ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The ultimate goal for any racing driver is to drive the perfect race, and Alexander Rossi came pretty close to that in Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America.
The 27-year-old from Nevada City, Calif., started on the outside of the front row, passed 19-year-old pole sitter Colton Herta in turn two on the first lap and then drove away from the field.
Rossi led all but one lap in the 55-laps contest at the 4.014-mile Road America road course and defeated Team Penske’s Will Power by a whopping 28.4391 seconds.
He entered the race weekend 25 points behind Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, but left Victory Lane trailing the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion by seven points heading into a two-weekend break in the schedule.
Newgarden finished third.
“That’s probably the best race car I’ve ever driven,” Rossi said afterwards.
In the four races prior to Sunday’s race at Road America, Rossi had finished second three times and fifth in the other race.
He was finally able to snap that streak of second-place finishes in a big way.
“Obviously, you don’t want to complain too much about getting second places, right? Because they’re good results,” Rossi said. “But we knew we had the pace, and I think, ever since Texas when GESS/Capstone came on board and we had a new partnership and we came up short again, the motivation for this week was higher than ever, so we were able to execute.
“It was just a win that we needed to do. We’ve been there and thereabouts, but the Penske cars were getting the upper hand on us. To be able to go out and win a race the way we did and state our intentions is good, and we’ll regroup the next couple of weeks and come hard again in Toronto.”
The race went green for the entire distance and Rossi was able to build huge gaps after each of his three pit stops.
He was running a different race track than the other drivers in the 23-car field, including many in the top five who never saw him on the track.
“I actually never saw Alex,” Power said. “I felt like I was in my own race with Josef. That’s all we had. It was a very clean day for us. Good start, no mistakes, reasonable car. We simply did not have the pace to run with Alex.
“I’ve rarely said that in my career.”
When asked if a yellow flag that would have bunched up the field would have changed the outcome of the race, Power’s answer was convincing.
“I don’t think it would have mattered,” Power said. “Rain may have. Rain would have been the only thing that might have helped us today.”
Once Rossi passed young Herta, pulling even with him at the drop of the green flag and then racing him down the front straight into turn one, the race was essentially over.
“I was able to get a pretty good tow off of him into turn one,” Rossi said. “I knew that clean air was important. When I had the window there on the outside, I went for it. Clean air gives you the ability to manage your pace and tires and fuel, kind of just control it from there. That’s what we were able to do.
“The hardest part of the race was for sure the first stint with the Firestone alternate tires. There’s definitely a performance advantage, but the degradation was quite high. It was about getting to our target lap on those tires. The last three laps, it was moving around quite a lot, but it was obviously the same for everyone else.”
Even when he was 28 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, Rossi was able to stay focused on his goal.
“You’re pushing every lap regardless of the gap, right? You got to stay with that mindset, in the zone,” Rossi said. “Obviously when you have a gap that big, your concern is a yellow.
“With how things have gone for us this year, I was waiting for it. I was just hoping it didn’t happen. Fortunately, today there were no yellows and we were able to bring it home from where we started.”
Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Graham Rahal, Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist, James Hinchcliffe, Colton Herta, Simon Pagenaud, Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Marcus Ericsson, Spencer Pigot, Jack Harvey, Max Chilton, Patricio O’Ward, Zach Veach, Santino Ferrucci, Matheus Leist, Tony Kanaan, Ed Jones, Marco Andretti.