Alexander Rossi says that he didn’t mentally surrender the championship to Scott Dixon until after his final stop, although he conceded that his chances of salvaging the championship were near zero after his opening lap crash.
Rossi tagged the rear of teammate Marco Andretti’s car at the first kink, causing a broken front wing and flat right-front tire. Stopping for repairs put him a lap down, but after he got back onto the lead lap a luckily-timed yellow allowed him to catch the rear of the pack and fight his way back up to fifth.
He went slightly off-sequence with his final stop in the hope that another yellow might vault him up to the front. That caution never came, but even if it had, Dixon had shadowed his stop on the following lap and covered any advantage the Andretti driver might have gained.
“I knew it was probably a 1% shot at getting anything done, at the end of the day,” Rossi reflected.
“I just tried to attack it, move up as many positions as we could. If Scott did have some sort of failure or something, we still needed to be towards the top six or seven. That was the goal.
“Once the final round of pit stops came, we chose to come in earlier than everyone else in hopes there would be a yellow, it would cycle us to the front. But it didn’t come. They all covered me in case that happened, which was the right thing to do. Once the final pit stop happened, there was no yellow flag immediately… I knew it was pretty much the day done.”
“You don’t panic too early. You just kind of hope that you get a break and it comes back to you. We got half of a break, which allowed us to challenge to be in the top five, but we didn’t get the other half of it that cycled us to the front where we could try to go for the win.”
Rossi’s mid-race climb back to almost within sight of the leaders was one of the day’s highlights, and added to a growing list of weekends where the No.27 Andretti car has made short work of traffic. From Rossi’s standpoint, it was a skill he’d prefer not to have needed in the first place.
“I don’t want to be in that position,” he said. “I mean, Phoenix, I don’t want to be two laps down. Indy, I don’t want to qualify on the last row. Here, I don’t want to have a broken wing on lap one.
“You have to be able to make lemonade out of lemons sometimes. Unfortunately we’ve had to do that a couple times this year. That’s the way it goes. To win a championship, you got to have excellent days all the time. I’m sure Scott is more than capable of doing the same thing. Fortunately for him, he was never in the position that he needed to. Now he’s won five championships. Pretty hard to beat.
“There’s always would have, could have, should haves in scenarios like this, in this sport. Can’t focus too much on it. Just got to take the things we didn’t do well this weekend, and make sure that doesn’t happen again, we can improve upon it if we’re in this position again next year.
“At the end of the day it was going to be a tough battle, no doubt, to overhaul [Dixon] with us pretty much having to win. It wasn’t meant to be this year. Nonetheless, I think it’s an awesome 2018, and something that we all can be very proud of at Andretti. Obviously having three cars in the top eight in the final points is amazing, a huge improvement from where we’ve been in the past.
“Ryan [Hunter-Reay, race winner] was on a different planet today. Really a good overall year for the team, especially the second half. We’ll take the positives, and try to improve on the negatives, and see where we can end up next year.”