IndyCar title contender Alexander Rossi will still take a ‘win or bust’ approach to this weekend’s Sonoma finale despite losing out in Portland last time out.
Punished by an ill-timed full course caution, the American is not about to start driving conservatively in his quest for a maiden IndyCar championship.
Rossi: “I’m going to win”
“You don’t change your approach. I mean, I’m going to win, I’m going to try to beat people, do exactly what we’ve been doing all year”, said the former Indy 500 champion.
The NAPA-sponsored driver trails long-time championship leader Scott Dixon by 29-points ahead of what promises to be a winner take all showdown.
“We have to go into the weekend and do all we can do to maximize ourselves, our potential. We have had a car in contention to win a race probably 90% of this year. There’s no reason to change that now.”
No playing percentages for Rossi
Dominant last time out at the Grand Prix of Portland, Rossi and his Andretti-Autosports squad were burned by a race-changing full course caution. The subsequent reshuffling of the pack helped Dixon recover from nearly wrecking on lap 1 to retain his championship lead.
Despite that twist of fate, Rossi is not intending on playing it safe on Sunday.
“I’ve been on the right side of it before, for sure”, remarked the 26-year-old Californian of the full course caution that wrecked his race. “That’s part of IndyCar racing. We all know the risks that go along with staying out, and you know the risks and potential benefits of coming in early. That’s kind of what makes IndyCar racing what it is.”
Chip Ganassi’s Dixon is the title favorite as he shapes up for a fifth IndyCar championship. Victory would catapult him into 3rd place on the all-time championships list, one behind Rick Mears and two behind AJ Foyt.
However Rossi knows he must also keep an eye on the Penske duo of Will Power and Josef Newgarden.
Penske duo still a threat despite points deficit
Discussing the challenge posed by Power and Newgarden, Rossi said: “Penske has always been strong there (Sonoma)… I don’t think there’s been a year where those cars aren’t at the front. Without a doubt there’s a benchmark.”
Power and reigning champion Newgarden are both 87-points behind Dixon going to Sonoma. But with double-points up for grabs neither are out of contention.
Rossi however is content to focus on his own performance and retains a quiet confidence about his chances of defeating Dixon, Power and Newgarden this weekend: “There’s really nothing we can do about them. They’re always a threat.”
“We’ll go into it, and I think we found quite a bit of performance on road courses the second half of this year, really from Road America onwards.”
No clues in the IndyCar history books
History offers up little in the way of clues as to who might lift the Astor Cup this Sunday, though recent seasons slightly favor Dixon’s chances.
In the past 12 seasons, the driver in 2nd place in the championship going into the final race has won the IndyCar title on 5 occasions (Hornish Jr 2006, Franchitti 2009-2011, Hunter-Reay 2012).
Conversely, the driver leading the standings prior to the final race has become champion 6 times (Franchitti 2007, Dixon 2008 & 2013, Power 2014, Pagenaud 2016, Newgarden 2017).
Only once has a driver outside the top 2 become champion at the final race of the season (Dixon in 2015 when Montoya and Rahal were 1st and 2nd prior to the season finale). But as that particular season finale demonstrated, anything can and usually does happen when it comes to crowning the IndyCar Series champion.
The Grand Prix of Sonoma starts with practice Friday September 14 from 11am and qualifying Saturday September 15 3pm. The 85-lap race takes the green flag at 3.40pm Sunday September 16 (all times Pacific).