This weekend marks three years since Alexander Rossi’s last NTT INDYCAR SERIES win, and a strong weekend ahead of Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (3 p.m. ET, live on NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network) gives Rossi hope his winless streak is coming to an end.
Rossi qualified fifth in his No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda with a best lap of 1 minute, 6.0674 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six, by far his best qualifying result of the early 2022 season. His previous best start this season was 12th at Texas Motor Speedway.
“We've been strong all weekend,” Rossi said. “I think it was a little bit of a missed opportunity to be fifth instead of potentially second or third with that red flag. Such is life, such is INDYCAR racing. It’s a good spot for tomorrow. Like I said, I think the car is really good, so I’m looking forward to it.”
As Rossi alluded, it was an interesting end to the session for himself and the other five drivers in the Firestone Fast Six. Andretti Autosport teammate Romain Grosjean collided with the tire barriers in Turn 5 with two seconds remaining in the session while several drivers, like Rossi, were on quick laps.
INDYCAR officials re-opened the session for one timed lap, and Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist attempted to better their lap times. However, Rossi overdrove Turn 1 and went into the runoff area, sealing his fate for fifth on the grid.
In two practice sessions this weekend on the streets of Long Beach, Rossi was second fastest in Friday’s session and fourth in Saturday morning’s session. All told, his Honda-powered Andretti Autosport team has proved to be dominant this weekend, as has Meyer Shank Racing, with which Andretti Autosport has an alliance. His teammate Colton Herta starts first and set the track record.
Rossi said he thinks his Honda-powered team, which has yet to score a win in 2022 as Chevrolet’s Team Penske drivers have won the first two races, can triumph in Long Beach. Andretti Autosport has been strong on street courses as of late, winning two of the street course races in 2021. Both were with Herta behind the wheel, including this race.
“I don't know that we were behind Chevy, honestly,” Rossi said. “I think Penske just did a very good job in St. Pete. But I think out of the box here it was close, as always. I think as years go on with this engine package, it's pretty much the same; it ebbs and flows a little bit.
“I think the competition is very close, and there's not much in it. I don't think we were ever behind. I think just the Chevy teams executed a little bit better in the first two rounds. Hopefully it's Honda's turn tomorrow.”
Rossi, from Nevada City, California, had a dominant two years at the prestigious street course race in 2018 and 2019, winning back-to-back races and leading 151 of 170 laps during that time. In this race last season, which ended the season in September, he finished sixth.
Since his last series win in 2019, at this track, Rossi has experienced a rollercoaster of races with success at some tracks and terrible luck at others. Only once last season did Rossi put together back-to-back top-10 finishes, when he scored seventh at Road America and fifth at Mid-Ohio.
To start the 2022 season, Ross finished 20th on the Streets of St. Petersburg and 27th at Texas, where he exited the race on Lap 11 with battery issues.
But the stars could align on Shoreline Drive this weekend for Rossi as he looks to get back to his winning ways at the only track where he has scored multiple wins. Not to mention, it is his 100th NTT INDYCAR SERIES start.
“Obviously, it hasn't been the start that any of us have wanted for a myriad of reasons,” Rossi said. “Today was a good day. This weekend has been fine. Tomorrow is an important day for a lot of reasons. We just need to get a good result and get the year going. That's the main focus.”