Alexander Rossi has mixed emotions about impressive comeback

Leave a comment

TORONTO – With a white towel draped around his neck and fingers in his hair, Alexander Rossi stared at a laptop on his team’s pit stand and kept shaking his head. He climbed down and sat on the pit wall with a distant gaze while waiting for a postrace interview to begin.

A wild Honda Indy Toronto was over, and you could make a case that Rossi should have been in joyous disbelief.

After six pit stops, three front wings and one airborne collision, his Andretti Autosport team had salvaged an eighth-place finish and maintained the eight-point gap to second-ranked Josef Newgarden in the points standings.

But the postrace feeling instead was one long lament for Rossi, one of three title contenders who watched potential podium finishes slip away Sunday as race winner Scott Dixon’s championship lead ballooned.

“It was really disappointing,” said Rossi, who finished outside the top 10 for the third time in six races. “I don’t think I had the car to beat Scott, but with all the problems everyone had, we could have been second. It’s been a difficult string of races.”

The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner’s wild ride began on Lap 28 when he made contact with Will Power and damaged his front end.

That necessitated the first wing change. He’d need another just five laps later when he briefly went airborne (“Big shock,” Rossi said) after contact with teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay in a multicar pileup started by Graham Rahal. Though his floorboards were heavily damaged, Rossi soldiered on.

“The fact that we finished eighth is a huge testament to the team, and I’m so thankful for them,” he said. “They kept me in it. So it was a difficult day. We’ve had a lot of mistakes lately and not a lot of time left, so a lot of work to do.”

At least he was in good company among those who suffered because of errors Sunday.  Hunter-Reay was running third when he locked his front wheels entering Turn 3 and landed in the tire barrier. He finished 16th.

“Probably would have finished second today,” said Hunter-Reay, whose team made some costly miscues in a 19th last week at Iowa. “That was down to me completely. It’s a bummer.

“We’re hustling the car around here, and if you try to get in by literally a foot too far into the corner, it’s gone. I’ll be kicking myself in the rear end on this one for a little while after this one.”

Regrets also hit pole-sitter Josef Newgarden, who scraped the wall coming to a Lap 33 restart. After leading 25 laps, he finished ninth.

“I don’t know what to tell you, I went straight into the wall,” said the defending series champion, who apparently drifted too far out of the groove. “And part of that is my fault, just making a mistake, but I didn’t expect it; I’ll tell you that. I just had no idea the car was going to do that. I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely.

“I feel terrible. I think (the car) was capable of being in the top three or potentially winning the race if I didn’t make the mistake, but you have days like this in racing. We have to move on now and try to pick it back up.”

That was the attitude for Rossi, who was left to wonder how things might have been different if the closing rate on Power hadn’t caught him off guard.

“When you’re on overtake, and you’re in the tow, you don’t really expect a huge speed differential from the car in front,” he said. “I was popping, and it was at the same time he was slowing down. It’s one of those things.”

The tiny silver lining? His team’s impressive comeback ensured he still finished ahead of Newgarden and Hunter-Reay.

“That’s the only positive we can take from today,” Rossi said.

But a runner-up finish would have meant another 17 points – easily putting him into second in the standings and within striking distance of Dixon with five races remaining.

Hence all that postrace reflection.

“As it is now, we closed the gap to second and extended it on fourth, but that’s not good enough, man,” Rossi said. “We’re trying to win a championship. We’re not trying to finish second.”

Indianapolis 500 weather forecast: Rain chances decreasing for start

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS — As the green flag keeps approaching for the 103rd Indianapolis 500, the chances of clear skies Sunday keep increasing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The chance of rain at the start of the race was down to about 30%, according to the wunderground.com site as of late Saturday night, and the forecast seemed good until late afternoon when the odds of precipitation rose to about 80%.

If the race starts on time at12:45 p.m. ET, that should be a long enough window to run the full 500 miles and certainly an official race (102 of 200 laps).

With Indiana on the western edge of the Eastern Time Zone and a 9:02 p.m. sunset on race day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles said the green flag probably could be held as late as 6 p.m. if a worst-case scenario of bad weather hits.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch

“We ran the NASCAR race (in 2017) almost right up to sunset,” Boles said. “The challenge of getting closer to sunset is just getting people out when it’s still light. The race itself is more than 2 hours and 40 minutes so you have to back-time yourself.

“We’ll sit down with IndyCar over the next 24 hours and at least have that in the back of our mind. If there’s a window to get it done, our intent would be get it in Sunday, so we would want to go as late as we could.”

Boles said National Weather Service representatives are on site this weekend to help with forecasting. Regardless of if there still is a threat of rain, the track will start the race on time as long as the surface is dry.

“I can’t imagine we’d postpone the start because we think it might rain,” Boles said. “If it’s not raining, we’re running the race.

Boles said track officials are monitoring Sunday’s weather daily but won’t discuss any potential contingency plans until Saturday night. Regardless of whether it’s raining Sunday morning, some pre-race ceremonies likely will remain in place.

“It’s hard to speculate on what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s likely Sunday morning will be the first time that we have any definitive statement on what we think is going to happen. Instead of giving you information that we don’t know what it’s going to be like, I’d rather wait until that Sunday when we see the conditions, and we’ll let you know.

“Obviously, if it’s raining, then we’ll have to decide what the next steps are.”

Boles said Indiana weather traditionally is unpredictable, noting that qualifying was completed last Sunday despite predictions of a complete washout.

“Last year the prediction was it was going to rain on race day, we got up next morning, and it was perfect,” Boles said. “It just changes so rapidly around here.”

Should it rain, IndyCar officials will make every reasonable attempt to run the Indy 500 on time,. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway also recently used a new sealant on the track surface which makes it quicker to dry the racing surface.

During the previous 102 runnings of the Indy 500, there have been 12 impacted by rain: three complete postponements; two partial postponements and seven shortened races.

So what happens if it does rain? Some options:

Rain-shortened race

The Indy 500 could turn into the Indy 255. If more than 255 miles (102 laps) are completed in Sunday’s race, the race can be deemed official. If the race is called, driver’s finishing positions are based on their position in the race at the time of the caution flag for rain.

The Indy 500 has been shortened by rain only seven times, most recently in 2007. The race was stopped nearly three hours because of rain on Lap 113 and was declared officially over with Dario Franchitti in the lead when rain again hit at the 415-mile mark.

Partial postponement

If fewer than 102 laps are completed Sunday, the race will resume on the next dry day. With most Americans on holiday Monday because of Memorial Day, a partial postponement still might allow for a healthy audience at the track and watching on NBC.

The race has been partially postponed only twice in the 102 previous runnings, in 1967 and 1973.

Complete postponement

Fans shouldn’t worry too much about a complete postponement of the race, as it has only happened three times, most recently in 1997. If rain completely postpones the Indy 500, the race will be rescheduled for the next day with the start time dependent on the forecast.

The 1997 race ran 15 laps on Monday before rain again postponed the remainder of the race until Tuesday. The 1915 and ’86 runnings were postponed until the following Saturday.