By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Years in IndyCar: 1
Career Laps led: 23
2016-17 Team: Andretti Autosport
Alexander Rossi got much more than he bargained for in his rookie Verizon IndyCar Series campaign.
The driver of the No. 98 Napa Auto Parts Honda claimed victory in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil with a brilliant fuel-saving strategy.
The rest of the season saw the 25-year-old from Nevada City, California struggle at some places and put on a few good performances at places you wouldn’t expect him to. A sixth place finish at the 7/8 mile Iowa Speedway was a high point and showed some speed at Texas and Pocono.
A top-five run at Pocono was dashed after an incident in the pits with Charlie Kimball and he went backward at Texas when the race restarted on August 27.
The season ended on a high note as he scored a top five at Sonoma Raceway despite running out of fuel in the final corner. The top five solidified his spot as the Sunoco Rookie of the Year.
With 2016 behind him, you can presume Rossi will be a lot better in 2017.
A year’s worth of experience and knowledge of all the tracks will give him an edge. He now has Jeremy Milless, the former engineer for Josef Newgarden at Ed Carpenter Racing, on his pitbox.
The only big change that he will face is not having Bryan Herta serving as his driver mentor. Herta was key in Rossi’s ‘clutch and coast’ win at Indy. That responsibility now falls on Rob Edwards, as Herta moves over to Marco Andretti’s team.
While that will take some getting used to, Rossi has the skills it takes to be a champion. He is very smart and professional, which are the fundamentals of a great career. More importantly, he knows how to extract more out of the car than it has and deliver good results.