ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) — On a race car driver’s list of nice problems to have, Alexander Rossi’s biggest issue Sunday ranks pretty high. During a dominant drive at Road America, Rossi had to keep focused with nobody in his rearview mirrors.
Rossi took the lead in the first turn of the first lap, and then drove away from the rest of the field to win the IndyCar race at the 4.014-mile road course in Elkhart Lake.
“You’re pushing every lap, regardless of the gap, right?” Rossi said. “You’ve got to stay in that mindset and in the zone.”
Rossi led 54 of 55 laps, only relinquishing the lead when he made pit stops, and finished more than 28 seconds ahead of Will Power. Josef Newgarden finished third, followed by Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon.
“I actually never saw Alex,” Power said. “I felt like I was running my own race.”
Rossi has another nice problem on the horizon: He has to decide where he wants to drive next year. He’s in a contract year at Andretti Autosport, making him the most coveted free agent in IndyCar for next season. Andretti wants him back, but he’s expected to have options. Rossi didn’t want to talk about his contract situation after the race, saying at one point, “It’s in God’s hands.”
Team Penske drivers Newgarden and Power, however, didn’t pass on an opportunity to lobby for having him as a teammate.
“That’d be cool,” said Newgarden, who has a seven-point lead over Rossi in the championship standings.
Added Power: “As long as he’s not replacing me.”
Giving Rossi a car this dominant certainly doesn’t hurt Andretti’s case for him to stay.
“This is probably one of the best race cars I’ve ever had,” Rossi said.
It was the second win of the season and seventh career victory for Rossi, who also won at Long Beach earlier this year. Rossi also has three second-place finishes this year, a source of some disappointment.
“We don’t show up to finish second, right?” Rossi said.
Rossi started the race on the front row, next to pole-sitter Colton Herta. He passed Herta right after the green flag dropped, and quickly built a big lead.
Rossi’s biggest challenge all afternoon might have come from the racetrack itself. With Rossi leading by nearly 20 seconds just past the race’s midway point, a large chunk of the track’s pavement broke free. The chunk was close enough to the racing line to potentially force officials to issue a caution flag, which would have bunched up the field and wiped out Rossi’s lead, but they chose not to.
“We’re not on an oval, so there’s no safety concern with debris being offline,” Rossi said. “It was a non-issue and I think that’s how it should have been called.”
The drivers trailing Rossi weren’t necessarily lobbying for a caution.
“It was off-line enough that I don’t think anyone was complaining too bad about it,” Newgarden said.
Joked Power: “We should have been.”
Rain was forecast for Sunday’s race, another potential equalizer, but it stayed dry until a downpour just after the race ended.
“Rain would have been the only thing that might have helped us today,” Power said.
Dixon. He spun in Turn 5 on the first lap and fell to the back of the pack, then made a ferocious charge through the field to finish fifth. He made the most of his trademark ability to conserve his push-to-pass power boosts until the end of the race, taking fifth place from Herta on the front stretch going into the last lap.
Herta. He became the youngest pole-sitter in IndyCar history in qualifying on Saturday, but lost the lead to Rossi right after the start on Sunday. He was still running in the top five near the end of the race but struggled to keep his car under control on worn-out tires, losing three spots on the last lap and finishing eighth.
Herta expressed frustration with his team’s tire strategy in a post-race television interview. “Just a sloppy race from the team,” Herta said.