Rallying Rossi charged by near-accident in Detroit

Rallying Rossi charged by near-accident in Detroit

Oh, what could it have been for Alexander Rossi.

Had the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear completed 71 laps instead of 70, Rossi could have overcome his nearly three-year winless drought in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and jumped into the iconic James Scott Memorial Fountain.

Rossi drove the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda to second on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park, just 1.0027 seconds behind race winner Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on the line. The race officially ended under caution as Rinus VeeKay crashed just as the leaders saw the checkered flag.

What hurts Rossi the most is how close he got to passing Power with a different tire strategy. He ran on the more durable Firestone primary (black) tires at the end, while Power was on the fast-wearing Firestone alternate (red) tires.

With Power’s tires on their final stage, Rossi narrowed their lead from 8.2928 seconds with five laps to go to just over a second by the time they crossed the finish line on the 14-turn, 2.35-mile street circuit on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

“I think one more lap, and it would have been really interesting,” said Rossi. “You have to give credit to the guys from number 12 and Will. That’s hard to sustain at the end (with old tires).

“The No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation Honda was amazing. Again, we come here with a great car and can’t quite win. But it’s a good recovery from yesterday and the strategy was good.”

Rossi recovered from 11th starting position after an incident in qualifying ended lap 2 early and prevented him from progressing to the final lap to compete for the NTT P1 Award for pole.

From the green flag, Rossi and his Andretti Autosport team knew they had to choose an opposite strategy from the leaders if they wanted to improve their position. So Rossi started the race on the alternative Firestone tires knowing they would wear out very quickly and he could get his mandatory “red” race out of the way.

Rossi wanted to shed the tires quickly and race at maximum pace. Rossi came in on lap 4 of the 70-lap race on Firestone primary tires. From there, he led those in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES field on a three-stop strategy.

Meanwhile, in pursuit of his third Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix win, Power led the field with the two-stop strategy, saving his alternative Firestone tires for the end.

On lap 53, both drivers had made their final pit stop of the day, and it was a duel to the finish to win the final NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Belle Isle, as the race will move to the streets of Detroit in 2023. †

Rossi was nearly 15 seconds behind Power on lap 53 and in his own words drove ‘qualifying laps’, pushing his pink-and-blue car as hard as he could every lap to get to Power.

“It was difficult in the end,” Rossi said. “It’s good to get the car where it should have been and have a chance there at the end. We tried our best to manage that pace somewhat and go for it at the end, but we probably came up a lap short. All in all a good result for the team.”

Sunday’s strong run came just three days after Rossi announced he would be leaving Andretti Autosport, the only team he has fought for in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, for Arrow McLaren SP in 2023.

Rossi said making the announcement public or the consequences of leaving a team you ride for played no part in his mindset or performance, marking his 26th career podium. The California native said his main focus is 2022 and is now delivering results.

And now Rossi has one of his best performances in nearly two years. After finishing fifth in last weekend’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, Rossi scored back-to-back top five finishes for the first time since October 2020, when he finished second and third in the Harvest GP doubleheader at Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

In addition, Rossi has finished in the top 10 in four of the seven races this season and is seventh in the championship standings. Last year he finished in the top-10 nine times, and Sunday was his best result since finishing second in the Portland Grand Prix last September.

Still, it’s not Victory Lane, and Rossi would love nothing more than to end his now 44 win-less drought. The last time Rossi took an NTT INDYCAR SERIES win was at Road America on June 23, 2019.

And where does the series go next weekend? Gone America.

“I think the number 27 car in particular has good momentum going into one of our best tracks, frankly, at Road America,” said Rossi. “We have a good feeling about the position we are in. It would be fitting to come full circle with a win next week, so that’s what we’re going for.

Rossi and the rest of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES field head to scenic Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin on Sunday, June 12 for the Sonsio Grand Prix, presented by AMR. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, live on NBC, Peacock Premium and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

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