Considering the records of the last three Indianapolis 500 winners in Detroit – a combined two 10th places the best results for Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 – Alexander Rossi made it through Detroit relatively unscathed from a points perspective to actually improve from sixth in Verizon IndyCar Series points up to fifth by the end of the weekend.
Finishes of 10th nor 12th weren’t the best, but they also didn’t damage his hopes he indicated after winning Indy that he has a championship to shoot for now.
The driver of the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for Andretti-Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian atoned from a tough qualifying effort on Friday to improve from 17th to 10th in Saturday’s first race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans weekend.
Then on Sunday, Rossi led a lap (and gained a bonus point that went with it) on a slightly off sequence strategy play. He would have needed about eight extra laps of yellow in order to make it to the distance and instead needed a final splash inside the last 10 laps, which dropped him back to 12th.
All told though, he survived both races without incident save for a broken front wing in race two. In the season long Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle, he only lost 30 points to Conor Daly and still leads that, 242-177, while improving one place in the overall points to fifth.
Rossi is the highest placed Honda driver in the championship, behind a quartet of Chevrolets (Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden).
“We had a broken front wing at the start – that didn’t help us at all,” Rossi said in the team’s post-race release. “I think generally the pace was good, we had to make up a lot of time with having to change the front wing. The biggest thing we need to understand is why it takes us so long to come up to speed on cold tires. That’s something we need to address. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to racing in Texas next week.”
It remains to be seen whether the NAPA Auto Parts signage and livery will continue into Texas Motor Speedway, although logically speaking since Rossi made his visit to Texas in his post-Indy 500 media tour and since track president Eddie Gossage is known for his promotional savvy, it would make sense that the driver who rocked the NAPA gear then would do so at Gossage’s track.
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to NBCSN this weekend on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET from Texas.