Rossi and Dixon Looking for Better Seasons in 2020

Alexander Rossi and Scott Dixon hope Friday practice at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg helps them find out how the aeroscreen will affect the cars in race like conditions. In a teleconference this afternoon, Rossi said the brief testing time the team has had leaves a lot to figure out. Dixon wondered about how the extra weight and higher center of gravity will affect handling.

According to Dixon, “The adjustments have been made. The cooling at least was very sufficient for us. Handling-wise I think the CG is a little higher, the car is heavier, definitely one of the areas we’ve really got to try and turn around because we keep adding weight to this car, which especially for accidents is not a good thing. It’s the same for everybody as far as the handling issues. We haven’t seen too much of a difference for us. Springs and dampers and things like that. But every team is unique on that side of things, too. ”

Rossi is still not sure what to expect. “… we’ve really only had at Andretti a day and a half with the weather at COTA. That was kind of a half day. Sebring is kind of its own unique animal. I don’t really know that we know, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s definitely different, but the extent of that won’t become clear to us until probably at least Friday night in St. Pete.”

Both drivers think the expansion of their teams will help them have a better season. Rossi explained,

” I think it’s really cool to be able to bring Colton on kind of into the fold full-time I guess. He was kind of already there with the Harding Steinbrenner Andretti relationship we had last year. We have already noticed a positive difference having the engineering staff back in the office and everyone kind of under the same roof, being able to just more efficiently kind of bounce ideas off each other, just progress the whole team forward. ”

Dixon added,

“We added actually a lot of people this year, probably four or five on the engineering side, then the depth of the whole GT program coming over has helped as far as management and also crew people as well. I think personnel-wise the team is probably in the best situation I’ve seen it in the last maybe five or six years. So I think off-season development has been really good. Also the change of mindset. I think we kind of got stuck there a lot of times just doing the same thing and looking for different answers, which just wasn’t working…”

On the influx of young, talented drivers entering the series, Rossi said, ” Racing is a very difficult sport in the sense that you’re only as good as your last race. You’re constantly having to go out and reprove yourself regardless of what you’ve accomplished in the past. There’s so many guys coming in, your job security really doesn’t exist.”

Dixon replied, “Never think that you know everything. I think that’s the worst position you can be in. You’re constantly learning, it’s constantly changing. I think the sport, even over the last 19 or 20 years that I’ve been a part of it, how much it evolves and changes from season to season is pretty impressive. It’s cool to see. I think it’s fantastic to see the amount of young guys coming in now. There was some pretty good influx probably five to six years ago, as well, with a lot of the guys. You can see their performance, how they’ve adjusted, how quick they’ve been. It’s extremely important for the health of the sport. Hopefully they can keep charging. ”

Electronic Flagging at Laguna Seca

One news item that came out of the conference is that Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca will use an electronic flagging system in 2020.  Formula 1 uses this system in their races and I’m glad to see it coming to an Indycar track.

 

Sebring Test Monday has Some Unusual Elements

It is not unusual for NTT Indycar Series teams to test at Sebring in January. It is unusual for a part time team to test, however. Dreyer & Reinbold is planning a four race program for 2020 and will take part in Monday’s test at Sebring International Raceway. The team has been Indianapolis 500 only the past few years. Sage Karam will drive for the team. A possible second entry for the 500 is also in the works.

We will also get to see two rookies on track together. Rinus VeeKay gets his first run for Ed Carpenter Racing, and Oliver Askew will test for Arrow McLaren SP. Askew’s teammate Pato O’Ward will also get some time Monday.

patoareos
Arrow McLaren SP testing late last year at Sebring

Team Penske will test two time Australian Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin.

You Can Help

Long time racing broadcaster Bob Varsha has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Varsha has broadcast nearly every form of auto racing in his career.

A GoFundMe campaign has been established  by Marshall Pruett for Bob. You can contribute at

https://www.gofundme.com/f/supporting-bob-varsha039s-prostate-cancer-fight?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&fbclid=IwAR2HAf53fA9A0WvHxlgP9F2tY5WfmGPbhP_zxVtKRBeqR-JcWi04uolIqhU

 

Alexander Rossi is auctioning his helmet from the Bathurst 1000 to aid victims of the wildfire in Austarlia. You can bid on the helmet at

https://www.ebay.com/itm/352925771454.

