Rossi stretches two-stop strategy to Mid-Ohio triumph

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Alexander Rossi

Unofficial Honda Indy 200 Race Results

If you listen to Frank Sinatra’s classic 1969 hit “My Way,” you’ll hear the New Jersey native close with the phrase “the record shows, I took the blows, and did it my way.”  After winning the Honda Indy 200 on a two-stop strategy, Alexander Rossi should be singing Sinatra’s famous tune all the way to victory lane.

The only driver to make a dual pit stop strategy work, Rossi waltzed home to a 12.8-second victory over runner-up finisher Robert Wickens.  Championship contenders Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five on a cloudy day at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

With the victory, Rossi has improved him championship outlook considerably by trimming Dixon’s points gap to 46 points.

“It’s what we needed,” Rossi said in victory lane.  “We said coming into this weekend that we would have to execute for five weekends in a row.  This is the start of that, hopefully.”

Speaking to the stressful middle portions of the race when Rossi was trapped behind lapped traffic, the California native gave his engineer, Rob Edwards, a special shout-out.

“In races like (this) you just have to be really patient.  It’s hard sometimes but Rob (Edwards) is a very calming force and just talked me through it and we were able to manage it.”

While the No. 27 Andretti Autosport team wasn’t fully committed to a two-stop strategy from the start (Rossi revealed that the team was waiting to see if they could realistically hit their fuel numbers in-race), the bravery paid off and they gained 16 points in the championship chase as a result of it.

Despite Rossi’s monster margin of victory, the race was far from dull.  The opening green flag saw cars darting left and right when Rossi stacked the field up with a brake check.  Upon race control’s official review, no action was taken to penalize the pole sitter.

Just minutes later, though, Max Chilton would be dealt a heavy blow when he drew a penalty from race control after spinning Takuma Sato on lap 5.  The penalty would be devastating to the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet team that had just notched Carlin’s best starting spot (6th) in their young IndyCar Series history.

Chilton would endure a disastrous pit stop on lap 9 that would see the left front tire stuck to its suspension housing, eventually losing a lap in the process.  The British driver would finish the day 24th, dropping from 6th to last place over the course of 90 laps.

In the race’s early stages it was Rossi stretching a small but comfortable 2-second gap to Power and Newgarden.  As many drivers started to hit laps 11 and 15, the quartet of Rossi, Power, Newgarden, and Dixon would be the only drivers to last as long as 25 laps on the opening stint.

By stretching his tires 30 laps on the first stint, Rossi was poised for a two-stop race (Chris Owens/INDYCAR).

It wasn’t until lap 30 that Rossi finally stopped for scuffed Firestone primary compound tires, confirming the team’s strategy for a two-stop race.

Amid multiple caution-filled practice and qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday, the 90-lap race on Sunday would unfold without even a local yellow making an appearance.

Considering this fact, Sebastien Bourdais may have been the only driver to impress more than Rossi.

The Dale Coyne Racing (with Vasser-Sullivan) driver started the race in 24th after an early incident in qualifying left him with no time in the session.  Starting shotgun on the field, Bourdais quickly made up 13 spots in the first 35 laps to creep just outside the top-10.

Utilizing a three-stop strategy, Bourdais began the race on the Firestone primary tire before switching to the softer, grippier alternate compound on lap 11.  From there the Frenchman never looked back, eventually making 20 on-track passes on his way to a remarkable 6th place finish.

It was Bourdais’ best finish since 4th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix in Indianapolis on May 12.

While Wickens would be the greatest threat to Rossi on this day, the rookie Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver wouldn’t have much to offer as lapped traffic thwarted Wickens’ three-stop strategy.

In the closing stages, the most exciting battles were around Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, and Pagenaud as the three raced under a blanket for the final 15 laps.

After breaking away from that pack, Bourdais gave chase to Dixon in P5 over the last few laps.  After a valiant effort, Bourdais would finish 0.59 seconds behind the Kiwi.

Today’s triumph marks the fourth career win for Rossi in IndyCar Series competition and his third victory from the pole.

Other notables include a pair of hometown drivers taking home top-1os as Graham Rahal was 9th, and rookie Zach Veach came home 10th.

Conor Daly was having a fine day towards the end of the race but was handed a troubling 22nd place result for Harding Racing after running out of gas on the last lap.  Rookie Pietro Fittipaldi made his return from dual leg fractures to finish 23rd for Dale Coyne Racing.

The Verizon IndyCar Series takes two weekends off before traveling to Pocono Raceway for the 14th race of the season.  The green flag will drop from eastern Pennslyvania on Sunday, August 19 at 2:05 p.m. Eastern on NBCSN.

Stay tuned to Open-Wheels.com for continued post-race coverage of the Honda Indy 200 from Mid-Ohio.

Header image courtesy of Chris Owens/INDYCAR Media.

Tanner Watkins

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