he was all good. There was one time where he just pulled a gap of like three seconds and I was like, oh, man, I’m pushing, and I didn’t have anything. But I was saving fuel, he was not at that moment, and at the end, yeah, I was trying, and I was able to stay there.

“But the places where he and the car was good, it was the places that avoided him to have any issues on overtaking spots. Yeah, a bit frustrating to be that close, but still, solid result.

“Congrats to him. I’m super happy that he got his first win. Yeah, I’m happier that we got our first podium of the year.”

“But we did it,” McLaughlin continued. Chevy gave us the fuel mileage. Drivability this weekend has been a change, and to win at Dex Imaging’s home race is unreal.”

McLaughlin Holds Off Power on Saturday, Palou on Sunday

What’s the most impressive of all is, McLaughlin beat the best qualifier of this generation on Saturday. After Will Power set the track record in each of the first two rounds, McLaughlin bettered Power by just .2-seconds to earn his first career pole in the process.

His teammate, Power, wasn’t shocked at all by that lap. He said he expected this out of McLaughlin this season.

“No, it’s not surprising,” he said. “You saw it in practice last year. He just had a few issues in qualifying getting through the rounds a couple times. But the potential was there.

“He’s been at a very high level in a very competitive series for quite a few years, so he knows the game. He knows the game well. He knows the car now. You really expect him to be there every time.

“I mean, man, the experience he had in the series down there in Australia, he’s had a number of years at a very high level as. He knows how to put it together. It’s just a matter of him getting used to this car which he has now, and yeah, I’m expecting him to be a contender for the season.”

Power, is four poles shy of tying Mario Andretti for most in series history. 9 of his 63 poles have come at this very track. Instead, it was McLaughlin setting the blazing trail in the Fast Six.

On Sunday, he held off a furious charge by the defending series champion in Alex Palou to win his first race.

That’s two great drivers to hold off in a span of 24 hours.

Sunday’s win was Team Penske’ 223rd entrant win – Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Penske Storms Out Of The Gates

Last year, it took Team Penske 9 races to finally break the gates down to victory lane. The thing is, out of those 9 races, they finished runner-up in 5 of them including the first four races to the season.

They’re already 1-for-1 in not only poles, but race wins now in 2022. In fact, if you count the NASCAR side where Joey Logano won the Busch Light Clash and Austin Cindric victorious in the Daytona 500, they’re having a perfect start to this new racing season.

They put 2 drivers on the podium at St. Pete on Sunday.

“Yeah, definitely. We had a bad year last year, so certainly came into this season determined but with a lot of work behind that, a lot of work and understanding,” Will Power said. “When you have a struggle, a year of struggle, you always come back and have a pretty close look at what you were missing.

“We had one of our worst seasons last year and a very disappointing Indy 500. There’s been a lot of reflection and development to try and understand what that was and definitely have turned up with better cars. There’s no question. Definitely different philosophy and right in the window, and it’s showing on the track. Like from the moment I was on track on Friday, the car was fast, and really haven’t changed much at all.

“That’s kind of what we turned up with here.” 

Great Defense For Palou

We wondered how’d Alex Palou would bounceback from a championship season of a year ago. He said all the right things. He quickly put the Astor Cup championship away in a display case and turned his focus last Fall to a wedding of his longtime girlfriend and a title defense in 2022.

So far, that determination of greatness has led to a solid start to his third season in the sport. Palou, rebounded from being 17th in practice on Friday, to a crash on Saturday morning to 10th in qualifying a day ago.

That didn’t stop him from gaining nine spots to finish runner-up in the 2022 season opener on the streets of St. Pete for his 11th career top five finish and 13th top 10 in 31 starts. It was also his first top 10 of his career in St. Pete as his previous two finishes were 13th and 17th respectively.

“I think today was a really good day for the No. 10 car,” said the Spaniard. “Since I started I was able to get some guys at the start and then on Turn 3 or Turn 4, as well. I was pretty happy. The crew did an amazing job during the pit stops, so that’s luck, as well. I’m not doing anything there. The boys did a really good job during the preseason to try and be good as they were and ready today.

“Yeah, the rest of the race, yeah, it was a good race. It was a great day. We didn’t have anything — well, yeah, we didn’t have any data, so I don’t think that the team was able to see the fuel we had. I was not able to see the fuel I was hitting, so that makes it a bit hard, but anyway, I think we have enough.”

Palou, would admit, that street courses were his Achilles Heel in this series. To come away with a podium on one already this season makes him thrilled at the future.

“I’m really, really happy about that,” he said of his recent street course results. “Street courses, I think when I first joined INDYCAR, I just did like three races on street courses before joining INDYCAR, so I think it’s just experience and confidence. Yeah, getting more confidence every time, and hopefully we can keep on scoring good results on street courses.”

In six prior starts on them, his finishes were 13th, 17th, 15th, 3rd, 7th and 4th respectively. Now, he’s second and as you can see, he’s improving greatly in going from no top 10’s in his first three to three top four’s in his next four.

“I think everybody saw how we started the weekend,” Palou said of Ganassi’s street course program. “We started struggling, but I think everybody saw, as well, how we were able to come back and just improve our car and our performance overall.

