If Alexander Rossi overhauls Scott Dixon to win the 2018 IndyCar title, he can look back to Saturday night, when he did a masterful job of saving fuel and also made a great save to stay off the wall.
As it was, Rossi finished second by making one less pit stop than Dixon, who finished third, and cut the four-time IndyCar champion’s lead to 26 points with two races remaining.
It might not have been as dramatic as his fuel-saving victory at Indianapolis in 2016, but it was damn sure just as impressive.
He ran the final 71 laps on one tank of Sunoco fuel and had his NAPA Honda 1.3 seconds behind winner Will Power at the checkered flag.
“It was tougher than Indy,” said Rossi, because he went those 71 laps without going full-throttle while scoring his eighth podium of the season for Andretti Autosport. “I didn’t have Townsend Bell (his teammate in 2016) towing me around to help save fuel and it was a very big fuel number to hit.”
“Actually it was pretty astronomical and you would never believe to have to save as much fuel as we did, but big props to Rob Edwards and my crew. They called great strategy and talked me through it. It’s a mental game and it’s frustrating to sit there (and get passed) but it worked out and it doesn’t surprise me with this team.”
The 26-year-old Californian started second, fell back to fourth, led for four laps and was always in the mix — but he had one major moment. Coming off Turn 2 and running side-by-side with Power on Lap 146, Rossi’s car snapped sideways.
But somehow he saved it from slapping the wall and regained control.
“I said a lot of bad words,” he replied when asked what he was thinking. “It was one of those ones, I’d pretty given up and it came back by the grace of God. I was on the brakes and didn’t hit wall. It was a pretty pretty big blessing.”
Headed for Portland, Rossi continues his roll.
“Our goal is to beat Scott every race and if I can be within 20 going into Sonoma, I’ll have a shot.”
For a driver that’s made more awesome passes than anyone all season, it had to be tough to short shift, back off early and even coast to make it to the finish.
“I had confidence in the people on the pit stand giving me calculation, but I had to accept second. I’m not sure I had anything for Will so it was a good result tonight.”