By David Morgan, Associate Editor
It has been a rough start to the 2020 NTT Indycar Series season for Alexander Rossi, but Sunday at Road America, things started to turn the corner with a much-needed podium finish – his first since late last year.
Classifying his start to the season as “nightmarish”, Rossi started the season off with mechanical issues both before and during the race at Texas, resulting in a 15th place finish on the 1.5-mile oval and the bad luck continued as the season progressed into Indianapolis and Road America.
During the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis, Rossi was running in the top-five when a fuel pressure issue arose, causing the No. 27 Honda to be retired just 41 laps into the race, resulting in a 25th place finish.
Heading into the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America, the team hoped to finally have some good luck go its way, but in the first race of the doubleheader weekend, the downward trend continued when an off-track excursion in Turn 13 early in the race forced Rossi to pit road to remove a sign board wedged under his front wing, which put him behind the eight-ball for the remainder of the race, eventually finishing the day in 19th.
“I think it’s impossible not to be disappointed, discouraged,” Rossi said of his mindset after the first three races. “But I don’t think it was ever a question of whether this team was capable of doing it. It just seemed to me everything that could go wrong went wrong. It was coming back each morning as a new day and trying to do your part, execute as best as you can.”
After Saturday’s race at Road America, Rossi found himself 21st in points, last among those that had run the first three races of the season, so heading into the second race of the Road America doubleheader, the Andretti Autosport driver had nowhere to go but up, and that’s exactly what he was able to do.
Starting the day in 10th, Rossi was able to put together a smooth race, climbing up the leaderboard into the top-five and eventually the top-three just past the halfway point, where he would remain for all but one of the final 25 laps of the race.
“We needed today,” Rossi said. “We kind of still suffered some mechanical issues yesterday. I made a mistake on lap one that really put us back, kind of ended our race from the beginning.
“But I think overall our race pace was okay. We knew we had something. It was just about trying to put together a whole 55 laps with no issues. Today we were able to do that. I think still we’re missing some just overall pace.
“Like I said, it’s a good step in the right direction. This AutoNation NAPA Andretti Honda team has had to do a lot of long nights, disappointing weekends. To get this is just a huge confidence boost for the whole team.”
Rossi will look to continue the momentum next weekend at Iowa Speedway, where another doubleheader awaits him and the remainder of the IndyCar field. In the past four races at the 7/8ths mile oval, Rossi has finished in the top-10 three times, with a best finish of sixth in 2016 and last season.
“Iowa is going to be a challenge for everyone. Another doubleheader. Rolling off and hopefully having no issues, having another race with no mistakes. We’ll try to claw back what we’ve lost here in a couple days.”