When Alexander Rossi pulled off the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Saturday with his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race win in more than three years – 1,133 days, to be exact – the first person to get within earshot was fellow Andretti Autosport driver Colton Herta.
Yes, it was Herta’s mechanical failure as the leader on Lap 42 of the Gallagher Grand Prix that keyed Rossi’s victory in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. But such disappointment is part of the sport, and Rossi has had his share of it since winning the 2019 race at Road America.
“It sucks what happened to Colton, but I’ve had my share of it,” Rossi said. “It comes full circle, I guess, sometimes. So, it’s good to be up there.”
It seems incomprehensible that Rossi, the winner of the 2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and seven other series races, would go so long without reaching victory lane, but this is a challenging and competitive sport, and it can often be cruel when dishing out results.
Rossi was on his way to victory in the 2020 race in St. Petersburg when he inexplicably hit the wall in Turn 3 after leading 61 laps. Ten times in the past 49 races he had finished on the podium, but he had only led 50 laps outside of that St. Petersburg race.
The first word Rossi used Saturday to describe his emotion was “relief.” He could have used “finally.”
“It’s human nature to start to question things when it continually doesn’t kind of fall your way,” he said. “You just have to remember that you’ve done it before, you can do it again – that type of thing. It’s nice to re-establish that.
“This sport is so much about ‘you’re as good as your last race,’ and it doesn’t matter who you are. You have to go out there every weekend and kind of prove yourself.”
Herta and Rossi combined to lead 61 of the 85 laps, and Rossi scored the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race win for Michael Andretti’s Indianapolis-based organization since Herta won the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course on May 14.
“As challenging as it (has been) for me, it’s also hard for the team,” said Rossi, who led the final 44 laps for his eighth victory in the series. “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 being able to continue to just push forward. It’s a big team win and a big thank you (goes) to the whole organization. Obviously, the cars were fast.”
Rossi became the fourth NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver to score a win on both the oval and the road course at IMS. The others: Scott Dixon, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud.
Lundgaard Takes Control of Rookie Battle
Christian Lundgaard’s career-best second-place finish in the No. 30 Shield Cleansers Honda of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing gave him a cushion over David Malukas in the Rookie of the Year pursuit. Lundgaard expanded his lead from four points to 27 points.
Lundgaard said the team has had a strong past six weeks after struggling earlier in the season.
“We saw sort of a streak where we started to perform better,” he said. “Even (at) Road America, Mid-Ohio, (performance) was there. We were on the edge of the top 10.”
Lundgaard has finished in the top 11 in five of the six races since the Sonsio Grand Prix at Road America on June 12.
“To come here and finish second, I think the team deserves every bit of it,” he said.
Malukas (No. 18 HMD Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD) finished 13th in what has been a consistent string of performances since being the highest-finishing rookie in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. His average finish in the seven races since Indy is 11.8.
Congratulate These Competitors, Too
There were many other highlights in Saturday’s race, including:
- Power, the series points leader who finished third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, scored his 10th top-five finish in 13 races this season. Contact on the opening lap knocked him from fourth place, where he started, to 16th using efficient fuel mileage.
- Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay (No. 21 Bitcoin Racing Team with BitNile Chevrolet) had a near-miss on the opening lap after starting eighth. “Put me back to 16th,” he said. “Proud of the effort.” He finished sixth.
- Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet) said he “can’t be too upset” finishing fifth after the challenging week he had. He spent two days regrouping from his fall at Iowa Speedway before getting cleared to race by the INDYCAR Medical Team. “P5, solid points, and now … NASHVILLE,” he wrote on Twitter. Nashville is his home race. He finished 10th in last year’s inaugural street race.
- Herta was positioned for his second straight win on the IMS road course when his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian stunningly lost gears after running over a curb in the Turn 8-9 complex behind the IMS Museum.
- Marcus Ericsson (from 25th to 11th) and Scott Dixon (from 20th to eighth) rallied reasonably well to remain in championship contention. Ericsson is nine points out of the series lead; Dixon is 38 points behind Power.
- Pagenaud had the fastest lap of the race in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing and was working for a strong finish when his car ran out of fuel. He called it a “silver lining.”
The fifth NTT INDYCAR SERIES race in this four-week stretch begins with Friday’s first practice for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix in Nashville. The session rolls off a 4:15 p.m. ET.
Saturday, the series has its second practice of the weekend at 12:15 p.m. ET with qualifying for the NTT P1 Award at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, there’s a pre-race warmup at 10:15 a.m. with the 80-lap race at 3 p.m. with coverage on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Ericsson, who won the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, won last year’s Nashville race after his No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda went vertical after contact with Sebastien Bourdais’ car early in the race. Ericsson went on to have a stirring late-race battle with Herta. NTT P1 Award winner Herta’s race ended against the tire barrier as he chased Ericsson through one of the circuit’s fastest corners (Turn 9).
Dixon finished second with James Hinchcliffe third.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires joins the NTT INDYCAR SERIES at Nashville.
Visit www.musiccitygp.com for ticket and event information.