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.

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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