Alexander Rossi had a bad weekend for his standards last week in Iowa. He started sixth and finished there in his No. 27 Honda. While a sixth place finish in a very competitive NTT IndyCar Series should be celebrated, it isn’t for a driver that’s among the best in the series today.
See, Rossi knew that Iowa would be his Achilles Heel in this championship. He said it after his third place finish a week prior in Toronto. Iowa, has never been one of his strongest tracks. He knows that. His team knows that. Heading into last weekend, the Andretti Autosport driver had never finished on the lead lap there before and had just four combined laps led also. Well, he left Sunday morning with still four total laps led around the .894-mile bull ring and almost finished off the lead lap again.
He went from making up 21 points in the standings over the last two races to losing it all and more as he now trails Josef Newgarden by 29 points heading into this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. That deficit was 25 heading into Road America last month, then down to four leaving Toronto.
But, despite a dominating performance at Road America on June 23, a race that he led all but one lap in, can Rossi sustain his natural road course dominance?
Alexander Rossi leads Josef Newgarden in last year’s race at Mid-Ohio – INDYCAR Media Site
Prior to his Road America whooping, his best finish on a natural road course this season was fifth in Barber. He finished ninth at COTA and 22nd in Indy on the road course. Those results aren’t going to cut it. In COTA and Indy, he led zero laps. At Barber, he led just three.
Luckily, Mid-Ohio is a place he dominated at a year ago. Rossi, led 66 of 90 laps en route to a dominating performance in this race last year. He started on the pole and left little doubt who would win.
“Mid-Ohio is one of the best races on the schedule and I can’t wait to get back,” said Rossi. “The vibe from the fans is always amazing and we will draw energy from them as we look to repeat on the success of last year and go into the summer break with a win.”
If he can do that again this weekend, then maybe this is the start of him making up ground on Newgarden again.
Newgarden, won this race in 2017 but that’s his only Mid-Ohio podium in seven tries. He finished fourth last year.
Then, it’s to Pocono where Rossi led 180 of 200 laps in a dominating win last year too. Newgarden, does have four straight top five finishes on the Tricky Triangle but has never won. Rossi, finished second in both the Indy 500 and at Texas too while Newgarden was fourth and first respectively himself.
After that, it’s to Gateway where Rossi has finished sixth and second respectively and Newgarden first and seventh himself. But, Gateway is a short oval and Newgarden just dominated one in Iowa.
From there, it’s the final two races of the season – both on natural road courses. First up is Portland, a place where Rossi finished eighth and Newgarden 10th in 2018. Then, it’s to Laguna Seca to wrap up the season, a place neither has raced on in an Indy Car prior.
So, with three of the final five on natural road courses and another on a short oval, Rossi needs to hope that they gain on them.
Plus, once upon a time, Penske thought that they had struggled on natural road courses this season. Their gains on street courses and all the time that they spent on finding improvement on them, cost him in natural road course development.
Newgarden, does have three top four finishes in four tries on them in 2019, but Power and Pagenaud have just one top five themselves.