By David Morgan, Associate Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – It’s been a long time coming, but Alexander Rossi is finally back on top of the podium in an NTT IndyCar Series race after scoring the victory in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Since Rossi last won at Road America in June 2019, 49 races and 1,133 days have elapsed, but that clock now resets back to zero for the driver of the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda.
“It’s a lot of relief I think is the main word,” Rossi said. “We’ve had some race wins that we’ve thrown away for sure, and we’ve had some weekends where we’ve just kind of not had the pace, and for whatever reason.
“I think that we knew things were trending in a good direction this year, and we had a solid test here a month or so ago. I think the one constant has been just the mental strength of the whole team. As challenging as it is for me, it’s also hard for them. They go in every day and work their butts off, and when they don’t get results, it’s hard for them, as well.
“I think as a unit, that’s one of our strengths is being able to continue to just push forward. It’s a big team win and a big thank you to the whole organization. Obviously the cars were fast.”
Rossi showed speed throughout the weekend, rocketing to the top of the board in practice on Friday morning and then backing it up with a second-place qualifying run later in the afternoon.
That speed rolled right into race day as Rossi slotted in behind his Andretti teammate Colton Herta for the majority of the first half of the race, but when Herta retired from the race on lap 42 due to a mechanical failure, Rossi ascended to the lead.
After taking over the top spot, Rossi would be undeterred, leading the last 44 laps of the race and taking the victory handily by more than three seconds over second-place finisher Christian Lundgaard.
Will Power finished third to round out the podium finishers, with his Team Penske teammates Scott McLaughlin and Josef Newgarden finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
Rossi’s win comes in his last season for Andretti, before he heads off to Arrow McLaren SP starting in 2023, making Saturday’s win even more special as he was able to visit victory lane again with the team before saying goodbye at season’s end.
“It’s been hard for all of us,” Rossi said. “It’s been hard for Michael. It’s been hard for Rob, the sponsors. When we started this kind of three-year journey in ’19, this wasn’t the expectation for the past two and a half years. So that’s been hard on everyone.
“I think that it’s a nice reward for everyone. No one ever quit. No one ever stopped, oh, Alex is leaving, so who cares anymore. That was never a thing, and I’m so appreciative to Michael and all the engineering staff for continuing to push to give me the best possible equipment, because I’ve been in situations in the past where that’s not necessarily been the case, and I think that that is a testament to them as people and as a race team, and we couldn’t be here without them, so it’s a huge win for myself but definitely for all the 27 guys, as well.”
The win at Indianapolis also gives Rossi victories on both the oval, having won the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 during his rookie season back in 2016, and now capturing a win on the road course.
“Every time I come here, I just appreciate it more and more, whether it’s for an event — I mean, obviously the 500, but whether it’s this event, a sponsorship thing, a media thing, giving laps around the track. Like it’s just such an amazing place for us,” Rossi said.
“For me, being my seventh season in the series and knowing what it means to the NTT INDYCAR Series, as well, yeah. I kind of was hoping on the Road America weekend for it to kind of start and end this drought or whatever there, but it actually ended here was actually kind of a cooler story.
“To be able to go up on the lift with the guys and let them experience that because that didn’t exist in 2016, there’s a lot of special things about this place. The fan turnout here for us as INDYCAR drivers is always amazing, and seeing everyone with the merch and the autograph session, it’s just a very special thing today for sure.”
Having finally lifted the huge weight of a winless streak off his shoulders, Rossi will now look to keep the momentum going over the remainder of the season, as he has just four races left as the driver of the No. 27 Honda.
“I think we’ll be very strong in Nashville and Portland and Laguna for sure, so I don’t think that’s even a question,” Rossi said. “Gateway I hope we can pull something out.
“It is good momentum. It’s great to kind of put this whole thing behind us and just go out there and focus on finishing off the year as strong as we can.”