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Alexander Rossi’s dominant win at Road America tightens points race

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

Alexander Rossi takes the checkered flag to win the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America — Photo by: John Cote

 

Courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series

ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – For Alexander Rossi, an utterly dominant drive to victory in the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR was just the tonic he needed.

Alexander Rossi celebrates with his team in victory circle after winning the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America. — Photo by: Chris Jones

The Andretti Autosport driver led every lap but one Sunday on Road America’s demanding, high-speed permanent road course, winning by 28.4391 seconds over Will Power. It gave Rossi a second victory in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season and the seventh of his four-year career. More importantly, it closed the 27-year-old Californian within seven points of the championship lead with seven races remaining.

“It was probably one of the best race cars I’ve ever had,” Rossi said of his No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda.

“We have been quick through the whole season, but we just haven’t really had it come our way as many times as we want, for one reason or another. … To come out and be able to do what we did today is a huge testament to the whole organization.”

REV GROUP GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY AMR: Official results

Starting second, Rossi passed pole sitter Colton Herta on the first of 55 laps around the 14-turn, 4.014-mile circuit and was never challenged. The only lap Rossi didn’t lead came on the last of his three pit stops in the caution-free race. He returned to the top of the leaderboard when Graham Rahal made his last stop a lap later.

Alexander Rossi. Photo by John Cote

Rossi is on a run of five finishes of first or second place in the past seven races, beginning with a victory at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. He’s as close to the championship lead now as he has been all season. Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who finished third Sunday, has 402 points to Rossi’s 395.

“Obviously you don’t want to complain about getting second places because they’re good results,” said Rossi, who had three runner-up results in the previous four races. “But it was just a win that we needed to do. We’ve been there and thereabouts, but the Penske cars were getting the upper hand on us. To be able to go out and win a race the way we did and state our intentions, we’ll regroup the next couple of weeks and come hard again in Toronto.”

Will Power. Photo by Joe Skibinski

Power started third in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, moved up a position through the first round of pit stops and remained there to log his best finish of the 2019 season. Newgarden, in the No. 2 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet, followed a similar path to his teammate – starting fourth, advancing to third on the first round of stops and holding steady the rest of the race.

The third-place finish was Newgarden’s sixth podium result of the season – including a series-leading three victories – but the Tennessean admitted he and Power couldn’t match Rossi on this day.

“We obviously didn’t have enough today,” Newgarden said. “We were a little shy; probably a lot shy, actually. 

Josef Newgarden. Photo by John Cote

“Alex and Andretti (Autosport), they were too good for us today. We’ve got to come back to the drawing board, try to figure out what we’re missing. I have confidence we’ll do that.”

Rahal finished fourth in the No. 15 Gehl/Manitou Honda. Reigning NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon recovered from first-lap contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay that dropped him to last place in the 23-car field to finish fifth.

“I think had we not had that issue at the start getting turned around and losing 10 or so seconds, we may have been fighting for the podium today with the PNC Bank car,” Dixon said. “We had to kind of work our way back to the front all day. It is what it is, though. It happened and all you can do is put your head down and start to gain back that time.”

The next NTT IndyCar Series race is the Honda Indy Toronto on the streets of Exhibition Place. The race airs live at 3 p.m. ET Sunday, July 14 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Road to Indy race recap

Rinus VeeKay dominated Sunday’s second race of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires weekend at Road America. VeeKay (Juncos Racing) led from the pole position and was never threatened during the all-green, 20-lap race.

Ryan Norman, who won Saturday’s race, finished second ahead of Andretti Autosport teammate Oliver Askew. Askew leads VeeKay by three points halfway through the 18-race season.

Kyle Kirkwood (RP Motorsport USA) extended his winning streak at Road America to four – from just four starts – with Sunday’s Indy Pro 2000 Championship victory. It gave Kirkwood a weekend sweep of the Indy Pro 2000 races and, coupled with his sweep last year in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship weekend, made the Floridian a perfect 4-for-4 in races at Road America.

Rasmus Lindh (Juncos Racing) finished second and holds a 30-point lead in the standings over Parker Thompson (Abel Motorsports), who placed third.

Points leader Braden Eves (Cape Motorsports) returned to the top step of the USF2000 podium after a dominating drive in Sunday’s second race of the Road America weekend. Eves took the lead from pole sitter Hunter McElrea (Pabst Racing) on the second lap and pulled away to win by 4.4508 seconds.

Eves leads McElrea by 41 points after seven of 15 USF2000 races.