“I still think that our qualifying pace is not there yet, like suddenly today in the warmup we were up there where we thought we would have been on qualifying. But yeah, we struggled to get one lap, especially on street courses, but we’re getting there. I think last year we got 17th here as a result and had no real pace, so today we had pace and also scored a podium.

“Pretty happy. We’re making steps in the right direction, but obviously we cannot make a huge change from one day to the other that’s going to completely change their performance. But yeah, we’re moving forward, and we’re proving that it’s working.”

Now, with a podium behind him, his sights are set on a repeat. He notes that a good strat to the year is imperative for a strong points finish later.

 “I think it’s always good to start with a great result,” he said. “If it doesn’t come, it’s okay. There’s a lot of races. But obviously it helps if you can get a good result and a podium is an awesome result to start the season.

“Yeah, we have three weeks now to prepare and get ready for Texas, so yeah, should be a good season now.”

Will Power has 3 podiums in his last 4 season opener – Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Can Power Turn Start To Better Finish?

Will Power has always said that if he can start the seasons off better, then watch out. He’s consistently ended the years strong, it’s just the beginning of them that have been his Achilles heel.

Well, Power got the finish that he needed. While it wasn’t a win, a third place result was just what the doctor ordered. Well, a runner-up last year in Barber to kick off 2021 was too but bad luck got in the way again.

Power’s podium that day in Barber as his only top five in the first eight races. Furthermore, half of those eight saw him finish 13th or worse. He’d then score three podiums in a five race span after before cooling off in the final three races of that season.

Heading into this season, if you combine the first two races over the last six years (12 starts), he’s had just three top fives and five top 10’s.

To get a podium this early is saying something.

“I’m really, really happy to start out this way,” Power said. “When I think about the day, just a really, really solid day for us. Got that yellow and then made the reds last in that middle stint. To finish on the podium, I was really, really happy with that. I didn’t expect — I expected us to be maybe in the top 10 after all of that. Great result. Happy with my performance.

“I couldn’t have done any more, and also with the team, we did everything that we could in the situation that we had. Really nice day and a great start to the season.

“I think we had a really fast car. The yellow was unfortunate, but still to get back to third, I was really happy with it. I think anytime you’re on the podium, anytime you have a top 5 that’s not the day you’re going to look back and go, oh, that cost me the championship. If you can keep rattling off those top 5s you’re going to be in the game. Definitely happy with the result.”

In saying this, the first race he’s getting down. This was the 3rd podium in the last 4 years of the season opener, it’s the second race that he’s had the problem. The finishes of the second race in the past three years?

24th, 20th and 8th respectively. He was 13th and 22nd respectively in the two years prior to that.

We go to Texas next. He was 18th in 2018, 9th in 2019, 13th in 2020 and 14th and 13th respectively in the doubleheader weekend last year. That race is circled for him now in order to be a championship contender.

As to what he needs to do for this season now to turn this into a potential championship one?

“Finish really well in the double points race at Indy like we didn’t last year, and have my car start when I’m leading in Detroit,” he jokes. “That group of points right there probably would have put me in the game. So there’s a big chunk right there.

“But honestly, it’s those days that really got us. Like we were in — we were going to be a top 5 at Indy and then the brakes went to the floor and I had no brakes and then couldn’t pit really, and then in Detroit obviously the thing didn’t start.

“But those little gremlins, those little things are the things we look back as things that really cost us, kind of things out of my control, but I also reflect and look at where I can be better, as well. If that all comes together, I really believe we can win the championship and be right there, at least a contender right until the end.”

Youth Movement Here Again

The long awaited youth movement has come and by the looks of things, I think it’s here to stay. We had a 21 year old and 24 year old going for this last year’s title. We also had a 30 year old in that mix too. That doesn’t even count the likes of Colton Herta, Rinus VeeKay and others.

It’s safe to say, the future is still very bright for this series and it showed on Sunday with 4 of the top 5 starters all have less than 50 series starts under their belts for their entire career thus far.

That tweet was with a couple laps-to-go. VeeKay slid down to sixth and Romain Grosjean up to fifth.

So, went 18, 31, 252, 49, 17, 30 for the top six.

In fact, the youth showed up early and often last season. 24 year old Alex Palou earned his first career win in the season opener in Barber. A week later, 21 year old Colton Herta led 97 of 100 laps on the streets of St. Pete. A week after that, a then 20 year old Pato O’Ward won the second race of the doubleheader weekend in Texas. He’d win again in June at Belle Isle, a day after a then 30 year old Marcus Ericsson scored his first career Indy Car win there as well in the first race of the doubleheader weekend. That came almost a month after 20 year old sophomore sensation Rinus VeeKay won the GMR Grand Prix.

For Palou, O’Ward, Ericsson and VeeKay, each were their maiden INDYCAR wins. Then, throw in 40 year old Scott Dixon winning a race at Texas and Helio Castroneves joining the four win club for the Indy 500 and you get a season to what lived up to its billing as the best one yet.

