All signs point toward Alexander Rossi staying with Andretti Autosport

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STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – Expect significant progress to be made before this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on a future contract for Alexander Rossi, his father and agent Pieter Rossi told NBCSports.com.

Although Rossi’s father would not eliminate any team currently under consideration for the talented 27-year-old NTT IndyCar Series star, he listed the three most important criteria that he is considering.

“People, relationships and an environment where he can win races,” Rossi told NBCSports.com. “We expect to make significant progress before we get to Mid-Ohio.”

The elder Rossi didn’t want to eliminate any other teams because he owes it to his son to listen to what all interested parties have to offer.

But all signs point toward Rossi remaining with Andretti Autosport in a multiyear agreement currently being negotiated.

“I feel good about it,” team owner Michael Andretti told NBCSports.com. “The whole thing is we all want to be here together. Whenever everybody wants to work toward the same goal, that makes it easier.

“Alex is doing a great job. He has run very well. The whole NAPA team is doing a great job.”

NBCSports.com has also learned that Andretti Autosport is closing in on a multiyear renewal to remain with Honda Performance Development as its engine partner.

Team owner Michael Andretti was asked if he had reached an agreement with Honda.

“We’re getting there,” Andretti told NBCSports.com. “There are a lot of important pieces we need to complete. Three or four things have to get done at once, and we’re working on it. I want to get this done sooner.

“We’re making headway.”

When does Andretti hope to announce his deal with Honda?

“I hope to announce it soon,” Andretti said. “I’m not sure about dates yet. It feels good. It feels like we are in the right direction.”

Once Andretti and Rossi reach an agreement, the focus will shift to 19-year-old driver Colton Herta, who is currently with Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Although the team has a multiyear contract with the youngest driver to win an IndyCar Series race in history, that team remains short on funding.

Team co-owner George Michael Steinbrenner, IV and his stepfather, Sean Jones, indicated to NBCSports.com they do not have a deal in place for 2020 with team owner Mike Harding. They also indicated there are as many as six different scenarios that could determine next season.

Harding Steinbrenner Racing president Brian Barnhart said the team needs to find sponsorship and/or another investor in the team.

Young Steinbrenner, whose father, Hank, is part owner and co-chairman of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees, is not using any of the Steinbrenner family fortune to fund the NTT IndyCar Series operation. The goal was to possibly attract interest in the IndyCar Series team by leveraging the Steinbrenner name in a business-to-business relationship.

Andretti also has an interest in that operation, because the team uses Andretti Technologies as its competition partner. When Andretti aligned with Harding Steinbrenner at the end of last season, it was designed to be a team where Andretti Autosport talent from the “Road to Indy” ladder series could break into IndyCar.

“There are a lot of things going on right now that we can’t talk about, but I’m very much involved in that and monitoring it,” Andretti said.

For Andretti, it’s important to keep both Rossi and Herta because the two drivers are generational talents.

Rossi’s emergence has been compared to Andretti when he was a driver and Juan Pablo Montoya.

“He is aggressive, and I was considered aggressive,” Andretti said. “I have really enjoyed watching some of his creative passes. That is something I always thought I was good at. There are some ways we are similar but driving styles, we are a little different. He’s aggressive, and I was aggressive.

“I would compare him more to Montoya than to me. He runs the car very neutral, and he’s not afraid to hang it out.”

Rossi, the driver, has remained steadfast in not discussing his future, leaving the negotiations up to his father.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?