‘What They’re Saying’ from REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 REV Group Team Penske Chevrolet, NTT IndyCar Series point leader): “We did what we could today with the REV Group Chevy. I think Will (Power) and I were just trying to hold down the fort in second or third, but you know, there’s still good effort from everyone. We, obviously, had a little bit of a gap there and Andretti Autosport and Alex (Rossi) did a great job today, so we’ll go back to the drawing board. I think we need to work on our road course (performance), but good effort. Chevy still gave us a great package and having REV Group on this weekend was really nice, so we’ll take a third for today.” (About his comment on working on road courses): “I don’t know. We have to go back and dissect it. I wish I had the answer.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Tough day here at Road America. Just struggling with the car setup. Balance-wise the car was not bad, it’s just that we didn’t have the speed or the pace. We tried a different strategy than most of the guys, four stops, which somehow helped us because I felt our tire degradation was a little bit worse than everyone else. We’re going to focus on the next one, try to qualify better and try to build a better race car.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Kind of story of our year: I don’t think the result was representative of the pace we had. We had a good start, got some guys, made up another spot or two during the first pit sequence. We were really just kind of running lap for lap with Josef (Newgarden) and Will (Power) there, maintaining the gap, looking after fuel and tires. On that last sequence, we decided to pit one lap early, and ultimately that let Colton (Herta) and Graham (Rahal) get ahead of us, which really just sort of compromised our race from there. When Colton’s tires went off, he made a mistake that ended up costing me two spots. Kind of bad luck, kind of wrong place wrong time, but the car was good and the Arrow guys were awesome in the pits. It’s a shame to leave here without the top five we deserved, but we’ll keep our heads down and keep pushing.”

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “I had a good start, got past a car or two. But, then down into Turn 5, there were some cars ahead that got together and spun and I had to avoid them and go wide, which lost me quite a few positions. I had to work my way back into the race and I was getting through the field quite nicely; the Arrow car was feeling really good. I tried a move that was a bit too optimistic, maybe. I just tried a bit too hard and went wide in Turn 5, which put us at the back again and lost touch with the group, so we lost a lot of race time there. We had a lot of catching up to do and I was hoping for a safety car to help put us back in contention to fight because I felt the car was competitive, but there were no cautions today. It was all about trying to make up as much positions as possible and 13th isn’t terrible, but I think there was more pace in the car than what we could show today. We’ll take the positives and move on to the next one.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think had we not had that issue at the start, getting turned around and losing 10 or so seconds, we may have been fighting for the podium today with the PNC Bank car. We had to kind of work our way back to the front all day. It is what it is, though. It happened and all you can do is put your head down and start to gain back that time. It’s just been one of those years to this point. You just have to keep your head down and keep collecting points. We’ll keep working hard.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It was a really well-executed race from the team, especially from the strategy side. I think we nailed it. There wasn’t any safety car this time, so considering that, we went from P18 to P6, it was a really good run. Basically, all overtaking was done on track. There was a lot of tire management in the race and I think that was the main key, especially on the reds (Firestone alternate tires). We managed to get out in clear air on the reds and then I could manage the tires, and I think that was crucial for the race. Fantastic job by the team and we finally had some good momentum in that race.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Very good result for us. That’s all we had. Alex (Rossi) was on another planet there. The two guys we needed to have a bad day were Alex and Josef (Newgarden) and they keep having good days, so certainly makes it tough to catch up in the championship. We’ll just keep chipping away with the Verizon Chevy to see what we can do.” (About if this will give him some momentum for the remainder of the season): “Absolutely, some of the results we’ve had this year were heartbreaks, you could say, like at COTA (Circuit of The Americas). I’m happy with second.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “It was a huge struggle today. We lost a ton of time on our second stint on used reds (Firestone alternate tires) and that (decision) blew our strategy.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Gehl / Manitou Honda): “It was definitely a 100 percent effort all day racing with Josef (Newgarden) and Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) there for a little while, and Colton (Herta) on the new reds (Firestone alternate tires) at the finish. Just trying to keep those guys behind you is pretty tough. Our GEHL car was pretty strong today. We’re happy with fourth, but would have liked to be on the podium and thought we could be there for a while. I messed up on one of my out laps and it cost me a little bit of time. Our guys did a great job in the pits.” (About closing on Newgarden at the end for third): “I was a little bit quicker, but he was doing a good job and not making too many mistakes. It’s hard to try to force guys like that into a mistake because, obviously, they’re all veterans up front. Yeah, we were a little quicker, but it’s difficult to get it completed.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “We had a pretty good start. Then, I was side-by-side with Takuma (Sato) and coming off Turn 3, maybe he got his wheels in the curb or something. He wiggled and his car turned hard right and his sidepod made contact with my left front (tire). After that, the wheel was off and the car felt weird. I don’t know if our race was dictated by that initial contact or by something else, but it was a very average day, starting seventh and finishing 12th. I feel bad for the SealMaster No. 18 guys. They really worked hard all weekend.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda): “We had a good race car. We had a unique strategy going for us that could have paid off. Unfortunately, during the stint on our second set of reds (Firestone alternate tires), we lost some time because of the tire pressure. We should have had a better race going for our No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda. It’s just what we got this weekend. Luck wasn’t on our side, we just have to look forward to the next one.”

ED JONES (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa Chevrolet): “Today was a really tough race for us. We made more adjustments after practice and qualifying, and unfortunately, it didn’t improve things for us on track. We struggled a lot with pace for much of the race. It can only get better for Toronto.”

