STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – The most sensational combination in the NTT IndyCar Series will stay together for at least the next three years as Alexander Rossi and Honda both re-signed with Andretti Autosports.
The agreement was finalized Friday morning at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, site of Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. It will be publicly announced at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday.
Watch the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on NBC on Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
Team owner Michael Andretti has been working diligently with Pieter Rossi, the driver’s father and agent to get a multi-year deal completed by the end of July. But several other things had to happen before that could be finalized.
“We’ve been working hard on this, and I’m happy to see everything come together,” said Andretti Autosport Chairman and CEO, Michael Andretti. “Since 2016, we’ve built a strong relationship with NAPA AUTO PARTS – they’re such a natural fit for the series, Alexander and for the team and we’re pleased to be able to continue working with them into 2020 and beyond. We first met AutoNation through Ryan Hunter-Reay – and we can’t thank Ryan enough for his support and efforts in helping the continued growth of that relationship. It’s been exciting to see AutoNation grow within the sport, and to see them now welcome Alexander to their family is just great.”
The most important was reaching a new agreement with Honda Performance Development (HPD) to supply engines to the team. Honda wanted Rossi to sign a four-year deal instead of the standard two- or three-year agreement because Honda wants Rossi to be the lead driver in the development of IndyCar’s new engine 2.4-liter engine formula that is currently set to debut in 2021. The new engine platform will feature an increase to 900 horsepower.
The Rossi’s wanted a two-year or three-year deal because the 27-year-old NTT IndyCar Series star is about the begin the prime years of his career.
Ultimately, they agreed to a three-year deal with one option year being held by the driver.
That means Rossi could be with Andretti until 2024 before a new contract would need to be negotiated.
“It feels good to continue with Andretti Autosport,” Rossi said. “Over the past four years, we’ve built a very strong team with great chemistry and I believe that we have the tools necessary to win races and championships. I’m looking forward to not just calling this my team, but my home in the IndyCar Series. Michael [Andretti], J-F [Thormann], Doug [Bresnahan] and the entire team have been working very hard to put all the pieces of this deal together and it’s definitely a relief to have the future settled and be able to focus on the championship fight ahead of us.
“It’s fantastic to have NAPA AUTO PARTS, AutoNation and Honda supporting the 27 program. I’ve had the pleasure of developing a great relationship with both NAPA and Honda and couldn’t imagine not having them in my corner. AutoNation has always had a strong partnership with the team through Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to represent the Drive Pink campaign and getting to know the AutoNation team better.”
Andretti was considering a move back to Chevrolet, which would have helped the team align with McLaren on a potential full-time IndyCar Series program. Honda and McLaren cannot do business together because of an edict from Japan after McLaren’s acrimonious departure from Honda in Formula One.
The balance of power in the NTT IndyCar Series is very important and currently Chevrolet features the powerful three-car combination at Team Penske with points leader Josef Newgarden, reigning Indianapolis 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud and 2014 IndyCar champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power. Ed Carpenter Racing is Chevy’s No. 2 team with Carlin and AJ Foyt Racing the other Chevrolet teams in the series.
Honda features the four-car effort at Andretti Autosport led by Rossi, 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay along with Zach Veach and Marco Andretti. Chip Ganassi Racing is another Honda power team with five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and rookie driver Felix Rosenqvist. Other Honda teams including Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dale Coyne Racing.
Rossi won the 100thIndianapolis 500 as a rookie driver in 2016. Counting that initial victory, Rossi has seven victories, including two this season. He is currently 29 points behind Newgarden entering Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.
Together, Andretti Autosport and Honda Performance Development have captured three championships and five Indianapolis 500 wins. In addition, the team has collected 55 Indy car wins with Honda power. In 2018, Honda won the NTT IndyCar Series manufacturers championship with 11 wins in 17 races. Honda currently leads Chevrolet in a tight battle for the 2019 championship – Honda with 976 points and Chevrolet with 930.
“This is an important moment for Honda Performance Development,” said Ted Klaus, President, Honda Performance Development. “Andretti Autosport is unquestionably one of the premier teams in the NTT IndyCar Series, and we are gratified to earn their confidence for the foreseeable future. At HPD, our first goal every season is winning the Indianapolis 500, and Andretti Autosport has won more ‘500s’ for Honda than any other team. That said, HPD is fortunate to work with multiple high-caliber racing organizations. This commitment from Andretti Autosport strengthens our entire effort, as we move into the next era of Indy car competition.”
Andretti also spoke of the team’s long and successful relationship with Honda.
“We have a longstanding relationship of success with Honda and we’re happy to continue to build accolades together” Andretti said. “All five of our Indy 500 wins have come under Honda power, and I’m looking forward to working with the entire HPD team to add to that count.”
With only five races remaining in the NTT IndyCar Series season, Rossi continues his quest to capture his first championship at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend. NBC will cover Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio live at 4 p.m. ET.