While he’ll never forget winning the milestone 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, Sunday’s season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will be almost as much of an accomplishment for Alexander Rossi.
Rossi, who was named the Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year, will point to his fifth-place finish at Sonoma as the kind of showing he had hoped to see more of this past season.
His Sonoma finish was Rossi’s second-best of the season. It also capped off a late-season run that included finishes of 11th at Texas, eighth at Watkins Glen and the top-5 effort at Sonoma.
As a result, he finished 11th in the season standings, although several spots fewer than was possible because he ran out of fuel on the final lap and coasted across the line a spot lower than planned.
While some first-year drivers would consider such a finish a success racing against the top IndyCar drivers in the world, Rossi looked at it in somewhat of a bittersweet fashion.
“My expectations were higher than that, that’s for sure,” Rossi told NBCSN after the race. “But if you look at where we came from at St. Pete, the whole Andretti Autosport team, we made big steps forward.
“This is our best result since the 500. … At the end of the day, it was a strong result. It was great for the final race. … There’s still areas we need to work on, I’m sure.”
Now comes planning for next season – and whether Rossi will stick around to help work on those same areas that need improvement.
While Rossi had been expected to return to the Andretti fold in 2017 as part of the alliance with Bryan Herta, Mike Curb and Cary Agajanian, reports in Sonoma this past weekend could potentially have him racing elsewhere next season.
One of the biggest rumors is that he may potentially move to Team Penske – even though Josef Newgarden is also rumored to be heading there. But Roger Penske said in a media availability Saturday nothing is set yet.
When asked by NBCSN after Sunday’s race whether team owner Roger Penske indeed wants his driving services for next season, Rossi surprised a bit with his answer.
“That’d be nice,” he said.
So what does his future hold for him?
“We’re just trying to do the best job we can and wake up each day and do my best,” Rossi said. “Sometimes it’s not good enough and other times I come away fairly satisfied.
“We’ll have to look at where the future takes us.”