FORT WORTH, Texas – His competitors in the NTT IndyCar Series may have little empathy for him since he has three second-place finishes in the past four races, but Alexander Rossi feels a little vexed anyway.
“We're always there, but we're always playing the bridesmaid as of late,” Rossi said Saturday night following the latest runner-up result, in the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The Andretti Autosport gave it all he could in the closing laps but could not overtake Josef Newgarden for the win in the 248-lap race on the 1.5-mile oval. Newgarden crossed the finish line 0.8164 of a second ahead to collect his third victory of the season. Rossi was left wondering “what if” for the third time in three weeks, following second-place finishes in the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge as well as the first race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader.
2019 NTT INDYCAR SERIES: Championship standings
Newgarden and Rossi were running 1-2 at the final restart of the race from a caution period that ended on Lap 236. Repeatedly, Rossi would get a run coming off Turn 4 of the D-shaped oval and attempt an outside pass as the duo raced through the dogleg at start/finish and into Turn 1. Rossi’s No. 27 GESS/Capstone Honda edged ahead several times but Newgarden held the inside line each time and Rossi was forced to back out of the throttle for fear of losing the car in treacherous Turn 2.
“I think we had a good car, could obviously get a good run on him off of (Turns) 3 and 4,” Rossi explained. “Lane 2 (the outside line) was really never there for me. We could get halfway around the outside (but) would have to bail out.”
A few drivers were able to make the outside line stick through Turn 2 earlier in the race, but Rossi wasn’t willing to chance it with so much on the line late.
“Could have maybe took a bit more of risk,” he said. “Yeah, it was pretty low percentage. I didn't think a lot of guys were making it happen.”
The strategy then became trying to time it so Rossi led at the start/finish line, but the more he pushed for it, the more his older tires became worn and lost grip. He was forced to settle in behind Newgarden for the final few frustrating laps.
“We took out a lot of the tire life going in Lane 2 there, so we just didn't have the rear tires there at the end to stay close to him.
While not discounting the fact that he’s run up front all season – with a win at Long Beach in April and top-five finishes in all but two of the first nine races – Rossi rued what he felt was another victory opportunity ripped away by a timely pit stop from Newgarden. The same thing happened in the timed race a week earlier at Detroit.
“That sucks,” Rossi said flatly. “I mean, I didn't see him up front all day. All of a sudden, he appears in P1. ... He had a fast car once he got in front.
“I tried (to pass Newgarden late) like six times and it never worked, so I doubt it would have worked if I tried another three or four times.”
The hardest part for Rossi to accept may have been the big picture since it’s Newgarden he’s chasing in the standings. Newgarden leads the championship just past the 2019 halfway juncture, holding a 25-point advantage over Rossi with eight races remaining.
Rossi and the rest of the NTT IndyCar Series field has the next opportunity to close that gap Sunday, June 23 at the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America (noon ET, NBC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). Newgarden, however, is the defending champion on the four-mile road course in Wisconsin.