INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski

Alexander Rossi: IndyCar’s version of Kyle Busch

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – Alexander Rossi is a fierce competitor who hates to lose. It doesn’t matter if he finishes second or 22nd, to the driver of the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series, anything short of a checkered flag is not a reason to smile or celebrate.

His non-winning demeanor is similar to that of NASCAR’s Kyle Busch, according to those who really don’t know the competitive fire that burns inside of Rossi’s character.

Rossi takes that as a compliment.

“I love Kyle Busch,” Rossi told NBCSports.com. “He’s one of my favorite drivers, so that’s fine.

“I don’t care. These guys, the 27 team, they don’t show up at the workshop at 7 a.m. to finish second. We are all here to win, and that is what we expect from ourselves, and that is what we demand from each other. We’ll celebrate at the end of the year if we come out on top.

“We are not here to finish second. If people have a problem with that, that’s too bad. If you look at the sports team, nobody on the Golden State Warriors is happy finishing second in the NBA. That’s a really silly thing for somebody to say.”

Rossi finished second once again in Saturday’s qualifications by the narrowest of margins to 19-year-old Colton Herta. Rossi’s fast time was 1:43.1693 around the 4.014-mile, 14-turn Road America road course for a speed of 140.306 mph. Herta won the pole with a fast time of 1:43.1639 (140.065 mph) in another Honda to become the youngest pole winner in IndyCar history at 19 years, 83 days.

That broke the previous record of 20 years, 90 days when Graham Rahal won the pole at St. Petersburg, Florida in 2009.

Rossi has a chance to break out of his second-place blues in Sunday’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America.

Watch Road America race at noon, et on NBC

With its very long straightaways and its variety of turns, Road America has all the makings of being an “Alexander Rossi type of track.”

“We had a mechanical failure last year that was independent of anything that happened in the race,” Rossi said. “We qualified fourth and were the fastest in the first two rounds of qualifying. The pace has been there. We’ve had some misfortune here. Some self-inflicted and some bad luck. But on paper, this should really be good for this team.

“We have taken a step forward this year but so has our competition. It’s a track we’ve had circled as one to be focused on because in our three years here, we’ve never come away with a top 10 here.”

Road America is a classic road course but share some similarities to another lavish road course in North America – the beautiful Circuit of the Americas (COTA) near Austin, Texas.

“It’s a high-speed, long permanent road course,” Ross said. “The grip level is a bit different; the surface here is rougher than COTA, but the basic geometry and layout is very similar. Based on the performance at COTA, we should have similar result here.

“I’ve had experience here in Skip Barber. It’s one of the best road courses in the US. We have such a great fan turnout and a beautiful part of the world. Everyone loves coming out here.

“You can tell you are in the land of cheese when you drive up here from Indianapolis.”

Because of the length of the course combined with the 55-lap distance, the strategy options are fairly limited between making it a three-stop race.

“It’s a tough one because it is such a long lap, it’s cut and dry from a fuel standpoint,” Rossi said. “The tires make a big difference. It’s more of what tires do you use? Do you use new Reds versus used Blacks? That makes this race potentially interesting. Firestone coming up with a big discrepancy between Reds and Blacks is what will ultimately make this an interesting race.”

Rossi enters the race second in the standings, 25 points behind Josef Newgarden, who starts fourth in a Chevrolet. Rossi has just one finish outside of the top 10 in nine races this season (22ndin the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway). He has four podiums (top three), seven top-five and eight top-10s.

But it’s a streak of three second-place finishes in the last four races that has Rossi wondering if this is a great season or a lost opportunity?

“It’s frustrating,” Rossi told NBCSports.com. “It’s been for different reasons each time. I think the important thing is the pace has been there. You can be frustrated, but you don’t want to be upset with the fact of getting good results because it’s very easy for things to go poorly in a much bigger way.

“It’s not like we’re upset because we are 12thand not getting the results. We’re second and have been on the wrong side of some misfortune or bad timing but at the end of the day the car has been fast, so we have to take some comfort in that.

“Josef is a champion. He has already proven he can do it, and he’s an American. To me, there is a lot of professional pride in the fact I would like to beat him. But it’s an amazing thing for the series to have American guys at the top fighting for a championship.

“I love Scott Dixon and Will Power and Tony Kanaan, but it’s really cool to give U.S. fans American guys at the top fighting for championships.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.