Alexander Rossi’s streak of finishing no lower than second place in four of the last five races came to an end in Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto, but his third-place finish was vitally important.
Rossi trimmed three more points out of Josef Newgarden’s lead in the NTT IndyCar Series and heads to Iowa Speedway just four points behind Newgarden in the standings.
The view from Andretti Autosport’s pit area was positive because the 27-year-old Rossi extracted as much out of his No. 27 NAPA Honda as it had to offer that day.
“We finished ahead of Newgarden; I just wanted a better car than I had today,” Rossi’s race engineer, Jeremy Milless, told NTT INDYCAR Mobile. “Our car wasn’t good enough for the win and that is unfortunate.
“Alex is still on a roll. It’s going to be tight. It’s going to be interesting.”
Andretti Autosport CEO Rob Edwards is Rossi’s race strategist and applauded his driver’s effort on the streets of Toronto.
“It was all right,” Edwards told NTT INDYCAR Mobile. “It will be better when he (Newgarden) is chasing us.
“It was about managing the race right. On these street circuits, you are trying to protect against the yellow flag coming out. We were trying to do that. It all worked out for us.”
Rossi drives with a shark-like attitude and that is one of the big reasons for his success. So far, 2019 has been his best season yet in the NTT IndyCar Series as he continues to fight his way to what could be his first IndyCar championship.
“The whole team responds to that,” Edwards said. “We are on our stride at the moment. We have six more races to make sure we get four or five more points than someone else.
“This team is right up there with the best that I’ve been with, for sure.”
When Rossi knows he has a car capable of winning he is as aggressive as any driver in recent IndyCar Series memory. But this season, he has tempered his approach to get the most out of what the car and its setup has on that particular day.
“That was what we had,” Rossi told NTT INDYCAR Mobile. “We came into today looking at a podium. We didn’t have what we thought was a car to win so we tried to maximize what we had, and we closed the gap on Josef.
“It was annoying that he finished right behind me. But it’s a tight championship and that is what we love about this NTT IndyCar Series. I’m just happy the No. 27 NAPA Andretti Autosport Honda closed the gap a little bit.
“We didn’t have a car to win and were missing a bit of the pace that we needed. The whole last stint, we had to hit a fuel number, but I think everyone did. We had to stretch the blacks because the reds didn’t last, so as a result of that, we had to save some fuel.”
From Rossi’s viewpoint, he decided without having a chance to race for the win there was no reason to risk losing a podium finish.
“It was pretty anti-climactic,” Rossi said on pit lane after the race. “We didn't think we had a first-place car really at any point this weekend. We made a good turnaround overnight on Friday night into Saturday for qualifying. The fact that we were able to put it in the top five was a good thing. Then we thought we had a podium car. That was really about it, unless we had anything come to us in the form of luck.
“So, it was good to just kind of capitalize on what we felt was our maximum today.
“Obviously finishing in front of Josef (Newgarden) was a good thing.”
Toronto was the start of three race weekends in a row. It continues Saturday night at Iowa Speedway in the Iowa 300. The final race of that stretch is the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 28.
The Iowa event begins with practice Friday at 11 a.m. ET (NBC Sports Gold). Qualifying is later that day at 2:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Saturday’s race is set for 7 p.m. on NBCSN, the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Channel 209.
To Rossi, those races could be anywhere because he has his sights set on the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series title and that means beating Newgarden everywhere.
“It doesn’t matter right now,” Rossi said. “Six races to go. We have to keep trying to beat him.”