It had been 1,133 days since the last time Alexander Rossi won an IndyCar Series race. But at long last, the wait came to an end with his victory last weekend in the Brickyard Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
“Relief, I think, is the main word,” Rossi said to describe the feeling after snapping a three-year losing run. “We’ve had some race wins that we’ve thrown away, for sure, and we’ve had some weekends where we’ve just kind of not had the pace, for whatever reason.”
Relief, absolutely, for the former Formula 1 race driver and 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner, to have returned to the top step of the podium – a place that, by the end of Rossi’s second season in 2017, seemed like somewhere he’d be visiting many more times in the future.
Instead, the days passed without his number 27 Andretti Autosport Dallara-Honda returning to victory lane. Before the end of that streak, Rossi announced he would be leaving Andretti to drive for McLaren SP in 2023.
Which is why Rossi was glad to finally take a win before the end of his seven-year tenure with the only IndyCar team he’s ever known.
“It would have been a pretty sad story if we weren’t able to,” Rossi said, not letting his attention drift from the present.
“I’m not really thinking about ’23. You’re thinking about just what you can still accomplish in 2022. But yes, I’m happy that we don’t have to have that conversation of, ‘oh, well, it’s been cool, too bad we couldn’t win in three, four, whatever.’ I’m glad we don’t have to have that conversation.”
In the days that followed,Rossi’s triumph was soured somewhat by IndyCar acknowledging all had not been entirely right with his car. While IndyCar stressed his car had met the minimum race weight limit, its drink bottle had been used to do so, which is not permitted, and Andretti were fined $25,000 (£20,580).
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While this infraction might draw a stiffer sanction in other series, similar and arguably more serious breaches have been handled the same way IndyCar before. Sebastien Bourdais kept his win at Milwaukee in 2015 after his KV Racing entry was found to be underweight; Carlos Huertas’ sole IndyCar win for Coyne at Detroit in 2014 was upheld despite his car failing checks of its rear wing dimensions and fuel tank capacity; the late Justin Wilson’s final IndyCar triumph at Texas in 2012 – also for Coyne – came in a car which later failed a bodywork inspection.
With his long-awaited win, Rossi has put the aggravations and distractions of a challenging season behind him. Never mind last month’s race at Mid-Ohio, where Rossi’s frustrations with team mate Romain Grosjean boiled over during and even after the race. When asked what his lasting memory of his time at Andretti would be, Rossi joked, “Mid-Ohio is certainly a memory,” before going with the obvious highlight of his shock 2016 Indianapolis 500 win.
Never mind either the firestorm that’s erupted around his future employers McLaren SP and the ongoing saga of Álex Palou’s dispute with Chip Ganassi Racing, motivated by his deep-seated goal of reaching Formula 1. That’s an experience that Rossi has already lived, if only for five grands prix at the back half of the 2015 season. Any doubts about Rossi’s commitment to IndyCar after he was pushed out of the Marussia F1 team has long since disappeared – if any still lingered after that sensational Indy 500 triumph.
“It’s been hard for all of us,” reflected Rossi on his losing streak. “It’s been hard for Michael [Andretti]. It’s been hard for Rob [Edwards, Andretti Autosport COO], the sponsors. When we started this three-year journey in ’19, this wasn’t the expectation for the past two-and-a-half years.
“No one ever quit. No one ever stopped. That was never a thing, and I’m so appreciative to Michael and all the engineering staff for continuing to push to give me the best possible equipment. Because I’ve been in situations in the past where that’s not necessarily been the case, and I think that that is a testament to them as people and as a race team, and we couldn’t be here without them,” he said.
Rossi went out of his way to thank his crew at Andretti, over half of which have been with him since his sophomore IndyCar campaign in 2017.
“I think the one constant has been just the mental strength of the whole team. As challenging as it is for me, it’s also hard for them,” he said. “They go in every day and work their butts off, and when they don’t get results, it’s hard for them, as well.”
“I think as a unit, that’s one of our strengths – is being able to continue to just push forward. It’s a big team win, and a big thank you to the whole organisation.”
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