(WATKINS GLEN, NY) – Andretti Autosport announced earlier today that Alexander Rossi has reached a deal to continue racing with them in 2018. The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner will also extend his relationship with NAPA Auto Parts in a multi-year deal that will see them as primary sponsor on the No. 98 Honda for 10 races in 2018.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to have this stability and continuity going into the upcoming season,” Alex admitted, “It’s easy to get caught up in what’s happening. You can start to lose morale at times among the team because there’s the unknown, right?
To have it done before the end of the year so that we can focus on the last two races, really put strong results together, on top of having the excitement of what we’ve built this year, continuing on from 2016, there’s been a huge amount of improvements from the entire organization, from myself, I just think the whole dynamics within the team. What we’re doing on the racetrack is a representation of that.”
Rossi, who won the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year title after his fuel-strategy win at the 100th Running, as well as the Season-long Rookie of the Year accolades, cooled off for the remainder of his 2016 season. His best finish after May was a P5 in Sonoma. This year however, the determination of the team is coming into focus, along with the hard work from Honda Performance Development giving them some strength under the engine to fight Team Chevy.
Rossi has had 4 Top 5 finishes in 2017, with two of those being podiums (Toronto P2, Pocono P3). He’s also claimed his best qualifying grid spots of his career with a P3 at both the Indy 500 and Texas. Those accomplishments are worth diving into a bit.
This is not where Rossi saw himself making his name. However, he’s become such a staple in our series that it can be easy to forget he wasn’t originally ‘crazy’ about the idea of building his motorsports career in the States or with the IndyCar Series. But, if there is one thing I’ve learned personally in life, it’s truth in the old adage that life starts at the end of your comfort zone. Rossi is a perfect example of that and when asked how his life has changed since he made that decision in 2015, and the impact Andretti Autosport has had on that experience, he explained:
“I think it’s changed only for the positive. I can’t say that there’s been one negative thing. I think as a driver, they’ve (Andretti Autosport) helped me improve on track in a huge amount. Off track, as well. I mean, this was a very new environment for me coming into 2016, into this championship.
Having the team really kind of understand that and embrace that. I think a lot of that comes from Michael having had experience over in Europe, knowing what transitions are like. The whole organization was just able to, in a constructive way, help me get better with that, help me get better on track, help me understand ovals.
There were a lot of new things in a very short period of time. There was a lot of key contributors to helping me get adjusted here and to be in a place where we could start to have success.”
Rossi looks forward to a more level playing field with everyone switching to a standard aerokit in 2018, as I think most of us are. I recognize the legitimate argument for the art of racing – different chassis, more engine manufacturers, opening up the development of well… everything. But for me, I feel like that exists in series like F1 and SportsCar racing already. There are positives and negatives that come out of both for having the variety in craftsmanship and budgets that they do.
Personally, I am a fan of continuing steady development with engineering and safety standards and having the biggest variable of each car be the driver that’s taming the beast. I prefer racing that showcases the talent of the driver over anything else – that’s how we maintain our bragging right of being the most competitive series in the world. I will take that over being the fastest or flashiest in a heartbeat. I might be alone in that opinion, but it’s mine and I stand by it.
I want to leave you with my favorite quote from Alexander Rossi today, and maybe ever: “Andretti Autosport gave me an opportunity to come race in this championship, a championship I’ve fallen in love with.”
Rossi improved 7 positions at Watkins Glen International last year from a P15 qualifying position to a P7 finish. He looks to end 2017 with strong results as he, Andretti Autosport, and NAPA prepare for their 3rd season together. The IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen will air live on NBCSN at 1:00 p.m. this Sunday, September 3rd.