Some Large Grids

With Dreyer & Reinbold’s four race plan and Dragonspeed’s six race program in place, there are some rumblings that Juncos may have something in the works for 2020 as well. Assuming the both Carlin and Foyt have two cars for the full season, several races could have expanded grids.

What a great thing that would be for the series to have fields large than the 22 or 23 we have been used to at most events.

Hunter-Reay Leads Practice 2

Finally a veteran took charge. Ryan Hunter-Reay had the quickest time in Practice 2 for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey this afternoon. Two of the rookies who led the morning practice were right behind him. The morning practice was led by three rookies after Colton Herta led yesterday’s second test period. Felix Rosenqvist finished just 0.02 seconds behind Hunter-Reay and Herta was third, 0.001 seconds after Rosenqvist.

“It’s a very narrow window to get it right,” Hunter-Reay said, “I’m not resting on this one.”

The title contenders had mixed results. Simon Pagenaud finished 4th, Josef Newgarden 6th and Alexander Rossi was 23. Rossi had a software issue this morning.

The only red flag was for Scott Dixon who went off track and stalled between turns 10 and 11.

Rossi led the just completed pit stop/warm-up period.  Hunter-Reay was second, followed by Herta. Rossi still feels he will be okay for tomorrow and Sunday.

Notes

You can see almost the entire track from the top of hill near the Corkscrew. The cars carry a lot of speed into the top of the Corkscrew turn.

Hunter-Reay’s livery looks as if his nose was damaged and was replaced by one they just happened to have around. I love tribute liveries but this one has just gone halfway. It’s my least favorite livery this weekend.

Some Photos

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From Kyle McInnes

CHERTP1LS

Rossi Knows What He Needs to Do

For the second year in a row Alexander Rossi enters the NTT Indycar Series finale in second place. The September 22 Firestone Grand Prix at Weather Tech raceway Laguna Seca will decide the season championship.  Rossi trails Josef Newgarden by 41 points. In a teleconference this afternoon, the driver of the number 27 NAPA Auto Parts car talked about his season thus far, and how 2019 compares to last year.

Rossi described his season so far as “Generally good. We made a lot of improvements on areas where we struggled. Some things have been out of our control.” He went on to say that “the 2 car has been better. Josef has had a sensational year.”

The venue for the final race has a lot of unknowns, Rossi said.  Andretti Autosport tested there in February. Rossi declared the test inconclusive due to the weather and some other factors. He thinks everyone is entering the weekend on an equal footing. Rossi began going to races at Laguna Seca when he was three years old. It is where he fell in love with racing.

“Laguna Seca is where I  cut my teeth in racing,” Rossi said.

The race could be decided in qualifying. “the driver who makes no mistakes in qualifying and wins the pole, if he is one of the championship contenders, his job will be that much easier.,” Rossi said. He described the track as having a low grip surface with the braking zone in turn 2 likely being the best passing area.

While Rossi is disappointed to not be closer to the top of the standings, he feels that it actually puts less pressure on him. he knows this year he needs to win the race. “When you’re closer you start worrying about positions and finishing ahead of the other guy. being this far back,  I just need to win.”

Rossi felt in 2018  the team left too many points on the table with silly mistakes. This season he believes the team has improved although ‘We maybe cost ourselves by being too conservative. We had some bad luck in the second half of the season. ”

The Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey is September 22 on NBC. The green flag is at 12:15.

 

 

 

Rossi, NAPA, Honda Stay with Andretti

Photo: Rossi in his dominant Road America win in June

Andretti Autosport put an end to Silly Season this afternoon, announcing that Alexander Rossi will be driving for the team in 2020 “and beyond.”  NAPA will continue to sponsor Rossi in nine races next year. Auto Nation will sponsor the number 27 car in seven 2020 races. Honda will continue to power Andretti cars. The announcement ends the rumors that Rossi might sign with Team Penske and the Andretti was switching to Chevrolet engines for 2020.

