Rossi rules from start to finish at Road America

Image by Phillip Abbott/LAT

Rossi rules from start to finish at Road America

IndyCar

Rossi rules from start to finish at Road America

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Alexander Rossi turned frustrations of three runner-up results in the last four races into motivation with a domination victory in the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America. The 27-year-old Californian led an event record 54 laps en route to winning by commanding 28.439s in Andretti Autosport’s No. 27 NAPA Honda over runner-up Will Power.

After starting second, Rossi tucked in behind polesitter Colton Herta at the drop of the green flag. The long main straightaway played favorably for Rossi as he received a brief tow from the No. 88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, which was enough to pull a move to the outside entering Turn 1. Both drivers battled wheel-to-wheel for the lead before the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda of Rossi pulled ahead on the exit of Turn 3.

Ultimately, Rossi was untouched for the remainder of the race, only relinquishing the lead during the final pit stop sequence.

“I mean, it’s hurt,” said Rossi, now a seven-time winner in the NTT IndyCar Series, of his string of near-misses. “Obviously, you don’t want to complain too much about getting second places because they are good results, but we knew we had the pace. Ever since Texas when GESS Capstone came on board and we had a new partnership and we came up short again, the motivation for this week was higher than ever. So we were able to execute and these guys (pointing to the No. 27 crew) can’t do without.”

After losing the lead, Herta then came under attack from the Team Penske Verizon Chevrolet of Power in third, but the rookie managed to fend off the Australian. Moments later, the mid-pack became crowded entering Turn 5 as Scott Dixon, running 12th, slid over the outside curbing and lost the handling on entry and locked up briefly. As a result, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver was hit from behind and spun by Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. The reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion sat stagnant briefly before whipping around and rejoining the 23-car field in last.

Dixon, running on the preferred primary (black sidewall) Firestone tire compound, gathered himself back up before starting a remarkable charge back up through the field, running as high as 13th by Lap 11.

While Rossi was padding a comfortable lead, Power opted to make a daring move to the outside of Herta entering Turn 5. The tight contest came with contact as the left rear of Power made contact with the right front of Herta, knocking the polesitter sideways momentarily.

However, that was only the start of a sequence of issues for Herta. When he came down to pit at the end of the lap, his team struggled with a fueling issue on the car, putting in a lengthy stop as they switched him from scuff alternate (red sidewall) tires to the primary, falling to ninth.

The leader pitted on the next lap for primaries and held an eight-second gap by the end of the first round of pit stops on Lap 15.

On Lap 20, Herta was the centerpiece of the action once again while battling with Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud for sixth. The two came together, which allowed the Chip Ganassi Racing cars of Dixon and Rosenqvist to squeeze by them both.

 

With only one retirement on the day came (on Lap 18 after Marco Andretti encountered a mechanical issue on his No. 98 Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda), the race went caution-free. There was some concern when a chunk of curbing came up at Turn 7 on Lap 33, but it was deemed to be sufficiently off the racing line.

With the front-runners looking settled, Herta made his final pit stop on Lap 42 and opted to go with a set of sticker alternates — unlike his competitors. He rejoined in the thick of battle with fellow Honda men Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe.

Herta managed to make it interesting early, getting around Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Setting his sights on Rahal, he pushed too hard and locked up going into Turn 5 on Lap 46.

That proved to be a sign of things to come, as Herta’s tires began to wear heavily. With two laps to go, the 19-year-old came under attack from Dixon, Hinchcliffe and Rosenqvist. Despite a last-gasp defensive effort, Herta ultimately fell back to finish eighth.

In the end, Rossi provided the 64th win for Andretti Autosport and closed to within seven points on championship leader and third-place finisher, Josef Newgarden.

Additional details to follow.

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