DETROIT – Alexander Rossi is fast on any type of surface – wet or dry.
He proved that he was fast in the rain during Sunday morning’s qualifications for the second race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix later Sunday.
Rossi was the fastest driver in the second group of competitors and turned a fast lap of 1:33.3148 around the 2.35-mile, 14-turn street course at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park. That translated to a speed of 90.661 mph for Rossi in the No. 27 Honda.
“It was difficult,” Rossi admitted. “The wet is hard in any type of condition, especially on a street course like this. I’ve got to give a shout out to Firestone. This new tread pattern they came up with was really stout. It was a lot of grip. It was very predictable. I knew where the limit was right away. It made the job easier for sure. It then becomes a session of trying to find the grip and maximizing as much as you can.
“Fortunately, the No. 27 Ruoff Home Mortgage car had a good balance and allowed me to do that.”
It was Rossi’s second pole this season and the third pole of his IndyCar career. The Andretti Autosport driver has won from the pole the previous two times he started first, including April’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
“I feel better about it because we had a race in normal conditions and I felt like we had a good car,” Rossi said. “I don’t think we had the best car, but we were able to look at things overnight and make some pretty solid improvements. Time will tell. It’s always a question mark when you get pole in the wet, and you haven’t had the fastest car in the dry. But since we were competitive yesterday I think we feel pretty confident about it.”
Rookie Robert Wickens was the fastest in group one at 1:33.6604 (90.326 mph) in the No. 6 Honda.
“Honestly it was a tough session,” Wickens said. “The first time with these Firestone rain tires and the first time driving an Indy car in the wet on a street course. A road course is pretty straight-forward in how you drive in the rain. You do it so many times on so many different circuits, the same rules apply.
“On a street course, because it’s a normal road. There’s some unique lines that you have to take. Normally you want to avoid the rubber or the oil, but on a street course, there’s cars driving everywhere on them, so it’s permanently slippery. It’s always unique on a street course to find the grip and the speed. The team did a great job with strategy and luckily, we qualified well at the Indy GP because that puts us up front on the pit lane.
“Having clear visibility in that quali helped me quite a bit. I’m very happy to start P2. I think it’s my third front row start of the season. Hard to complain.”
Will Power, who won last Sunday’s 102nd Indianapolis 500, starts third for Team Penske alongside Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ed Jones. Saturday’s race winner, Scott Dixon, starts fifth in a Honda.
Rossi enters Sunday’s race as the points leader and hopes to build on that over the 70-lap contest.
“You don’t win championships by just one or two good races throughout the year,” Rossi said. “There’s a lot of pressure on. It’s very competitive. It’s very hard to win races in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Hard to get poles, so you try to take these ones and maximize them as much as you can. I have to say thank you to the team. From the beginning of 2017, we’ve seen a huge step forward. Their relentless push every race weekend to make sure we have fast race cars – all four of us – is something very cool to be part of. It’s an honor to be part of Andretti Autosport.”