While hope is waning on Alexander Rossi’s championship bid in 2018, the Andretti Autosport driver is far from finished with five races still to settle.
After finishing 3rd at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, Rossi has been bitten by results of 16th (Road America), 9th (Iowa) and 8th (Toronto) in his last three races to fall a whopping 70 points back of IndyCar championship leader Scott Dixon.
Despite a completing each race this season while earning a stunning 6.5 average finish, Rossi still finds himself looking up at Dixon and Josef Newgarden in the points.
Considering the recent results have been down more than they have been up, even Rossi’s best finishes have often slotted in behind Dixon during the New Zealand native’s remarkable campaign.
Through the first nine rounds of the season, Rossi had picked up a victory at Long Beach, five podium finishes and just two results outside of the top-10. His average finish was a stout 5.0, though that wasn’t even enough.
In those nine races, Dixon finished ahead of Rossi six times with an average finishing position of 4.22.
To be compared to an all-time great such as Dixon is tough enough, not to mention during a 2018 season that has been remarkable even by Dixie’s standards. So with that, some perspective is warranted.
Rossi has done what most expected from him leading into the 2018 campaign. This was the year the American driver was to take the next step and move out of the shadow cast by his 100th Indianapolis 500 victory to a more prominent role as a star in this series.
He has done an admirable job by reaching those expectations – and putting on a show while doing it.
Rossi’s run-ins with Robert Wickens have been great theatre, and a budding rivalry could be in the works for a series that wouldn’t oppose a little Team America vs. Team Canada battle for the next few years.
Furthermore, highlights featuring Rossi’s daring passes at Indianapolis this past May should (and will) be played in IndyCar promotional bits for years to come.
After all of that, we arrived at Mid-Ohio this week with still a handful of contenders mathematically alive in their quest to reign in Dixon.
Rossi is one of the few left with a shot at the crown, and he acknowledges that those recent mishaps haven’t been a true barometer of the team’s pace down the stretch.
“We are getting into the home stretch now and every race is incredibly important,” said Rossi. “We’ve had a difficult run the past three races, but we also haven’t qualified outside of the top five at any of those events. The pace is there, which is the most important thing.
Even 70 points back of the championship lead, the fight is still alive in Rossi and his No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts team. It showed on Saturday as the third-year IndyCar veteran took pole for the Honda Indy 200, the third pole of Rossi’s career.
And now, more than ever, Rossi’s words from earlier in the week ring true.
“All of our focus is on executing and doing our jobs in Mid-Ohio, and if we can do that, we will close the gap up to Scott.”
The opportunity is there; all that is left is a fight. We should get that – and then some – this afternoon at Mid-Ohio.
Image courtesy of James Black/INDYCAR Media.