LONG BEACH, Calif — Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is an important one for a number or reasons for both Alexander Rossi and Andretti Autosport. This is his shot to get his season and quite honestly his career back on track and moving in the right direction.
This is the place of 2 of Rossi’s most dominating performances during his racing career. He led 71 of 85 laps in his 2018 win and a year later, led all but 5 laps (80-for-85) in another dominating victory by 20 seconds that day. So far this weekend, he was second and fourth respectively in practice and qualified his No. 27 Honda in fifth.
It has him in striking distance and looking closer to where he was in 2019 than of the past three years.
The thing is, even in the few times he’s had cars capable of winning, he’s been taken out on contention still in these types of moments. That has him frustrated with himself and the team in general.
In a contract year, Rossi elected to not necessarily just reup with Andretti. He’s waiting to see how things play out this season to decide what direction his future will go.
“Yeah, I think that’s completely true,” Rossi said on Saturday when asked if he and the team are both evaluating each other for the future. “That’s how it’s been since the start of the year. Obviously it hasn’t been the start that any of us have wanted for a myriad of reasons.
“Today was a good day. This weekend has been fine. Yeah, tomorrow is an important day for a lot of reasons, that not being the most important. We just need to get a good result and get the year going. That’s the main focus. Whatever else comes is life.”
From a bad pit road call in St. Pete to bad luck in Texas, he sits marred deep down in the standings right now in 27th. There’s been 29 drivers to score points. His finishes this year? 20th and 27th respectively.
He hasn’t won a race since Road America in 2019. He led 54 of 55 laps that day. In fact, that was the 10th race of that season. At that point, he had led in 7 of the 10 races to account for 182 laps led.
But, over the last 39 races during this winless streak, he’s led a total of 95 laps. He led 83 laps in 2020, two last year and 10 in St. Pete. That’s it.
Also during this 39 race drought, he has finished 17th or worse in 7 of his last 19 starts. He had 6 finishes of 17th or worse in his previous 47 races.
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 39 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.
“We’ve moved on from Texas. It didn’t really matter,” Rossi said. “When it’s a mechanical issues for a driver, you don’t really care. It’s out of your control. There’s nothing you can do. Obviously if it’s a self inflicted mistake you kind of want to get back on the horse but it is what it is.
“Last thing you want to do is overcompensate and make up for lost ground.”