SALINAS, Calif – Alexander Rossi’s day on Sunday at the WeatherTech Racing Laguna Seca was a microcosm of how the second half of the season went. Unfortunately for the Andretti Autosport driver, they just couldn’t get his season going in a positive direction from July on.
“Yeah, everything. I mean, I think the blacks were much friendlier for us, which was unfortunate because we started on the used reds,” Rossi said following a sixth place finish Sunday in Laguna Seca. “We made the decision to go opposite of the two cars in front at the start because we knew we were ultimately racing them.
“We took a gamble. We were pretty committed to trying to do something different, and if we ended up third swinging, it was better than just being complacent and coming home second.
“It was a risk that didn’t pay off, unfortunately, but yeah, it was — it just wasn’t meant to be.”
In Road America, Rossi led 54 of 55 laps and beat everyone by 28+ seconds. The Team Penske drivers said that day that they didn’t even know Rossi was in the race because they never saw him. He was just that good.
That came a couple months after leading 80 of 85 laps in Long Beach as he won by 20+ seconds over the field.
Between Long Beach and Road America, Rossi had five podiums in seven tries. He finished 22nd after a first lap incident in the INDYCAR Grand Prix and fifth in Belle Isle 2. Other than that, he either won (twice) or finished second (three times). He went from over 30 points back to just seven.
In Toronto, Rossi finished third with Newgarden fourth. The gap would be down to four. That’s where the championship race really ended for Rossi.
Rossi, hasn’t led a lap since taking the checkered flag first in Road America. That’s seven straight races with zero laps led. He also hasn’t finished better than third over the final seven races either. He had nine top five finishes in the first 11 races but only two over the final six.
He was third in Portland and just sixth in Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Rossi’s No. 27 Honda just didn’t have the speed and handling in it to contend.
That’s what in the end cost him a championship.
Rossi though, takes solace in the fact that Newgarden was the one who won the title this year. Last season, he feels like he gave Dixon the championship, this year, Newgarden was untouchable.
“Ultimately I think in one way or another, we gave Scott a championship,” Rossi said. “I think we didn’t do that this year. I think just Penske and the 2 car specifically were stronger than us, and that’s going to happen.
“You can’t take away from the fact that Josef led all but one race this season. And from a sporting perspective, probably the right guy won. He came into this thing with a pretty big lead, and if it had gone away on double points, I would have loved it, but ultimately it probably wouldn’t have been the outcome that should have happened. Josef did a great job, Simon did a good job there at the end, and we just were a couple points short.”