By David Morgan, Associate Editor
All signs pointed to Sunday’s Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America being the place where Alexander Rossi would make his long-awaited return to victory lane, but in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be.
After getting the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season off on the wrong foot, the 30-year-old has seen steady gains in performance, banking four top-10 finishes in the five previous races this season, including a top-five in the Indianapolis 500 and a runner-up finish last weekend in Detroit.
Riding that wave of momentum into Wisconsin, Rossi started the weekend off by topping the first practice session on Friday, and followed that up by winning his first pole since 2019 on the 14-turn, 4.048-mile road course.
Add in the fact that Road America served as the last track in which Rossi won a race, where he led all but one lap to win back in 2019, and it was game on for the No. 27 Andretti Autosport team.
When the green flag flew on Sunday, Rossi was off to the races, leading the first 14 laps ahead of Josef Newgarden, before things started to take a turn during the first green flag pit stop sequence.
Though Rossi would lead the way onto pit road, it was Newgarden that would lead the way off of it, forcing Rossi onto offense, having to chase down Newgarden for the remainder of the race instead of being able to play defense out front.
Rossi was able to lead two additional laps by staying out an extra lap during the second green flag pit stop sequence, but Newgarden would be the driver to beat as the race played out.
Sitting second inside of 10 laps to go, Rossi was the only driver that had a shot at Newgarden, running less than three seconds behind Newgarden and charging forward. All he needed was a chance.
Two back-to-back cautions inside of 10 laps to go would give Rossi the chance he needed, setting up a three-lap dash to try and unseat Newgarden from the lead and take the win for himself.
However, things didn’t exactly go to plan for Rossi on the final restart, as Newgarden got a massive jump and Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson was ready to pounce from behind, powering past Rossi to take over second-place and dropping Rossi to third.
The challenges were not over yet for Rossi, who had to fend off his Andretti Autosport teammates Colton Herta and Romain Grosjean to keep ahold of his place in the running order.
Eventually, things would settle out for Rossi, as he stayed in third-place all the way to the finish line, banking his second straight podium finish of the season.
“Probably a little disappointing when you start on pole and can’t convert,” Rossi said. “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. Got held up with Scott McLaughlin a little bit coming into the pits when we were trying to leave on the first sequence. With the lap cars, Josef was the first to get to him. From there on it was trying to close the gap that got started there.
“A little disappointing, but all in all I think it was a very positive weekend for us for obvious reasons. A good run of races, look forward to going to Mid-Ohio.”