There is always one flower in the garden that doesn’t bloom until nearly fall. You wait and wait, just knowing that when it blooms it will be amazing. This flower very much parallels the brief Indycar career of Alexander Rossi. before last year’s Indianapolis 500, no one gave him much thought. Following his win in the 100th running he had some very good runs the rest of the season. A likely podium at Pocono was lost when he was involved in a pit road accident. Coming into this year, Rossi was someone to watch. He would surely get at least one victory. The summer of waiting began.
A strong run at Long Beach was thwarted by an engine failure. Pit stop issues cost him positions at other races. Then a bud formed. Rossi began appearing on the podium. Finally, on Sunday, the blossom opened. Rossi has an average finish of 4.8 in his last 6 races. Beginning with Toronto, his worst finish is 6th. Sunday was his third podium in that span.
Rossi dominated a good race with lots of passing. His dominant win did not come without drama. A fuel hose problem on his first stop put him back in the field and cause him to need to stop out of sequence on lap 24. It was a long stop since the fuel hose had to be manually opened. He got help from a yellow three laps later and was able to return to the front of the field as everyone else made their second stop. Rossi had enough of a gap to make his final stop and then blow past everyone else as they pitted. Fuel also played a bit of a role in his second career win again, but in a different way than it did in his first.
I expected the points battle to tighten, but not in such a dramatic way. Scottt Dixon finished second, gaining 28 points on Josef Newgarden, who had a problem on his last pit stop. While there was drama at the front of the field with Rossi’s fueling issues, points battle drama took a huge twist on the last stop. Josef Newgarden slid into the barrier leaving the pits and then was rammed by Sebastien Bourdais. The indcident reminded of Ryan Briscoe at Twin Ring Motegi who had a similar problem leaving the pits. Briscoe also was the points leader with just a couple races to go. He finished third in points.
Next season we could see two Americans, Newgarden and Rossi, fighting for the championship. Andretii Autosport seems to have finally figured something out and with everyone having the same aerokit next year, this team, with Rossi leading will be in the thick of the fight.
The Indy Lights finale was one of the best races I have seen this year. The race was run in a heavy rainstorm, but the drivers raced and raced hard. The first five laps had close, intense battles, including a three wide run into turn 1 at the green flag. It was essentially a clean race.It would have been easy to just string out and run single file, yet they were going at it as if the weather were dry. Hats off to these guys for a great show in difficult conditions. The race will be shown on NBCSN Wednesday evening at 6 pm. It is worth watching.
Congratulations to Mazda Road to Indy champions Oliver Askew, USF2000; Victor Franzoni, Pro Mazda; and Kyle Kaiser, Indy Lights.
Indy lights driver Zachary Claman De Melo will drive a second car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing at Sonoma. This could be an audition for a possible third car for the team in 2018.
Attendance at Watkins Glen was down significantly from last year, although there were more fans at the track Sunday than I expected with the weather. Significantly fewer campsites were occupied.
I will return later in the week to begin discussing some championship scenarios. While there are many possibilities, it is still less complicated than nascar’s playoff format.