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Rossi, NAPA Auto Parts re-up with Andretti in multi-year deal

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Alexander Rossi and NAPA Auto Parts have re-upped (Merriam-Webster definition of re-up here) with Andretti Autosport in a new multi-year agreement, announced Friday morning ahead of this weekend’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen.

Rossi was coy on his future status earlier this week, having explored alternative Honda team options in the wake of speculation Andretti Autosport could shift engine manufacturers from Honda to Chevrolet.

However, the Andretti and Honda renewal was confirmed on Thursday morning, and Rossi’s renewal has now been confirmed on Friday. Interestingly, this was called an Andretti Autosport signing, not an Andretti-Herta Autosport signing as part of the release.

Michael Andretti told NBC Sports Thursday in the paddock he hoped “Rossi would remain part of the family,” and now he will.

NAPA AUTO PARTS has, more importantly, upped its support of the team to a 10-race, co-primary sponsorship.

“It’s great to have NAPA AUTO PARTS return in support of Alexander and the team. NAPA has been a fantastic partner, and we look forward to building on the success of the relationship,” Andretti said in a release. “Alexander has been a great ambassador both on and off the track and, with only two years of IndyCar experience, he’s proven that he is a true competitor as well.”

Rossi has confirmed a two-year extension through 2019.

“As always, this silly season is a challenging one for everyone involved, but I am very thankful to have such incredible support from Andretti Autosport, NAPA AUTO PARTS and Honda, and to extend our deal through 2019,” said Rossi. “The improvements that we have made this year and the relationships that I have built within the team over the past two seasons created the foundation for a very exciting future.

“NAPA is pleased to continue its partnership with Andretti Autosport and Alexander Rossi,” said Gaylord Spencer, NAPA’s Senior Vice President of Marketing. “As you know, this partnership began in May 2016 taking the NAPA colors into the winner’s circle at the 100th Running of the Indy 500, what an incredible experience.Moving into 2017, the partnership expanded and is now continuing to grow. We’re excited to continue this relationship with Alexander, the Andretti organization and the IndyCar fan base.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.