Alexander Rossi ended a three year pole drought on Saturday. He scored his first NTT INDYCAR Series pole since 2019 at Belle Isle. Now, could he end his 44 race winless drought in Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America?
He started 20th and finished 5th in the Indy 500. He came from 11th to finish 2nd last week in Belle Isle. Now that he wasn’t playing catch up, would he take baby girl back to victory lane for the first time since he led 54 of 55 laps in this very race in 2019?
Unfortunately, he couldn’t. Rossi had to settle for 3rd in his No. 27 Dallara-Honda for his 3rd straight top 5 result on the season and 5th top 10 in the last 6 races. His worst result since Long Beach is an 11th place run in the GMR Grand Prix last month.
That’s propelled him from 18th in points to 7th heading into the 2 week break before we get back going again on July 3 at Mid-Ohio.
“A little disappointing, but all in all I think it was a very positive weekend for us for obvious reasons,” Rossi said after scoring his 39th career top 5 finish on Sunday. “A good run of races, look forward to going to Mid-Ohio.”
Still, Rossi also is disappointed to not win this race from the pole. He was this close to snapping that 3 year drought of celebrating in victory lane and here he was with as good as a shot of any to close it.
He just didn’t have the car to do so.
Rossi led the 1st 16 laps of the afternoon and hit pit lane with Newgarden in tow on Lap 15. Newgarden beat him out of pit lane due to Newgarden’s teammate of Scott McLaughlin also pitting on that lap but he pulled into his stall as Rossi was wanting to leave to in order to not run into him, Rossi had to wait. That split second of doing so allowed Newgarden a clean exit without any interruption ahead which put him in front of Rossi.
“I think Brian (Barnhart) was telling me to wait,” said Rossi. “There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just an unfortunate sequence that happens. I think it certainly cost us the lead there.”
Still, even if he exited pit lane with the top spot, Rossi didn’t think he could hold Newgarden off for the final 40 laps though either.
“That being said, I do think Josef had a really strong car today so I don’t know necessarily that we would have been able to beat him. Maybe, I don’t know.
“But it’s neither here nor there. That’s just part of the way it works. Ultimately it’s good to avoid contact and lose a little bit of time.”
Newgarden would stay ahead of him the rest of the day as a result.
“My team really put me in position on that first stop,” Newgarden said. “Rossi was not going to be easy to beat today. I felt like he was very strong. I felt like we were a little bit better than him, but he was by no means going to be simple to go by.
“That first stop is really what set the tone for us. Once we got in position, it was about getting through the lap markers, the alternate strategy quicker than him, building a gap, maintaining it. I felt like our PPG car was hooked up and had it from Team Chevy on the power side pretty much as always this year.”
The thing is, the lead from Newgarden was cut from almost 5 seconds prior to their final pit stop down to 2.8 seconds before Pato O’Ward stalled in Turn 12 on Lap 48. Rossi had new life and a fast car. We all thought maybe this was Rossi’s shot at redemption.
Instead, it was Newgarden’s to avail last year’s bad luck to his gear box on the late race restart. Rossi had 2 shots at Newgarden there in the end but not only couldn’t convert, but he also lost 2nd to Marcus Ericsson in the process.
“Yeah, probably a little disappointing when you start on pole and can’t convert,” Rossi continued. “It was generally a good day I think. I think Josef had a little bit better pace than us. I think we were the second best car. Pretty aggressive on the restart there to try and do something. Just kind of overstepped a little bit. That’s what allowed Marcus to get by.
“Ultimately I don’t know that we would have been able to win. He went pretty early on the first one. I went with him on the second and actually got too close.
“Yeah, he executed well. It was my mistake, which allowed Marcus to get by. You got to try in those situations to go for the win.”
Can Rossi keep the momentum going in Mid-Ohio?
He has 6 straight top 6 results including 3 podiums in his last 5 tries. After that we go to Toronto to where he has 2 podiums in his last 3 efforts there too.