Rossi uses fuel strategy to gain ground on Dixon

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Much like the manner in which he won the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016, Alexander Rossi needed to utilize a big fuel-saving strategy in the final stint of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 to finish ahead of title rival Scott Dixon and gain more ground in the championship.

Rossi pitted under yellow on Lap 178 – his Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay came to a halt after suffering a fuel pressure issue, forcing the yellow – and restarted third on Lap 183. But, Rossi would need to stretch the fuel in a big way to make the finish.

With Dixon already ahead of him on the track at the time – Dixon restarted second – and passing proving difficult at Gateway Motorsports Park, Rossi and the No. 27 Napa Auto Parts Honda team decided their best shot at finishing ahead of Dixon was to go into fuel conservation mode.

In doing so, Rossi dropped back as far as eighth in the final stint as others went by, and he even dropped off the lead lap at one point, but when everyone started pitting for splashes of fuel, Rossi was able to vault back up the running order.

Although he ultimately had nothing for Will Power, who ended up taking the win, the strategy did allow Rossi to jump ahead of Dixon for second, and Dixon was unable to catch and pass him in the final laps.

“It was a huge ask when Rob (Edwards), my strategist, came over the radio and was like, ‘Make this fuel number.’ I was like ‘Here we go again,’ Rossi quipped to NBCSN’s Robin Miller afterward. “I couldn’t have done it without a great Napa Andretti Honda. I don’t know that we had enough for Will, even if it was a flat out race to the finish, but the important thing is we beat Scott and closed the gap a little bit.”

Rossi, emphasizing the challenge of conserving fuel, added, “It’s hard when everyone’s going by you. I know that theoretically they’re supposed to come back (to you), but when you’re short-shifting and lifting everywhere and just going really slow, it’s difficult to keep that. But, Rob, as always, talked me through it and made sure I was focused on the prize.”

Dixon, meanwhile, came home third after dominating the first half of the race, leading 145 laps. However, he was unable to pass Will Power after the Team Penske driver got by him on Lap 150, and cycled out behind Rossi after a late splash of fuel.

Though he finished third and led the most laps, it was still a frustrating night for Dixon.

“A bit of a bummer. I’m a little disappointed in myself,” Dixon lamented to NBCSN’s Anders Krohn. “We kind of got into no man’s land a bit on fuel saving. The team were like ‘We should go’ and I’m like ‘Are you sure?’ and Will got that big difference there.”

Dixon added, “The PNC Bank car was strong all night. The fuel that we were burning early on in the race didn’t hurt us because we had a reset (with the Hunter-Reay yellow). Just bummed. We lost only three points there, but ultimately we want to be stretching it.”

With two races remaining in the Verizon IndyCar Series season, Dixon’s lead over Rossi stands at 26 points and has been slashed since Dixon won the Honda Indy Toronto in July – he exited that weekend with a 62-point lead over then second place runner Josef Newgarden, and a 70-point lead over Rossi.

In the three races since, Rossi has used two wins and a second-place finish to cut 44 points out of the lead.

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Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).