Rossi: ‘I love this championship, and where it’s heading’

Photo: IndyCar
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Just over a week ago, it was key to note how big of a role Alexander Rossi played for the benefit of his Andretti Autosport team at Pocono Raceway and after another solid night Saturday at Gateway Motorsports Park, it was interesting to see how happy he was – again – after another good oval race in his impressive sophomore season.

For a driver who once was down on ovals before having ever raced on them, Rossi is now through two seasons of oval racing as he continues to grow and develop even further beyond his initial oval campaign last year.

More to the point, as one of perhaps the most highly coveted drivers within the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock for 2018, Rossi is at ease with where he’s at in life, with the series and with ovals.

Well, mostly, on the oval bit.

“I mean it’s like, I’m glad we’re done for the year,” Rossi laughed Saturday night after the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline, where he finished sixth in the No. 98 ShopAndretti.com/Curb Honda for Andretti-Herta Autosport, second among Hondas.

“I love the speedways. I’ve gotten totally comfortable on those. But the short oval stuff, I’m still white knuckling it sometimes. I think a lot of guys are.

“It’s so intense to drive with the amount of downforce on, and how committed you have to be to succeed. It’s still something I’m not fully OK with yet.”

As for the series itself, it’s fascinating to see that the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion is now so firmly entrenched in the IndyCar paddock that any F1 talk seems so far off at this point.

In just two years, but particularly this second season, Rossi’s candor and effervescence is showing through in a positive light as he grows more comfortable within the paddock.

And his results have improved along with that – he sits seventh in points, having overtaken teammate Takuma Sato, and only 14 points behind Graham Rahal as he looks to be the second highest-scoring Honda driver this year.

Whereas in 2016 Rossi had only six top-10 finishes, he has nine this year, including four in a row now with a second, sixth, third and sixth since Toronto. He’s also qualified better at every track this year than he has last year, save for Phoenix (14th in 2016, 15th in 2017) with 10 top-10 starts compared to just three last year.

“I’m trying. I’ve learned a lot off-track and on; the Andretti Autosport team has helped me with that so much,” Rossi reflected. “The IndyCar staff and media have really helped me off track, and that’s made a big difference. I owe a big thanks to all those guys, so it’s positive.

“I love this championship. I love where this is heading. I’m really happy to be here.”

Photo: IndyCar

Where Rossi is heading for 2018 remains a big question mark. Like with several other drivers and teams, Rossi could be in a spot where his future won’t be settled until Andretti Autosport determines whether it stays with Honda or switches to Chevrolet. Rossi and Honda are developing a close working relationship and his name has been rumored at a couple other teams.

Speculation about Rossi’s future is just that. For once though, it’s not about if he stays in IndyCar, but where he’ll be on the grid.

Saturday night’s race at Gateway was a prime example of how smart Rossi can race given the aero kit deficiencies between the more draggy Honda package versus the more slippery Chevrolet package on the short ovals.

Finishing sixth, Rossi said, was almost like a win considering there were three Penskes and Scott Dixon, who ended second, ahead of him.

Seeing Rossi in the top-six along with fellow 26-year-old or younger Americans Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden, who’ve all returned home to America after fellow stints abroad, was also fun to witness from a future outlook perspective.

“It was one of those nights where you’ll be happy with a P6,” Rossi said. “Because Scott did a typical Scott right?

“We had his pace, but it was one of those things, whenever someone cycled out, we fell back slightly. But to come out sixth with the deficiencies was just what we were looking for.”

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)