Alexander Rossi fastest rookie in “eye-opening” first day on IMS oval

Photo: IndyCar

INDIANAPOLIS – Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian rookie Alexander Rossi had a solid first day of practice for his first 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, in the No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda.

The Californian rookie completed more than 100 laps – 55 in the opening two hours of rookie orientation and then a further 52 in the final four hours in the afternoon – and was fourth overall on the speed charts with a best speed of 226.865 mph.

Rossi also was strong on the no-tow speed charts, at 222.452 mph, which was seventh there.

More than speed though, for Rossi, Monday on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval was a day to get comfortable under ideal weather conditions – mid-60s ambient and low-90s for a track temperature under somewhat overcast skies.

Rossi said there was nothing like his first day on the IMS oval, having also raced at Phoenix International Raceway and tested at Texas Motor Speedway.

“It felt fast. It was definitely eye-opening in terms of not having any kind of prior comparison to a place like this,” Rossi said in the post-practice press conference.

“I was glad we got through ROP without any issues, and this afternoon we got to work and it was a very good day for the team in general.”

The learning process of going into Turn 1 was something Rossi admitted he needed to adjust to, but acclimated to quickly.

“You think about it when you’re turning in, but then you tell yourself, ‘Well it worked last lap, so it will be fine this lap.’ The biggest thing is the group running and getting comfortable in that,” he said. “That was another new experience for me this afternoon. Hopefully we keep doing that as the week progresses.”

After primarily running in single-car runs in the earlier part of the day, Rossi got his first taste of the patented Andretti Autosport several-car practice train in the last hour of the day. Generally, Andretti Autosport runs anywhere from three to all five of its cars to simulate the tow, the draft and race runs and often ends up on top of the timesheets when it does so.

“The last 45 minutes was like that,” Rossi said. “There are a lot of groups out there, and you want to try to find a pack to see what your car does, and how its different from how you’re by yourself.

“It’s something I need to put my focus on. It’s one thing to run by yourself. It’s a whole different ballgame when you’re out there with eight or nine other cars!”

Did he have a “pinch-me” moment about driving at IMS?

“Not today. I had that moment when I came here about a month ago and was wandering around and in the stands and saw the track from a very different perspective,” he said.

“I think the feeling that you’re talking about will come as we get closer to qualifying and race day. At the moment, it’s all about testing and reducing the learning curve as much as possible. And just trying to learn as much as I can.

“You have that in Monaco, for sure. The first time drove Monaco was a race weekend, so once we get to that point, then it will be a similar kind of experience.”

Rossi’s strong first day on the oval follows arguably his best race of the season on the IMS road course this weekend. He finished 10th, but that was a bit misleading since he rose as high as sixth in the race and set the fastest race lap by several tenths of a second.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III