Rossi back at Baja 1000 for second try

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The following story first appeared on the INDYCAR Mobile powered by NTT DATA app. For more information,visit www.indycar.com/mobile-app

Alexander Rossi is back in the Baja California Peninsula of Mexico for his second Baja 1000, and this time he is well aware to expect the unexpected.

The winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and one of the big-name stars of the NTT IndyCar Series had an eye-opening experience last year with his near miss of a passenger SUV heading in the opposite direction. Rossi was driving one of the Honda Ridgeline Off Road trucks in the famed contest and had just flown over a hill at 120 mph.

Neither the driver of the SUV or Rossi anticipated this incident and luckily, the only thing Rossi’s truck hit was the passenger-side rear-view mirror on the SUV.

Although that moment captured on video by spectators serves as the lasting memory of Rossi’s initial Baja 1000, the NTT IndyCar Series driver was part of the team that finished second in Class 7. The Jeff Proctor-led Honda Off Road Racing Team has finished first or second in the Baja 1000 each of the past four years.

Beginning Friday and lasting through the weekend, Rossi will do his part to help give the team another victory in North America’s most famous off-road race.

Rossi is becoming one of the most versatile race drivers in the world. He began 2020 as one of the endurance drivers for Acura Team Penske in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and continued that role in the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. He finished third in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship and less than a month later, competed in the famed Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama in Australia. Fellow NTT IndyCar Series driver and close friend James Hinchcliffe was his co-driver at Bathurst.

Rossi is the face of IndyCar’s present and its future, but he is certainly a throwback when it comes to racing, similar to Parnelli Jones, AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti.

These were all racers who raced vastly different forms of race cars throughout their career. But that is not why Rossi is back at Baja.

“I don’t know if that is a motivating factor to me; I just enjoyed the experience of Baja last year and wanted to do it again,” Rossi told NTT INDYCAR Mobile. “I was introduced to a whole new form of racing that I really enjoyed. It didn’t have anything to do with trying to drive different cars in different series all the time. It’s just the opportunities in the last 18 months has allowed that to happen. Honda has had a lot to do with that, obviously. My relationship with them and the IndyCar program is very strong.

“The IndyCar season is relatively short. You have the five- or six-month window and I have been brainstorming with them and talking to them. By talking to them and brainstorming with them and talking with them, they have the Honda Ridgeline Off-Road Racing Team, on the endurance side there is Acura Team Penske and Michael Andretti has a Supercars team. I’ve just very fortunate to be very close to these people that have different teams in different place.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be able to drive around the world.”

Rossi is the sixth Indianapolis 500 winner to compete in the Baja 1000. Others include Parnelli Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis winner and a two-time Baja 1000 race winner (1971 72); fellow Honda IndyCar Series driver and Andretti Autosport teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, the Indy winner in 2014; Rick Mears, who won the Indianapolis 500 four times, 1985 Indy 500 champion Danny Sullivan and 2004 Indy winner Buddy Rice.

NTT IndyCar season champions who have raced in the Baja 1000 include Mears, Hunter-Reay, Sebastien Bourdais, Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy.

“I’m just trying to win races; I’m not doing it for a legacy or anything,” Rossi said. “I just want to go out there and race as much as I can and win as much as I can.”

As for his debut in the Bathurst 1000 in October, Rossi was able to achieve a dream of seeing the famed Australian race.

“I always wanted to go as a spectator,” he said. “To be able to the Bathurst 1000 for the first time participating in a V8 Supercar was pretty phenomenal and eye-opening and terrifying and everything to go along with that. I enjoyed the process. I would have enjoyed it 10 times more if we had done better.

“Ultimately, it is something I was really happy that I got to go do it, and I will be back. It’s one of those tracks that requires so much circuit knowledge. The car is very unique. There are a lot of factors that go into being successful around there. Ultimately, we didn’t adapt quick enough and have a chance to show the potential that is there, deep down.”

In addition to competing in the full NTT IndyCar Series season in 2020 for Andretti Autosport, Rossi returns to Acura Team Penske as the third driver in the three endurance contests on the schedule. Those include the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring and the Motul Petit Le Mans.

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