Alexander Rossi was quick to play down suggestions from Will Power that he is the person to beat in the fight for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
Rossi dominated Sunday’s Long Beach race, starting from pole and leading every lap outside of the pitstop cycles to claim his third career win and championship lead. He hasn’t finished lower than third in the opening three races of the season, and Power said after Sunday’s race that the Andretti driver’s form was a worrying sign for the rest of the field.
“I think he’s going to be tough to beat in the championship,” Power said. “He’s definitely what I’d call a standout of the field right now in every respect. Even when we saw him at Phoenix, on the oval. Yeah, you’ll have to beat him, I think.”
But with 13 races still to come, including double-points outings at Indy and Sonoma, Rossi was quick to shoot down any talk of title favoritism.
“That’s cool,” he said when told of Power’s comments. “But we’ll see next weekend, right? You’re only as good as your last time on track. Until we hopefully are in the fight for a championship at Sonoma and we can come away with that, then everyone else is the person to beat, as well.”
While wary of the threat presented by Rossi in particular, Power believes that the general depth of competition in the 2018 is higher than any he’s encountered previously.
“I would say right now is the most competitive, talented group of drivers that the series has seen,” he said. “When you look at how Rossi has come on and the rookies that are here this year, guys like [Robert] Wickens and so on, it just gets harder and harder. And the common body kit was a really, really good idea. To win and be on pole these days, you’ve just got to get it so right.”
On this, Rossi was in agreement.
“This is the most competitive championship I’ve ever participated in,” he said. “When you add in the Scott Dixons and the Will Powers of the world; guys that just – all they know is winning – and then you combine it with drivers who are massively talented like Rob and Jordan King, and these rookies who are making an impression, Zach Veach, who drove from P17 to fourth today… I think you have talent across the entire board.
“I would absolutely agree with Will on that, and it’s great. It creates a very good show for the fans, and it demands perfection, and it demands us to be on top of our game. You can never rest on your laurels, you’ve got to keep pushing.”
The opening to the 2018 season has been mixed for the series’ past champions. Reigning title holder Josef Newgarden currently sits second in the points behind Rossi, four-time Champ Car title winner Sebastien Bourdais is fourth, Scott Dixon, Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay lie sixth, seventh and eighth respectively, Tony Kanaan is 11th, and Simon Pagenaud is mired in 16th after being eliminated from Long Beach by an opening lap accident.