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Direct Supply Chevrolet): “Going in, we thought red (Firestone alternate) tires were going to be the way to go. We elected to start on use reds, thinking we would do just one stint on blacks (Firestone primary tires). As it turned out, the reds had a lot of degradation and it was really hard to keep them underneath us. Doing two stints on reds hurt us. The car was really good on blacks and we were pretty fast. Unfortunately, we just made the wrong decision on tires and that’s all it takes to have a bad race. We’ll take the positives from this weekend and move on to Toronto.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “We, obviously, got a great start and the Menards Chevy felt fantastic driving up through the field. Then we had contact with (Colton) Herta and there was no yellow throughout the whole race, which really set us back. And my final set of red (Firestone alternate) tires at the end degraded really quickly. We’ve got three tracks coming up (Toronto, Iowa and Mid-Ohio) that I absolutely love, though, so I’m ready to get back out there already.”

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Overall, not exactly the weekend we wished for. We had really good speed here and there. In the race, things just didn’t fall our way. We tried to go one lap longer for a pit stop, but I fell off that last lap. I had a tire that was down to cords. We fell off a ton that last lap and that set us in the back where we spent rest of the day. It is tough to race yourself from 14th, but then, it like we started to do a good job and move forward. We got stuck with the first call and that set our fate for the rest of the day. Team did an awesome job all weekend – congrats to Alexander (Rossi). We will go on to Toronto and try to turn things around there.”  

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, 2019 REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR race winner): “These NAPA guys, what we did overnight, seeing what we were missing in qualifying yesterday, and qualifying hurt; but to be able to go do that (dominate) today was sensational and a huge thanks to the NAPA Andretti Honda team. Man, after thinking about it, that’s probably the best race car I’ve ever driven. It was just a win that we needed to do. We’ve been there and thereabouts, but the Penske cars were getting the upper hand on us. To be able to go out and win a race the way we did and state our intentions, we’ll regroup the next couple of weeks and come hard again in Toronto.” 

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “It feels like a bit of a waste of a weekend, to be honest. We were strong early in the weekend and then had the issue with qualifying. I had a really good start (to the race) and made up a few spots. I tried to go around the outside of Turn 5, then (Scott) Dixon had an issue and checked up. I got into the back of him and we went off track, causing us to fall back to 18th. From 18th we fought back to 11th. I think we made the wrong choice of tires at the end, finishing on the optional (Firestone alternate tires) reds might have been a mistake. A tough weekend overall for the DHL team.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “The start was pretty good, but unfortunately, we went side-by-side with (James) Hinchcliffe and he just pushed me off at Turn 3. That was a real pity. I was pushed off and dropped significant places down. I tried to recover the whole race. In the end, I think our tire choice was right and I was able to charge on the last stint to overtake both (Sebastien) Bourdais and (Ryan) Hunter-Reay to take two positions, which was a good part of the race. But we could have finished in the top six and it didn’t happen, so it’s a shame.”

PATRICIO O’WARD (No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet): “It just wasn’t our day today in the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet. It was really just a struggle all race long giving it all I had, but I just couldn’t go any faster and I really struggled to get around people. The guys did a good job in pit lane getting me in and out quickly and I think we learned a lot about Road America. Unfortunately, like I said, it just wasn’t our day.”

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I’d say for where we started this weekend having those fuel pressure issues and having to miss a chunk of that first practice, today’s race was a step forward for us. I had an enjoyable battle with Pato (O’Ward) pretty much the whole race – I don’t think we were ever more than two to three seconds apart. We did a great job of managing pace versus fuel mileage and we were able to work our way up six spots from our starting position. I, honestly, felt like I gave it all that I could and was able to get the most out of the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet for the duration of the race.” 

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda): 
“While I was buzzing with excitement to get here, the weekend didn’t go as we had hoped. We did have a nice recovery during the race to make up positions from where we had started. We had to save fuel most of the race or we would have found some more speed. We are taking positives out of this race weekend. Everyone at Meyer Shank Racing is doing a great job and a big thank you to AutoNation and SiriusXM. We move on to Mid-Ohio, the home race for MSR, where we hope to deliver a better result.”

COLTON HERTA (No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda, REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR pole winner): 
“Tough day at Road America today. We struggled on the Firestone red (alternate) tires, which caused us to lose a few spots at the end of the race. But overall, the No. 88 GESS RNG Biogas Capstone Honda guys were great all weekend. The car was so quick, it was a lot of fun to drive it. Now we shift focus to street course racing in Toronto.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): 
“The issue seemed to be electrical to me. The car was shortening out. I was getting good runs in the beginning off of the corners, then guys started driving around me. It seemed incurable and we weren’t sure about it. We didn’t want to continue because we didn’t know how to fix it. It’s an unfortunate day for the U.S. Concrete guys, but we’ll work hard to bounce back.”

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