Alexander Rossi emphatically demonstrated why he is the most sought-after driver in the paddock at Road America June 23. The race before that, Josef Newgarden and Tim Cindric used deft strategy to win an Indycar Race at Texas that they had no business winning.
Road America: Rossi started in the number 2 position next to pole-sitter Colton Herta and took the lead at turn 1 before he gave new meaning to the term “domination”. In a race that ran the full distances without a caution period, Rossi entered the final lap with a lead of more than 28 seconds on second place Penske-Chevy of Will Power. Josef Newgarden finished third behind his teammate.
To give you an idea of how big that lead was, Rossi was more than a full mile ahead of Power. And to get that far ahead, Rossi has to be more than half a second a lap quicker than his nearest rival. Power made no mistakes and had no offs that I saw. Which means than half a second per lap was pure, unadulterated pace.
At the track, it was incredible to watch. Rossi did not look fast. It was a quiet drive in the country accept for a couple of passes on back markers. because the Road America track is so long (just over 4 miles), cars almost never get lapped on pace. Except Sunday.
Honda’s engines did enter into this a bit. Both Power and Newgarden admitted that they had to save fuel to make their pit-stop windows. While Rossi had no such problems and rode his engine hard the whole race.
Texas: Cindric called Josef Newgarden in to pit under a caution on Lap 137 of 248. All of the leaders (including Newgarden) had pitted on 121,122 or 123 and did not need to stop. But this strategy gave Newgarden the lead and a clean track for laps 190 (when the leaders stopped) through 198, when he stopped. When he came out after that final stop he was in the lead, and Rossi could not pass him.
So on a night when Honda looked set to dominate, Newgarden won. He was the only Chevy in the top 5.
Driver’s championship: Newgarden left Road America with a 7-point lead over Rossi. Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud fell back to third, 61 points behind Newgarden. Scott Dixon is a distant fourth, 94 points back.
So for all intents and purposes, it looks like a 2-person race between Rossi and Newgarden, headlining into a bunch of Races where Rossi should do well. Pagenaud has to start winning races to catch up. Dixon has to hope the three drivers ahead of him come upon some bad luck in order to have a chance to defend his title.
Manufacturer’s Race— After Road America, Honda has a 77-point advantage. The bad news for Honda was that Dixon and Ferrucci both lost engines at Road America. It was also rumored that Pagenaud lost a Chevy. Once a driver takes a fifth engine, that driver can no longer score manufacturer points.
So far, neither Rossi nor Newgarden have lost an engine that I am aware of. Could be the reason why Rossi avoided doing the usual post-race donuts at turn 5 of Road America.
Honda scored 92 points at Road America to Chevy’s 75. So a 77-point lead is 2-to-3 races worth of points with 7 races to go (the last race is double points).
Next Race— Honda Indy Toronto on the streets of Toronto July 14.