Last weekend’s Iowa 300 proved to be the tough race Alexander Rossi had predicted as his NTT INDYCAR championship challenge took a hit.
Having moved to within four points of leader Josef Newgarden going into Saturday’s night race, Rossi left Iowa 29-points behind his race-winning rival and a similar margin ahead of the resurgent Simon Pagenaud.
A hard night for Rossi at Iowa Speedway
“We knew this was going to be a hard one for us and it was”, said the Andretti Autosport driver.
The American struggled to run both the lower and higher, second-line around the 7/8-mile oval as Team Penske, and Newgarden, in particular, dominated the rain-delayed race.
Unable to make forward progress Rossi slipped behind eventual podium finishers, James Hinchcliffe and Scott Dixon.
“This is one of the tracks where we are missing something to the competition”, admitted the 2018 championship runner-up.
Rossi: “That was our potential”
Rossi’s weekend was plagued by poor handling that was characterised by an unbalanced car. “We can’t really focus on one end of the car; we are fighting both of them”, he explained following a challenging qualifying session.
After qualifying 6th – 4mph off the pole-winning pace of Pagenaud – Rossi was pragmatic about the pace of his NAPA Auto Parts Honda: “That was our potential, maybe fourth.”
And it was a position the 27-year-old struggled to better in race trim, coming home behind Newgarden, Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Pagenaud and Spencer Pigot.
Damage limitation the name of the game
“We got as many points as we could and that kind of became the name of the game from there on”, said Rossi of his damage limitation run on Saturday night. “From where we knew we were yesterday, I think the team did a good job of maximizing what we had.”
Attention now turns to this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Rossi took a commanding win there last season after claiming pole and leading 66 of 90 laps around the famous road course.
Following a difficult night in the mid-west and with only 5 races remaining in the 2019 NTT INDYCAR season, Rossi needs a big win to get back on terms with Newgarden and fend off the late-season challenge of reigning Indy 500 champion Pagenaud.