Decompress time? Some drivers want it, some ready to race

Updated: 

How much time do NTT IndyCar Series drivers need to decompress after a long season? That depends upon the driver.

“We were thinking about next year on Monday morning,” Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi said, “so we’re already on that program.”

No time off?

“No, not necessary,” said Rossi, who finished third in the 2019 championship after being a runner-up in 2018 and shown above with his girlfriend, Kelly, at INDYCAR's Victory Lap Celebration in Indianapolis last month. “I’m leaving to go drive a race car tomorrow.”

Rossi and James Hinchcliffe quickly turned the page on their day job by testing a Supercar to prepare for the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on Oct. 10-13 in Australia. They started from the back row in a 26-car field and progressed to mid-pack before finishing 19th.

Another driver who didn't want to stop was Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud. The 2016 champion celebrated a career accomplishment by winning May’s Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, but finished second to teammate Josef Newgarden for the series title.

“This year, I wish there was another race tomorrow,” Pagenaud said during September’s Victory Lap Celebration in downtown Indianapolis. “I think we had it in right gear, but it was a little too late.”

Pagenaud, who finished 25 points behind Newgarden, said he won’t enjoy any down time for a while.

“I’m too busy with sports car racing and a lot of other commitments I have with team sponsors,” he said. “I usually like to have my week where I put the phone away and go skiing in France. I take a whole week off. It’s between Christmas and New Year’s. That’s what I need. It’s enough.”

That sounds good to Dale Coyne Racing’s Santino Ferrucci, the Indianapolis 500's Rookie of the Year who finished 13th in the points.

“I’m going to join him,” Ferrucci said of Pagenaud. “That doesn’t sound too bad."

Ferrucci took his week off in September after the race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

"I’ll keep myself busy working on cars and working on my indoor golf game because it’s going to get cold soon,” he said.

Truth be told, Ferrucci was already itching to get behind a wheel.

“I wouldn’t mind being back in a race car,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d want to particularly have a race this weekend (after the season ended), but there’s nothing like getting behind the wheel. It’s nice to have a couple of days off, which I’m going to call off, which is back to work at the shop, working on some cars, unwinding mentally from the season and kind of going over it.

“I’m dreading the offseason. It’s way too long. There’s way too much time. It’s hard to stay sharp when you can’t open test whenever you want.”

Ferrucci reminded that nothing in life compares to racing.

“That’s the truth,” he said. “There’s nothing more fun than driving a race car. That’s the pinnacle.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist, who won a $50,000 bonus as series Rookie of the Year, has planned to enjoy some quality time traveling with his girlfriend. But he, too, wouldn’t have minded another race.

“It’s actually interesting because I feel really good,” he said. “The whole week after the season has ended, I’m ready to go racing again. I kind of reduced my program for this year. The previous year, I did like three championships at the same time and I think I was burned out. Now, I’m ready to start the season tomorrow.

"I guess it’s different for Josef (Newgarden). If you have that pressure going for a championship, it’s always different. From my side, obviously the rookie championship was somewhat of a pressure, but I haven’t really felt that pressure during the year and I think that kind of keeps you hungry.”

He recalled feeling much differently three years ago.

“In 2016 after I ended the year, I was like laying in bed for two weeks,” he said. “I didn’t do anything. I was completely exhausted. I feel better this year. I feel better as a driver. I feel better physically and mentally and am stronger.”

If anyone is looking forward to some rest and relaxation, it’s Graham Rahal. But offseason leisure time is on hold for now.

“I need a break,” he said, after finishing 10th in the championship. “But my next weekend at home is Nov. 9-10. I’m on the road every single weekend until then. For me, it doesn’t really slow down.”

Rahal said commitments and appearances will keep him on the go.

“For me, I need a little bit of time,” he said. “But I won’t get my time until December. December is when my offseason starts. It will be good to get a little time to decompress.”

From the fans