The drought finally is over for Alexander Rossi.
Rossi won the Gallagher Grand Prix on Saturday on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course to snap a 49-race winless streak, earning his first victory since capturing the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race June 23, 2019 at Road America, 1,133 days ago. This was Rossi’s eighth career victory.
“It’s a lot of relief, that’s the main word,” Rossi said. “We knew things were trending in the right direction this year. The one constant has been the mental strength of the whole team. It’s a big team win and a big thank you to the organization. It sucks what happened to Colton, but it comes full circles sometimes.”
“It’s human nature to start to question things when it continually doesn’t kind of fall your way. You just have to remember that you’ve done it before, you can do it again, type of thing. It’s nice to reestablish that, and this sport is so much about you’re as good as your last race, it doesn’t matter who you are. You have to go out there every weekend and kind of re-prove yourself.”
Andretti Autosport driver Rossi crossed the finish line in his No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda 3.5441 seconds ahead of rookie Christian Lundgaard, who earned a career-best second place in the No. 30 Shield Cleansers Honda.
“It feels amazing,” Lundgaard said. “I think the best feeling right now is that the team really deserves it. They’ve worked super hard, and we’ve had such a struggling beginning to the season. To come here and finish second, I think the team deserves every bit of it. I’m just a guy doing my job. I want to win, so I try as best as I can. It’s going to be a massive confidence boost for everyone to keep digging. This is the right path. We’re going in the right direction.”
“We knew coming into this weekend that this was the track we were going to be at least the most competitive. We came into this event and knowing we were going to have a car that was able to finish in the good end of the top ten. For me to get it done just proves that the car was there, which is why I really feel like the team deserves this podium, and I hope there’s more to come.”
Will Power finished third in the 85-lap race in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet and took the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship lead with just four races remaining. Power holds a nine-point lead over Marcus Ericsson, who rallied from starting last in the 25-car field to finish 11th in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
“Considering the start of the race, great recovery, man,” said Power. “It’s amazing some of the runs we’ve had this year. But yep, just kept my head and did what I could in the situation. I had to get a big fuel number and go as fast as I can. I had to get a big fuel number because we pitted five laps before everyone… Pretty much all the way to the end we were on a number that was definitely holding us back. We had definitely a lot of pace in hand.”
“Being nine points behind, we’re very much in the mix,” Ericsson said. “So we go to Nashville where we were extremely strong last year, and I feel like our street course package is our strongest one of the different tracks we have left to go to, so I’m feeling confident about it. I’m really determined to get that lead back from Will. He’s having an amazing year, and we’re gonna give it everything through the western swing to try and get this championship.”
Team Penske ended up with all three of its drivers in the top five. Scott McLaughlin finished fourth in the No. 3 Gallagher Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet, with two-time series champion Josef Newgarden fifth in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet.
Rossi, who started second, took the lead for good on Lap 42 when leader and teammate Colton Herta lost drive after navigating Turn 8 on the 11-turn, 2.439-mile road course in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda. Herta was able to coast to the entry of the pit lane, but his race was over. He was credited with 24th place.
The mechanical problem was a cruel twist of fate for Herta, who started ninth and drove to the lead by Lap 8, passing NTT P1 Award winner Felix Rosenqvist in Turn 7. Herta and Rossi emerged as the class of the field as the early laps unfolded, with rival teams unsuccessfully trying multiple strategies to neuter their advantage.
“I do feel for Colton; I do,” Rossi said. “I think he was definitely strong. We had pretty much the same race car. It would have been interesting. I don’t want to take away anything from what he did from ninth. To get to that position was incredible. But it was the 27’s turn. That’s awesome.”
Once Herta was out of the race, Rossi built a steady gap of around four seconds to Lundgaard. The Danish rookie made things interesting late in the race, closing to within 2.7 seconds with 10 laps remaining.
But Rossi pulled away over the closing laps for a decisive win, ending Lundgaard’s chance of becoming the first rookie to win an NTT INDYCAR SERIES race since Rossi shocked the racing world with his victory in the 2016 Indianapolis 500.
“At the end of the third stint, I was catching Alex,” Lundgaard said. “I was really hoping because every pit stop we always caught up. We lost a bit in the beginning of the stint. The Andretti car had just so much better power down than we did today. That’s what killed our rear tires, and we struggled on the long run. The result speaks for itself. Coming in this weekend, we knew we had a strong car.”
Rossi, who led 44 laps, will split $10,000 with his team and his chosen charities, Leilani Mae Horse Rescue and AutoNation’s Drive Pink campaign, for the victory as part of the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge.
Power once again produced a composed drive, overcoming early near-calamity, to take the points lead. Power made contact with the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet of Pato O’Ward in a three-wide traffic jam in Turns 1 and 2 on the first lap and also had an early dustup with the No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Helio Castroneves, finding himself in 16th in the early laps.
But Power calmly drove through the field to earn his seventh podium finish of the season.
“A great recovery, man,” Power said. “You can never expect a normal day in INDYCAR. Everyone is very aggressive, and it’s so hard to win in this series. It’s the toughest series in the world. Great job by the Verizon 5G guys. It’s amazing we can go back there and recover all the way to third.”
Less than a race worth of points separates Power from fifth-place O’Ward, who is 46 back. Newgarden is third, 32 out of the lead. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon, who finished eighth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, is 38 points back in fourth.
The hectic recent schedule for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES continues with the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 7 on the streets of Nashville, Tennessee. Live race coverage starts at 3 p.m. ET on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.