SALINAS, Calif – Alexander Rossi’s confidence never wavered. He still thinks that he has a shot at winning the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship on Sunday. But, the fight to get to a top five starting spot for the season finale at the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca has been trying to say the least.
Rossi, entered the weekend the overall favorite to take the victory in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey (2:30 p.m. ET/NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network). He came out of the gates during Thursday’s test close. He was fifth and ninth respectively in the two sessions.
But, the next three practice sessions caused them some anguish.
Rossi, only completed four practice laps in the opening session on Friday morning and was last on the speed charts. He did work on Firestone Reds in the second session of the day which compromised overall speed compared to everyone else. He was second to last (23rd) in that session.
In final practice on Saturday morning, his No. 27 Honda was only 10th.
With his main championship rivals all looking like Fast Six contenders for qualifying, Rossi wasn’t looking like that himself.
“We’ve had a pretty challenging two-and-a-half days for the (No.) 27 NAPA Andretti Honda group – really the Andretti Autosport group as a whole,” Rossi said on Saturday. “We had peaks and valleys, but it came good this afternoon for the most part. It’s tough when you miss out by seven-hundredths. You can find a lot of places in a lap where you give that up. We just have to keep working at it and come up with a good race car strategy for tomorrow.”
Rossi, relied on his Andretti Autosport teammates for help and it paid off. He’d qualify third for Sunday’s race, second best among the four drivers vying for the season championship. It was his third top three starting spots in the last five races.
But, if Rossi wants to hoist the Astor Cup championship trophy on Sunday, he has to contend for the lead. He hasn’t led a lap since leading 54 of 55 laps in a dominating performance at Road America back on June 23. He’s led just 57 combined laps over the last nine races of the season.
Rossi, did finish third in the last race, on a natural road course at that, on Labor Day weekend in Portland. Now, he needs to take Baby Girl to victory lane if he wants a shot at the title.