Alexander Rossi admitted last Sunday in Toronto that he knew ahead of time that he didn’t have a race winning car for the Honda Indy Toronto. That forced him to have two goals in mind for the final street course event of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season -the first was, keep his recent momentum going, while the second was to keep Josef Newgarden as close to his front wing as possible.
See, Newgarden had won two of the last four Honda Indy Toronto races. He started fifth while Rossi started fourth. With Newgarden’s domination on street courses in 2019 (3 top two finishes in 4 tries), he didn’t want to let Newgarden get too far ahead.
Alexander Rossi leads Simon Pagenaud on track during last year’s Iowa 300 at the Iowa Speedway – INDYCAR Media Site
Rossi knew that Newgarden would likely at some point get by him on Sunday. The Andretti Autosport driver didn’t have too high expectations going into last weekend’s race. In two of his three previous Toronto starts, he didn’t finish better than eighth.
So, damage control was on his mind. He knew he didn’t have a car capable of winning, so do the best he could with what was given.
Not only did he stay in the hunt on Sunday, he finished ahead of Newgarden too. Now, the gap between the duo is down to four points heading into Saturday night’s primetime race at the Iowa Speedway.
“I think that we knew going into today (Sunday) that we didn’t have a race-winning car and it would take a little bit of luck to get that,” said Rossi after scoring his fifth podium in his last six starts on the season.
Now, can Rossi keep this momentum going this weekend in Iowa? This is the race that Rossi has circled as the point that could make or break his championship hopes.
See, when we go to the next two races on the schedule, Rossi is the defending race winner in each. He led 66 of 90 laps at Mid-Ohio in 2018. He then led 180 of 200 laps in a dominating win at Pocono last season as well. The next race after that is in Gateway, a place Rossi finished runner-up a year ago too. Rossi, finished ahead of Newgarden in all three races.
But, it’s Iowa that has him worried. He’s made up 21 points on Newgarden over the course of two races, but he’s just as worried he can lose all of that on Saturday night too.
Rossi, says that his team is bringing a whole new setup to the 7/8-mile bullring. Their past history on the track isn’t too noteworthy. In three career starts, his best finish is sixth (2016). He was 11th in 2017 and ninth last year. He’s led a combined four laps and has zero lead lap finishes.
Meanwhile, Newgarden has been the top dog lately in Iowa. He won this race in 2016 after leading 282 of 300 laps that year. He led 229 laps a year ago but only finished fourth. In fact, from 2014 through now, the Tennessee native has three top two finishes in five tries including his other two finishes being sixth and fourth respectively. He’s led 623 laps over the last four years at Iowa too.
See why Rossi has this race circled.