ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Alexander Rossi believes that when a race car is at its best, driving at high speeds around the 4.014-mile, 14-turn Road America road course can be “a blast.”
But even in the best conditions, it can be a long lap around one of the longest road courses on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule.
“It’s a big lap,” Rossi said. “If things are going well, it’s fun. If the car is not quite where you want it, it’s a long time out there struggling, so … it can go either way.
“In general driving an Indy car at Road of America is pretty awesome.”
Rossi was awesome for Andretti Autosport on Friday, as the NTT IndyCar Series star was the fastest in Friday’s combined practice sessions with a fast time at 1:43.1206 (140.131 mph).
Rossi’s laps were fast and sometimes highly aggressive, showing that sometimes, smooth is not fast.
“I think we gave up a lot of time in turn six and turn 13 on that lap,” Rossi said of one of his faster trips around Road America on Friday. “We should be a bit better than what we were.
“It’s always interesting, though. We come to these tracks where not a lot theoretically has changed, but the car that you had pretty good performance with and balance with the previous year doesn’t necessarily translate the same the next year. It’s something we all have to stay on top of and continue chasing.
“I’m not too happy with the car right now. I mean, I’m pleased obviously there’s pace in it, but it’s a handful to drive. Hopefully we can make that a bit better for tomorrow. The race running is pretty substantially different. The tires seem the alternate tires definitely do have a falloff. We’re all trying to understand what that is and what that looks like come Sunday.”
Rossi has yet to win at Road America in his three previous attempts. It’s a track that often favors the leader of the race, so qualifications will be very important on Saturday afternoon.
“I think we’ve been strong here, pace-wise,” Rossi said. “The end result has never been really great on Sundays for one reason or another, but I think in general, the team has been pretty strong here.
“We came here obviously looking to make this one of our tracks that we’ve had good results at, hopefully after this weekend. I think the team is doing a good job. I think all cars are working in a positive direction.
“We’ll just have to stay on top of the track as it evolves, which is always key on these weekends with ever-changing track conditions.”
Team Penske driver Will Power was second in a Chevrolet at 1:43.4089 (139.740 mph). Power’s Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden was third at 1:43.4758 (139.650 mph), while rookie Colton Herta was fourth in a Honda at 1:43.7415 (139.292 mph).
Another rookie in Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top five at 1:43.7464 (139.286 mph).
“It’s a great track,” Rossi continued. “It’s always a privilege to come here. It’s nice to be able to stretch our legs a bit in terms of the lap distance. The only other track we have similar is COTA. It was a great race for us.
“I think all the drivers are of the same kind of opinion: we love driving here. The fan turnout is always amazing. The autograph session today was fantastic. It’s a real privilege.”