He knew the perception when he arrived. He was aloof. He was arrogant. He was an F1 castoff killing time before his return to Europe. A quiet but cocky Californian using INDYCAR as his steppingstone, only to inevitably jump back across the pond once opportunity struck.
The perceptions. They aren’t always reality.
“I know what the perception was”, Rossi, now in his third full Verizon IndyCar Series season, recently told me on my afternoon Indianapolis radio show. “You know how people create their opinions and that’s fine. It would’ve been a foolish business and personal decision to completely abandon what myself and my family and investors had worked on for 10 years by just completely cutting cords. I was here to compete and win races, and I committed all of the time to doing that.”
The commitment paid off in his fifth career start, with perhaps the most historic debut win in open-wheel racing history.
It’s a long road from the Red Bull Formula One American driving search and Skip Barber Racing School to Victory Lane at the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. It’s a road that includes many right-hand turns. Thus, the unlikeliness that a driver once was hesitant to run ovals would take the checkered flag in the biggest oval race of them all. Even as Rossi took the swig of milk, the question loomed as clear in the background as the tones of the Gordon Pipers: Was Rossi in it for the long haul?
The commitment, you see. It wasn’t where we thought it was. The commitment of Alexander Rossi was not where we assumed. It was to be a winning race car driver. As it turns out, those wins were going to be in INDYCAR, where Rossi finds himself second in the championship....
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