Alexander Rossi dominated the race weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Dancing at the top of the speed charts during the practice session, the NAPA Racing driver snagged the top qualifying spot on Saturday to lead the field to the green flag for Sunday’s race.
Rossi raced through Rounds 1 and 2 of qualifying and sat in the pits until there was just enough time to run one flying lap
and that one lap stole the show, earning Rossi his third pole of the season. Starting from the Pole position, the NAPA team committed to a daring two-stop fuel strategy – the only car in the 24-car field to do so. After trading the lead with Josef Newgarden and Robert Wickens during pit sequences, Rossi had more than a 20-second lead over second-place when he came in to make his final pit stop.
When the No. 27 machine made its way back to the track, Rossi blended just behind the No. 6 car of Wickens, who still had to make one last stop. When the rest of the field made their way to pit lane, Rossi resumed the lead and began to widen the gap. Nearly 20 laps later, the twin checkers waved over the 90-lap event and the NAPA Racing team was crowned winners for a second time during the 2018 season. The 2016 Indy 500 winner led 66 laps during the caution-free race, perfectly executing the team’s two-stop strategy
“We said coming into this weekend that we have to execute for five weekends in a row, this is the start of that, hopefully,” said Rossi. “The NAPA Andretti team were so on it today. They gave me an amazing race car, and this one’s for them. It was great strategy all day. We could make a two-stop if we committed early, and that’s what we did. Great fuel mileage from Honda, great tire life from Firestone, so an all-around perfect day.”
Rossi advanced to second in the championship, narrowing the points gap to the leader Scott Dixon (-46).
“Coming into the weekend, and again last night, Alex thought we should look at the two-stop option,” said Rob Edwards, Andretti Autosport COO and strategist for the 27 team. “We did everything we could to talk ourselves out of it, but kept coming back to some trigger points that made us go with it. The first was that we could get the lap time and fuel mileage we needed. We started with that from Lap 2 onwards. To our pleasant surprise he was hitting both.”
“I think some contenders like two of the Penske cars and [Chip Ganassi Racing’s] Scott Dixon all went in with the idea of doing two, and at various points in the first stint, bailed out,” continued Edwards. “We got to Lap 23 or 24 and were stuck in traffic, it was tempting to bail out. But at that point, everyone had bailed, we talked about it, gave Alex some back and forth on our thoughts for a lap, then we got by one of the cars we were stuck behind, that feed up some open space, and we made [the two-stop] work from there.”
Robert Wickens finished second in the race for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Will Power finished third for Team Penske. The Verizon IndyCar Series has a 19-day break before traveling to Pocono Raceway for the ABC Supply 500
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