Barber was thrilling. St. Pete saw Herta dominate but Newgarden made it a fun battle in the end. The first Texas race left more to be desired but the second one was nothing short of amazing during the second half of the race. The GMR Grand Prix was another fun show while the Indy 500 and both races in Belle Isle far exceeded expectations and were arguably the top three races of last season.

Imagine what the next 10 years are going to look like. Just look at the points last year. 24 year old Palou won the title. 21 year old O’Ward was third with 30 year old Newgarden in second. 40 year Scott Dixon led 21 year old Colton Herta in fifth. 31 year old Marcus Ericsson was sixth with 32 year old Graham Rahal in seventh. 21 year old Rinus VeeKay was in a tie for 12th.

Now, you get a 28 year old winning in his second season with Palou, Herta and VeeKay all in the top six.

Is the future now?

Strategy Race

The 2021 race was a two-stop strategy event. This year’s winning strategy was another two stopper as the top seven cars went with that strategy on Sunday. In fact, the 10 drivers who elected to go with a two stopper all finished in the top 11. The lone exception?

Scott Dixon.

See, with this being a 100 lap race, as long as cautions stay out of the way, this is pretty much a straight forward two stopper. The last two years, yellows were a non factor. We had 1 for 8 laps on Sunday and it came after the commitments were already made for a 2 vs. 3 stopper. No one had to adjust their strategy due to David Malukas’ crash coming on Lap 24.

The winning move in 2021 was Colton Herta doing Firestone reds at the start, scuffed blacks and then fresh blacks for his two stops.

McLaughlin, went similar with reds, then stopping under caution for blacks on Lap 27 and doing the same under green flag conditions on Lap 64. Alex Palou went reds until Lap 27, blacks until Lap 65 and blacks gain to the checkered.

Power, did the opposite at the beginning with the blacks until Lap 27, the reds until Lap 66 and blacks again until the end.

Dixon’s three stop strategy saw him pit on Lap 11 from his seventh place starting spot. He went from reds to blacks. He’d pit again on Lap 48 for blacks. But, he had to stop one more time on Lap 79 for blacks to the finish and would come home seventh after leading 26 times.

He’s still 0-for-18 at St. Pete.

Meyer Shank Racing once again had the wrong strategy. Simon Pagenaud started sixth and had the same pattern as Dixon. He pit on Lap 11, Lap 42 and Lap 68. Unfortunately, by pitting early with Dixon and doing so six laps sooner than Dixon on the second stint cost him a top 10. He’d fall to 15th, or fifth on the three stop strategy.

Helio Castroneves stopped three times too but did so differently. He started 17th and pit on Lap 8, Lap 27 and Lap 66. He came home 14th.

It’s clear, the reds at the start and going two stops is the winning move.

Not A Good Start For Andretti To Sway Rossi

Neither side is saying much of anything other than Andretti Autosport and Alexander Rossi don’t have a contract together past this season. While AA wants to keep him, it seems like Rossi is wanting to test the free agent market.

He’s not necessarily shutting the door on Andretti, but rather seeing what he could be worth on the open market as well as seeing if Andretti can improve their performance in order to make him a championship contender.

After how the past 24 hours have went, it’s not off to a great start.

Rossi, was sixth and fourth respectively in practice this weekend but only qualified 13th. The team elected to not pit with everyone else that hadn’t already done so on Lap 27. They were desperate to stay in the front. So, he’d lead 10 laps but have to pit on Lap 37. Without a yellow the rest of the way, that move pushed him further down.

Rossi, had to settle for 20th and put himself in another hole to start the 2022 season off with. He’s 43 points out of the lead now.

See, Rossi is frustrated. He was frustrated entering 2022 and has to be even more now. The prime of his INDYCAR career is being wasted and he’s not anywhere near to where he expected to be in his career path in terms of success yet.

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 3 races, he’s yet to win, has just 8 podiums and only 11 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 was 10th in the final standings last year.

That’s why with him being in the final year of his contract, he’s not just running to the negotiating table with Andretti Autosport to reup. He feels like the results could be better for both sides.

“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,” Rossi told me heading to Gateway last year.

“I mean, I think it’s all down to some circumstances ultimately. 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.”

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’s 31 now. 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.

“I think we’re close,” Rossi continued then. “I think if you look at the raw pace of the cars, I think it’s there.”

Rossi said heading into the final stretch of races last year that they were 85-90% of the way there. How does he see it entering this season?

It doesn’t matter now. This season isn’t off to a great start.

This also puts the pressure on Andretti to give Rossi cars to succeed. No one will deny the fact that Rossi is as talented as they come. If luck goes his way, he’s a multi-time Indy 500 champion by now and arguably the next one in line who could be in that four-win club.

It’s not just Indy with bad luck. It’s nearly everywhere.

Rossi, started off last 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.

The 2020 season saw 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.

That’s why Andretti really can’t afford to let someone of his caliber get away because even though Rossi’s riding a near three year long winless drought that dates back to June of 2019, you know Penske and Ganassi are watching and waiting.

This weekend can’t happen again.

Of Note:

INDYCAR and track officials noted that the crowd this weekend was up 49% over 2019 and that an estimate crowd of 200k was here this weekend.

Final Results


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