Rossi ready to step up a gear at Long Beach

This weekend marks three years since Alexander Rossi last won the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and a strong weekend ahead of Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix at Long Beach (3 p.m. ET, live on NBC and INDYCAR Radio Network) gives Rossi hope his winless streak is coming to an end.

Rossi qualified fifth in his #27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda with a best lap of 1 minute, 6.0674 seconds in the Firestone Fast Six, by far his best qualifying result of the start of the 2022 season. previous best start this season was 12th at Texas Motor Speedway.

“We were strong all weekend,” Rossi said. “I think it was a bit of a missed opportunity to be fifth instead of potentially second or third with that red flag. Such is life, such is INDYCAR racing. It’s a good place for tomorrow. As I I said, I think the car is really good, so I’m looking forward to it.

As Rossi mentioned, it was an interesting end to the session for him and the other five Firestone Fast Six riders. His Andretti Autosport teammate Romain Grosjean collided with the tire barriers in Turn 5 with two seconds left in the session as several drivers, like Rossi, were setting fast laps.

INDYCAR officials reopened the session for a timed lap, and Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist tried to improve their lap times. However, Rossi overtook Turn 1 and entered the spillway, sealing his fate for fifth on the grid.

In two practice sessions this weekend on the streets of Long Beach, Rossi was second fastest in Friday’s session and fourth in Saturday morning’s session. Overall, his Honda-powered Andretti Autosport team proved dominant this weekend, as did Meyer Shank Racing, with whom Andretti Autosport has an alliance. His teammate Colton Herta starts first and sets the track record.

Rossi said he believes his Honda-powered team, which is yet to claim a win in 2022 as Chevrolet’s Team Penske riders have won the first two races, can triumph at Long Beach. Andretti Autosport has been strong on street courses lately, winning two of the street course races in 2021. Both were with Herta at the wheel, including this race.

“I don’t know if we were behind Chevy, honestly,” Rossi said. “I think Penske just did a really good job at St. Pete. But I think out of the box here it was close as always. I think over the years with this set of engines it’s pretty much the same; it comes and goes a bit.

“I think the competition is very tight and there’s not much in it. I don’t think we were ever late. I think only the Chevy teams performed a bit better in the first two laps. Hopefully it’s Honda’s turn tomorrow.

Rossi, of Nevada City, Calif., dominated the prestigious street race for two years in 2018 and 2019, winning back-to-back races and leading 151 of 170 laps during that span. In that race last season, which ended the season in September, he finished sixth.

Since his last series victory in 2019, at this track, Rossi has had a roller coaster of racing with success at some tracks and terrible luck at others. Only once last season did Rossi break into the top-10 in a row, when he scored seventh at Road America and fifth at Mid-Ohio.

To start the 2022 season, Ross finished 20th on the streets of St. Petersburg and 27th in Texas, where he left the race on lap 11 with battery issues.

But the stars could line up on Shoreline Drive this weekend for Rossi as he looks to get back to his winning way at the one track where he has multiple wins. Not to mention this is his 100th NTT INDYCAR SERIES start.

“Obviously this is not the start any of us wanted for a myriad of reasons,” Rossi said. “Today was a good day. This weekend went well. Tomorrow is an important day for many reasons. We just have to get a good result and start the year. That’s the main goal.

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