“It feels good to continue with Andretti Autosport,” said Rossi. “Over the past four years, we’ve built a very strong team with great chemistry and I believe that we have the tools necessary to win races and championships. I’m looking forward to not just calling this my team, but my home in the IndyCar Series. Michael [Andretti], J-F [Thormann], Doug [Bresnahan] and the entire team have been working very hard to put all the pieces of this deal together and it’s definitely a relief to have the future settled and be able to focus on the championship fight ahead of us.  

“It’s fantastic to have NAPA AUTO PARTS, AutoNation and Honda supporting the 27 program. I’ve had the pleasure of developing a great relationship with both NAPA and Honda and couldn’t imagine not having them in my corner. AutoNation has always had a strong partnership with the team through Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to represent the Drive Pink campaign and getting to know the AutoNation team better.”

Had Rossi signed with Penske, four of the arguably five best drivers in the series would be on one team. An Andretti switch to Chevy would give the engine seven of the best cars on the grid. With Rossi and Honda staying put, the balance of power in the series is preserved.  I’m not sure how Honda would have replaced Andretti in the series. The options are somewhat limited.

 

Road America Postscript- Farewell to Speedville

The post Road America hangover is becoming as bad for me as the post 500 hangover. This is definitely my second favorite track after IMS.  I decided this in 2016 after about the first five minutes I was there. This year was the best year for me of the four Indycar events as experience goes for many reasons.

First, my friends Leigh and Bob were there for the first time.  They found some places I had never seen in turns 7 and 10. It was nice to see the track through fresh sets of eyes. We also had a great time visiting establishments in Elkhart Lake. I’m sure they will be back.

I also spent some time in the kink and I was impressed by the speed the cars carry before braking for Canada Corner.

The race behind Alexander Rossi was great. Third through sixth were contested all day. Dixon’s charge from the rear after the turn 5 incident was exciting to watch. His teammate Felix Rosenqvist had an excellent drive moving from 18th to 6th. Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe had steady drives and fought hard all day.

Colton Herta had an eventful day. After losing the lead to rossi in turn 3 of theopening lap, he had contact with both Power and Pagenaud in separate incidents and seemed to spend a lot of time off track in turn 5. Herta’s eighth place finish was his second best result of the season.

Rossi was probably not given any consideration for the drive of the day, but he should have been in the conversation. Winning margins like this don’t happen often in today’s NTT Indycar Series. His drive was a thing of beauty.

The crowd looked to me to be the biggest since 2016.  I thought the bowl at the bottom of turn 5 was fuller than it had been the last two years.

I’m about halfway through the NBC broadcast and i am very impressed. The cameras were on the Herta-Pagenaud skirmish all the way, including the point when Dixon blew past both of them. Great work.

So I will say good bye to Road America until next year and leave you with some photos.

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Rossi leads lap 1
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Marcus Ericsson finds his way back on track.
RA19 160
Some of the big crowd in turn 5
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Power (l) tries to get around Herta, who did not give up spots asily.
RA19 181
Rossi’s wondering, ” Where is everybody?”
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Pagenaud unsuccessfully tries to get by Herta. Seconds later Dixon blasts by both of them.

 

 

 

Quick Thoughts REV Group Grand Prix

That was quite a  bold move Alexander Rossi made  to take the lead over Colton Herta. Then an F 1 race broke out.

Rossi did what he needed to get done today- f inish ahead of Josef Newgarden and Cut into the lead as much as possible.. The gap is down to seven points.

Dixon is not quite out of the points race, but he is edging closer to waiting another year for title number 6.

There was great racing and action in position three through six most of the day.

Will Power and Newgarden knew they had nothing for Rossi.  Power said, “I never saw Rossi all day. A yellow or rain might have helped.”

Newgarden was satisfied that he got all he could out of the car and third was the best they could do.

Simon Pagenaud had an impressive drive finishing ninth after starting 16th.

Dixon made a great comeback for a top five after spinning on the opening lap.

Turn five was a very busy, action packed area today.

Santino Ferrucci finished a lap down, the third lap he hasn’t completed this season.

Rossi has now won the three crown jewels of Indycar circuits- Long Beach, Indianapolis, and Road America.

Look for my full report on Wildfire Sports tomorrow.  I will also have a  Road America postscript with photos in this space Tuesday. Thanks for following along this weekend.