Fresh from his first podium for Arrow McLaren, newcomer Alexander Rossi says he and the super team that’s been formed around him are finding the glue that makes front-running results possible.
His first day of testing with the team at Spring Training at the Thermal Club was a nightmare as the newly expanded three-car team struggled to execute with all its entries, and afterwards, Rossi wasn’t sure how long it would take for things to get better.
“It’s really hard to put into words because I’m stunned at how quickly everything is starting to come together,” the 2016 Indy 500 winner told RACER. “Thermal was concerning, but not from just my side — everything was off. And then it was like, OK, we only have one day left [of testing] at Sebring before the season is here, and Sebring was better, but still not great. Then we got to St. Pete, and by Saturday, most of the kinks were sorted out. And now every single day that we show up at the track, it’s a more and more cohesive unit. Everyone’s just excited to get to the racetrack. Everyone loves being here.”
Armed with the engineering talents of Craig Hampson and chief mechanic skills of Todd Phillips, Rossi is surrounded by championship winners with the No. 7 Chevy. Arrow McLaren general manager Brian Barnhart oversees the car as its race strategist, and altogether, the 31-year-old has an abundance of star performers in charge of getting him into victory lane. Based on their output at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, there’s a reason to believe Rossi’s first win dressed in McLaren’s traditional papaya orange isn’t far away.
“We went from St. Pete where it was like, ‘Hey, let’s just get through the weekend,’’ he said. “And it only took one weekend to be like, ‘OK, now let’s go win races! We’re good. What else can we do?’”
Although Rossi and the No. 7 crew have hit an impressive stride, finding the tiny fractions of speed that have so far proven to be elusive in qualifying would give them less work to do on race days. Once Rossi and company get that part figured out, they’ll move to the top of the podium.
“This car is weird, man,” he said. “I had my own perception of what an Arrow McLaren IndyCar was, and it’s good. It’s just finding the last tenth to tenth and a half that we’re missing. It’s hard to extract it and I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet. The race pace is legitimately second to none, pretty much everywhere.
“But it’s like were permanently stuck starting in 11th or 12th, so like once we crack that code… and we’re so close. We know what we need to solve. It’s just that we haven’t quite figured out the solution to it. And when we do, it’s going to be really, really special.”
Rossi closed the first day of Indy 500 practice in 19th, fastest among the four Arrow McLaren entries, which have some work to do.
“It was a good day, a lot of laps ran,” he said. “We’re still learning, but a lot of positives to take from today and we’re happy with where we are. We’ll just continue to work.”