Alexander Rossi said he still hasn’t had much time to mentally process his victory in the 100th Indianapolis 500.
Almost two weeks after one of the greatest upset wins in American motor sports history, the 24-year-old Nevada City native is back at work driving an IndyCar for Andretti Autosport. After his historic win at Indy, he placed 10th and 12th at the Duals at Detroit last weekend and is tied for fifth in the standings.
In a teleconference on Wednesday, Rossi said there hasn’t been much time to reflect on becoming the first American-born rookie to win at Indy since 1928 or how his face will be immortalized and cast onto the Borg-Warner Trophy or to spend just a bit of the $2.5 million he earned for winning arguably the most prestigious auto race in the world.
“That’s the crazy thing about motor sports – I’m always looking forward to the next race,” Rossi said as he prepared for Saturday’s Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. “The offseason will give me a chance to reflect.”
That’s the crazy thing about motor sports – I’m always looking forward to the next race. The offseason will give me a chance to reflect.
Alexander Rossi on his Indianapolis 500 victory
What an offseason that might be for Rossi, who left Nevada City for Europe at 16 to chase his dream of winning Formula One titles. When that dream was taken from him by a driver with financial backing of an entire country (Indonesia), Rossi returned to the United States to drive for Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta.
Andretti and Herta combined their resources to field Rossi’s car for the 2016 IndyCar season, and it was Herta’s bold call to not take fuel over the last laps of the Indy 500 that helped Rossi overcome 66-to-1 odds to become the first rookie to win the race since Helio Castroneves in 2001.
Rossi will be a free agent of sorts after this IndyCar season. He remains a test driver for F-1’s Manor Racing, his old team. But a better offer in IndyCar or perhaps even NASCAR, where he’d be reunited with his old kart rival Kyle Larson, is possible. NAPA Auto Parts spends millions in NASCAR and supplied Rossi’s team with sponsorship money for the Indy 500 and through the doubleheader in Detroit. A winning relationship already has been built.
In a huge understatement, Rossi said his Indianapolis 500 win will change his life. He’s on Madison Avenue radar screens now. The win and his modeling experience make him a natural to pick up some endorsements and sponsorships outside of companies already supporting Andretti Autosport.
But, so far, that hasn’t happened.
Fellow IndyCar driver Graham Rahal said IndyCar should capitalize on Rossi’s win to help build the sport in the United States. Despite the 350,000 fans in attendance at Indy, IndyCar lags behind NASCAR in TV ratings and sponsorship money.
Rahal challenged Rossi to stay in America and build IndyCar. Rahal said Rossi can “pound around the back of the field in F-1” or become the new face of IndyCar.
Fellow IndyCar driver Graham Rahal said Rossi can “pound around the back of the field in F-1” or become the new face of IndyCar.
“Graham was very right,” Rossi said. “I spoke to him about 20 minutes after the race, and he said I have an opportunity now to grow the sport in the states, especially as an American. In the coming months, I’ll do whatever I can to promote this organization.”
Extreme Sidecar motorcycles return to Fast Fridays on Friday night at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn for Round 2 of 4 this season. In a twist, the sidecars drive clockwise around the eighth-mile flat track, while the speedway motorcycle riders go counter-clockwise. For more information, go to fastfridays.com.
▪ Defending Civil War champ Andy Forsberg, an Auburn resident who leads the season points race as he guns for his ninth series title, leads the area’s best 360-cubic-inch winged sprint car drivers at the Placerville Speedway on Saturday for a Civil War Sprint Car Series event at the quarter-mile clay oval. For more information, go to placervillespeedway.com.
▪ Grass Valley native Brad Sweet shares the World of Outlaws sprint car championship points lead with defending Outlaws champ Donny Schatz. Schatz won last Thursday night in Indiana to tie Sweet, who has led from the season’s start. Both drivers have 4,692 points entering Friday night’s event at the famed Knoxville, Iowa, track. Elk Grove native Paul McMahan is in 10th place, 614 points behind Sweet and Schatz.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.