By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — Alexander Rossi had to save critical amounts of fuel late in the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course but it was a familiar experience as he brought his car home fifth.
Starting eighth, Rossi managed to get to sixth on the opening lap thanks to Jordan King and Simon Pagenaud’s second turn incident. Passing James Hinchcliffe soon after the track went back to green, Rossi stayed fifth until the opening cycle of pit stops.
After leading two laps, Rossi then spent the vast majority of the rest of the race in the top five but late in the race, the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda was in fourth place stalking Robert Wickens in a situation very similar to the opening race of the season where the two racers collided.
The Californian was unable to get past Wickens but instead found himself in fifth after Sebastien Bourdais got around the Andretti Autosport driver on the last lap.
“I really thought we could get it,” said Rossi. “It was a big fight there for half a lap with Robert and I, he got the better of me this time. It was a good recovery from the path we were kind of going down from yesterday afternoon into this morning so to be able to bounce back from 18th position in warmup with a fifth is pretty positive.”
It was also a positive day for points. Rossi is only two points behind series leader Josef Newgarden after five races.
“We’ve got the equivalent of four races coming up in two and a half weeks, so no, nothing really matters at this point,” said Rossi. “We see how much the competitive nature of this championship swings, there’s a new guy winning seemingly every weekend so we’re going into a big month so right now we’re just focusing on the 500 and trying to win that.”
Probably the best summation of Rossi’s day came after the checkered flag. After running out of fuel, the car found its way onto pit road thanks to a tow truck and a really long cable behind it. Rossi had to save a ton of fuel and barely made it to the line.
“Oh yeah, we had the fuel alarm come on with one lap to go,” said Rossi.”So it was very reminiscent of the 2016 Indy 500 so we just had to go massive fuel save like you wouldn’t believe. It was clutch and coast all over again so Bourdais just easily got by.”
There was a bit of a flashback to 2016 when he got towed back to the pits going the opposite way.
“Yes but (it was)way less cool.”