INDIANAPOLIS – Race drivers call it the “Red Mist.”
It’s when a flash of anger in the heat of battle creates fierce determination. It’s like a burst of horsepower from a turbocharger, but it has to be unleased responsibly.
“A bunch of hungry, angry cars behind me,” Alexander Rossi radioed his crew while in the lead before the final restart Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Do they know I’m angrier?”
Rossi’s “Red Mist” was on full display during a runner-up finish in the 103rdIndianapolis 500. First, he was angered by Helio Castroneves Chevrolet impeding his progress in the race, screaming to his crew on the radio that Castroneves was five laps down.
Then came another botched pit stop by his Andretti Autosport crew when Rossi pitted on Lap 137. The crew could not get the fuel probe engaged into the Rossi’s fuel tank on his No. 27 NAPA Honda. It was the third time in Rossi’s four Indianapolis 500s that an issue in the pits played a role in his outcome.
It worked in his favor as a rookie in the 100thIndianapolis 500 in 2016 when it put him out of sequence to most of the field, and he was able to stretch his last tank of fuel for the final 36 laps.
It cost him a victory in 2017.
This year, it took away his strategy of getting superior fuel mileage to his prime competition — the fast, but less fuel efficient Chevrolets at Team Penske and Ed Carpenter Racing. Rossi could go longer on one tank of fuel than any driver other than Scott Dixon, but that advantage was wiped out after the fuel probe issue.
Rossi’s stop was more than 20 seconds long. He sat in his car in pit lane and pounded his fist on the steering wheel, screaming at his pit crew, “Every year!”
Andretti Autosport Chief Operating Officer Rob Edwards, who handled the No. 27’s pit strategy, radioed back to Rossi and told him it was a fuel probe problem.
Rossi radioed, “Is IndyCar going to deal with cars that are five laps down appropriately, or this is a (bleeping) joke.
Castroneves was actually three laps down at the time. Andretti Autosport tried to get Team Penske spotter Rick Rinaman to talk to IndyCar, to have Castroneves move out of the way.
It briefly got worse...