Alexander Rossi is on a roll. The Andretti Autosport driver drove from Row 7 to 5th in the Indianapolis 500 back on May 29 and a week later went from 11th to 2nd on the streets of Belle Isle. On Friday, he continued the upward momentum in putting his No. 27 Dallara-Honda P1 on the speed charts in the 75 minute long practice session from Road America.
“Yeah, it was good,” said Rossi. “It’s a bit weird to have the Firestone alternates on day one, so it will be interesting to see how that translates tomorrow. Obviously the track evolution will continue to get better every session of the weekend. We’ll have to see how that translates from practice one all the way to qualifying.
“The car rolled off really strong, which is positive on these weekends where it’s so close you got to start from a good point. Hats off to the team for the effort that they did in the prep for this event. We just got to keep it rolling.
“Yeah, everything has been good so far. The month of May was good for us. Unfortunately the GP didn’t work out as we hoped. There’s been a lot of silver linings, if you will. Yeah, we just hopefully can go one step higher than last weekend here on Sunday.”
Rossi went 1:45.6027-seconds which was good enough to lead the 27 car entry list ahead of Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). This was the site of his last win 44 races ago and as we sit here today, looks like the place it may end that too.
“I love this place,” he said. “I think it’s one of the top five permanent road courses in the world in my book. It’s got everything. It’s just a joy to drive around here. There’s not much else to say. I don’t think there’s anything I dislike about it.
“It’s a beautiful part of the world. The people are great. The fans are awesome. The weather is usually pretty good. All A pluses in my book.”
His Andretti teammate of Colton Herta (1:45.7361-seconds) was second in his No. 26 Dallara-Honda. Herta has qualified on the front row in in 3 of his 4 Road America starts and was 7th in the other.
The last 2 winners on the season were 3rd and 4th respectively with Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson (1:45.8050-seconds) being 3rd in his No. 8 Dallara-Honda and Belle Isle winner Will Power (1:45.8592-seconds) being fourth in his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet.
Defending race winner Alex Palou (1:45.9140-seconds) rounded out the top five in his No. 10 Dallara-Honda.
Andretti, Penske, Ganassi Cars Quick
Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing have combined to have won six of the last seven races here with Andretti taking the other. They all three combined to go 1-2-3-4 last year and have taken wins in 6 of the 7 races run in 2022 in general.
On Friday, the trio swept the entire top 8 of the speed chart and look like the class of the field once again.
For Andretti, can they capitalize on Friday’s speed for once? They’ve been in this position nearly all year but have always struggled in qualifying a day later which has also hurt their race winning chances on Sunday’s.
Rossi has 2 Fast 6 appearances (2018, 2019) at Road America, 2 top 10 starting spots all season but 1 was at Barber. 5 of his 7 qualifying attempts have seen him start 11th or worse with each of his last 5 Road America starts being 4th, 2nd, 11th, 10th and 9th respectively.
Herta has qualified 10th and 14th this year on natural road courses with Romain Grosjean (14th on Friday) 8th and 10th.
For Penske, can they pick up their 1st natural road course win this year? They’re 3-for-3 on street courses and 1-for-2 on ovals but 0-for-2 on these types of tracks. They went 4th, 6th and 8th in practice.
For Ganassi, Ericsson is wanting his 1st career pole, Dixon (7th) is hoping to finally make the 2nd round while Palou is eyeing back-to-back wins.
Honda’s Race To Lose?
Chevrolet went 4-for-4 to start the 2022 season off with. Then they went 0-for-2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. Last week the visited the victory circle again in Belle Isle. They’re 5-for-5 away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but 0-for-2 on it.
Honda is 0-for-5 away from IMS. Can they pick up a win on Sunday?
They had the top 3 speeds in practice and 4 in the top 5. They also looked like this last weekend in Belle Isle but didn’t win the pole nor the race either.
They have won each of the last 4 races at Road America so maybe they can get their 1st win away from Indianapolis since last September.
Extended Session Not Necessarily Needed Here
The session was extended for a trial period from 45 minutes to 75 minutes without the aid of a stoppage on the clock for red flags. That’s because some have wanted to go longer in practice over the last couple of years so they felt like they could try it out in Road America on Friday. However, maybe this wasn’t the weekend to try it.
With 11 total sets of tires available for the non rookies, 7 black, 4 red, you didn’t get as many laps turned in the 75 minute session as they’d once thought. See, this is a race that would likely favor the black tires. So, you need to save at least 2 sets for Sunday’s race. That plus you needing to use a set of reds on Friday for the first time (Reds are usually not used until Saturday) you didn’t have much time to practice a lot of laps.
With needing to save a set of reds for the race and needing 2 sets for Saturday, you only had the luxury of 1 run on reds on Friday. That plus maybe a run or 2 on blacks meant that the extra time wasn’t necessarily needed since this track is so big.
“Yeah, I guess there’s a pro and a con, right?” said Rossi. “The pro is you have more time, if you’re off on the reds, to adapt to it with the way that it is now. However, the swing, like the track evolution usually from practice one to practice two is like over a second, then it takes another small step to qualifying.
“Now what you have to do is see, okay, the reds were good when the track was average, and then kind of guesstimate based on how good the track in theory is going to go in practice two, right? You don’t actually have an understanding of what the alternates are going to do on the better track.
“Does that matter? I hope not, right, because obviously we are in a good spot. It is new for all of us. If it makes a difference or not, I don’t know yet.
“It’s certainly something we’re going to have to make the offset adjustments going into the qualifying. You got to make those a little bit bigger than we have had in the past couple weekends.
“I think you did more laps in practice one, but you’re going to see less in practice two. I think it will net out to be the same. We had the same set of tires, right?
“For us as a team we look at the set of tires we have, how many you need for the race and qualifying, and your plan of Fast 12, Fast Six, then you continue to work backwards from there and that’s what you have left for practice.
“I understand why the series did it in the sense they want cars on track on Friday and get the weekend rolling. That’s a positive thing. I just think now maybe tomorrow morning we’re not going to see as much running. But that’s to be determined.”