Rossi accomplished half the goal but Newgarden right there to hope to keep Rossi’s drought extended to July as the duo share the front row in Road America, their thoughts heading into it

This weekend in Road America is shades of the 2018 and 2019 NTT INDYCAR Series seasons. In 2019, Josef Newgarden won the championship on the heels of 4 victories. Alexander Rossi was 3rd after earning 2 wins himself. A year prior, Rossi was 2nd in points (3 wins) with Newgarden in 5th (3 wins). Between the duo, they had combined to had won 12 of the 34 races in those 2 years.

Over the last 2 1/2 seasons?

Only Newgarden has won. He’s reached victory lane 8 times in this span which is more than the entire Andretti Autosport organization has won between them all together.

Rossi is riding a 44 race winless drought with his last victory coming at Road America, the site of this weekend’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).

However, he looks as close now as he has over this 3 year drought to snapping this streak. Rossi went from 20th to 5th in the Indy 500 and a week later went from 11th to 2nd last Sunday in Belle Isle.

On Friday, he was quickest in practice. On Saturday, he was quickest in qualifying to score his first pole since that same 2019 season at Belle Isle.

“Yeah, it’s pretty crazy to just think it’s been so long,” Rossi said of his pole drought. “Yeah, it just shows the belief of the whole organization. The 27 NAPA Auto Parts AutoNation Honda guys have been good for a month, and it’s continuing on. We rolled off strong. It’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of right now.”

Alexander Rossi celebrates redemption following his 1st pole since 2019 at Belle Isle. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

In saying that, he’s not getting ahead of himself in thinking he can take his No. 27 Dallara-Honda to victory lane on Sunday. He knows this series is very hard to win in and knows that the guy starting alongside has just as good as a shot at victory than he does.

Newgarden qualified 2nd in his No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet for his 3rd front row starting spot of the season. It’s also the 4th time in the last 6 times at Road America he’s started on the front row at that.

In 2018, Newgarden led 53 of 55 laps in his Road America win. A year later, Rossi led 54 of 55 laps. After both not winning in 2020, Newgarden started on the pole and led 32 laps in last year’s race. If not for a sputtering engine on the final restart, he was going to win.

Can Rossi hold him off?

“I think it’s helpful here for sure,” he said of the starting position. “You want to be up front. Ideally it’s a long track, it’s a lot of ground to make up. You get pretty spread out. When you start at the back, it puts you on even more of a back foot here versus a smaller track.

“Yeah, hopefully it’s good. The race is very different than qualifying. We’ll have to see how that works out. Tires, in my opinion, are quite different this year. So it will be interesting to see some guys that didn’t transfer, like a Will Power, for instance, it will be interesting to see how they utilize their reds and things like that.

“There’s no gimmes this day. I thought Detroit was going to be pretty straightforward last weekend and it was anything but that. Don’t hold your breath.”

Rossi says that while he’s on the pole though, his work is only halfway done.

“I think people know that with my personality, I’m not concerned by a whole lot, with outside opinion,” he says. “Internally it’s motivating. Obviously you don’t ever want to go through an experience like this. We haven’t finished the job yet. We need to go win tomorrow.

“We’ve accomplished half the goal, I guess you could say. But certainly the whole team has been kind of in a good space since kind of the month of May started. We’re just carrying that on now. Hopefully this is the trend for the rest of the year.”

While the stats show Rossi’s hot streak started for the Indy 500, he says that’s not necessarily the part that sparked this.

“I don’t know that it was Indy,” he notes of this streak. “We were good in a lot of places. We were good at the GP. I don’t know. We’re not having weird things happen at the moment. So knock on wood.

“I don’t think there’s any revelation. We’re not doing anything different. It’s just things are — mistakes are minimized, chaotic events, minus a clutch blowing up this morning, have been relatively under control.”

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