NTT INDYCAR SERIES star Alexander Rossi added another winner’s trophy to his mantle and made motorsports history Friday evening as part of a class-winning team in the Baja 1000 off-road race.
Rossi became the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (2016), Rolex 24 At Daytona sports car endurance race (2021) and the Baja 1000, considered North America’s most prestigious off-road endurance event.
Andretti Autosport standout Rossi shared driving duties for the No. 709 Honda Ridgeline truck fielded by the Honda Off-Road Racing Team with team owner Jeff Proctor, Richard Glaszczak and Baja legend Steve Hengeveld, with navigator Evan Weller, to win Class 7 (unlimited V6-powered race trucks) honors in the 54th edition of the classic race. The off-road race in Baja California, Mexico, starts in the coastal city of Ensenada and finishes 1,226 miles south in La Paz.
"What a wild ride this race, this event, is,” Rossi said. “I can't even begin to explain what it's like. It's equally chaotic, awesome and terrifying!
“To drive this truck through the desert and the mountains, in the middle of the night, through fog that's rolling in from the ocean, with hundreds of other cars and their dust, is unlike anything else I've ever experienced. It's insane, and it's really cool.”
The No. 709 Ridgeline started strong, with Proctor racing for the class lead with the No. 700 Ford of Dan Chamlee for the first 300 miles before the Honda team established an advantage it would hold – and increase – all the way to the finish.
Starting driver Proctor handed off to Glaszcak at the 350-mile mark, then handed off to Rossi at the 632-mile pit stop as both began to build an ever-larger advantage for the Ridgeline. Rossi successfully completed his overnight stint to turn driving duties over to Hegeveld during the pit stop at mile marker 883, with the lead for the Ridgeline now more than 100 miles over Chamlee and the rest of the Class 7 field.
Hegeveld and the Ridgeline reached the finish with a time of 23 hours, four minutes and 59 seconds to claim the Class 7 win by just over three hours. It marked the fourth consecutive win for the Honda Off-Road Ridgeline in 2021, following victories earlier this year at the San Felipe 250, Baja 500 and Vegas to Reno off-road races.
“I feel very fortunate to be able to take part in it three times now, with Honda and HPD,” Rossi said. “To help give Honda this very big win is something very special to me. Huge shout-out to Jeff Proctor for letting me drive his truck; to our navigator, Evan Weller, he’s ‘the man;’ and the entire Honda Off-Road Racing Team for such a huge effort.”
The victory in smooth style for Rossi and his team was a marked contrast to his first two years competing in the race. In 2018, Rossi finished second in Class 7 after nearly having a head-on collision with an SUV traveling in the opposite direction of the racecourse. In 2019, Rossi rolled the truck into a ditch around the 95-mile mark and retired 100 miles later due to mechanical damage.
Other Indy 500 winners to tackle Baja include Parnelli Jones, Rick Mears, Buddy Rice, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Danny Sullivan. Jones won both at both Indy and Baja but didn’t finish in his only Daytona 24-hour appearance. Rice won at Indy and Daytona but not in Baja, while Mears twice finished third at Daytona in his best results there.