Alexander Rossi’s breakout year in IndyCar was undeniable. During his first two years in the Series, many labeled his 2016 Indianapolis 500 victory as “luck” and Andretti Autosport’s on-track struggles made it hard for the driver to showcase his skills. But by the end of 2017, things had started to click. And while most would have laughed at his lofty ambitions, Rossi had quietly declared his mission for 2018: Win the Championship.
Rossi finished on the podium in the first three races of the season, including a pole and a win at the celebrated Grand Prix of Long Beach, the longest-running street race held in North America. After a speedbump at a rain-soaked Barber, Rossi continued a three-race string of top five finishes. One of those included a stunning finish at the Indianapolis 500, which would undoubtedly become his most talked about race of the season.
After a tire puncture in pole-day qualifying, Rossi found himself in the last row of the 33-car field. Starting 32nd at the Indy 500 can be a humiliating feeling, but Rossi had a fast car and 200 laps to have some fun on the hallowed race track. For three hours, he became the star of the show, advancing 28 positions to finish fourth. On a very difficult passing day in Indy, he nearly ended up on the podium, making bold moves on multiple restarts, where he made the slippery outside lane work to his advantage.
After a poor finish due to a mechanical problem in Road America, Rossi’s mid-season “slump” consisted of two finishes in the bottom half of the top ten, which many drivers would be happy to have. Rossi was still in the Championship hunt and the last five races were crucial. He then ripped off back-to-back victories at Mid-Ohio and Pocono, winning both in dominant fashion.
A thrilling fuel-saving strategy for a P2 finish at Gateway had fans talking for a week. However, the penultimate race in Portland was looking like a runaway victory for Rossi until yellow flags flipped the leaders to mid-pack.
Like Indy, much of Rossi’s season had a reoccurring theme: Something bad has happened, now go pass a bunch of cars. In Phoenix, an early pit lane mishap put Rossi 22nd in the 23-car field and one lap down. He made a race-high 53 passes (29 more than the driver with the second highest number of passes) and ended up P3 on the difficult oval.
After pit stop troubles in Texas and Iowa, and contact in Toronto, Rossi clawed back in each race, showcasing masterful passing and determination. Even in the Sonoma finale, where he was in second in the Championship, he didn’t let a first-lap incident take him out of contention. Falling to last, Rossi once again wowed the fans and viewers with multi-car passes and somehow ended up with a P7 finish.
While the Championship was not in the cards, Rossi certainly inked his name all over the stat books this season.
- 17 Starts
- 3 Wins
- 3 Poles
- 8 Podiums
- 14 Top-Tens
- 415 Laps Led
- 2nd in the Championship (never fell below third)
- Firestone Award for most laps completed (2366 of 2368)
- 321 total passes – 191 net passes – 151 passes for position (first in all categories)
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!