Even after two of the most dominating victories of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season, Alexander Rossi’s future with Andretti Autosport appeared to be undecided as summer approached fall.
In late July, following runaway wins at Long Beach and Road America, rumors swirled that Rossi was being courted by a rival team. A contract for 2020 had yet to be signed, and Rossi was quiet about the talks going on behind the scenes. For a time, one of the hottest talents in the paddock also was the hottest free agent.
Then, suddenly, after meetings during the race weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, there was the announcement of a re-signing with Michael Andretti’s team, keeping Rossi, Honda, NAPA Auto Parts and Andretti’s team, along with AutoNation, aligned for 2020 and 2021.
When asked how close he’d come to joining the unnamed rival team, Rossi told the The Indianapolis Star’s Jim Ayello:
“Very close. We’re talking hours, I would say.”
What precisely did Andretti Autosport get for their successful pursuit? More than just one of the best drivers in the series. It got a racer whose talents are firmly established at the age of 28. In four years in the series, he has won seven races, including the 2016 Indianapolis 500, and has finished among the top three in the final standings the past two years.
“That’s a very unique situation for me to be in,” he said after signing the contract extension. “Considering they gave me my shot in IndyCar and we won a 500 together, it makes a lot of sense from a professional and personal standpoint to stay where we are.”
Rossi returned to a familiar situation with a team and crew that has put some astonishingly fast race cars under him in recent years. At Long Beach, he led 80 of 85 laps and won by more than 20 seconds. At Road America, he led 54 of the 55 laps and smoked the field by nearly 30 seconds, which equated to nearly a half-second advantage per lap.
“That’s one of the best race cars I’ve ever driven,” Rossi said over the radio after crossing the line at Road America 28.439 seconds ahead of Will Power.
Rossi’s strategist, Rob Edwards, answered:
“You almost led every lap. If we would’ve stayed out longer on that last stint, you would’ve led every single lap.”
Rossi responded: “Hell, yeah.”
The future is set, and it’s bound to be good. Hell, yeah, indeed.