Rossi’s Win Highlights his Career Week, While Rewriting the Season’s finale

It’s been a big week for Alexander Rossi, as the Andretti Autosport driver inked a new deal with his team, sponsor, and landed in victory lane seemingly all at once. Rossi took home the Grand Prix at the Glen victory in an event that saw the championship story of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season completely rewritten.

Rossi started from the pole, but that does not mean it was smooth sailing into victory lane for the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion. Losing the lead into the first turn to points leader and third place starter Josef Newgarden, Rossi would charge through the exit of the turn to regain the lead. A bold move under wet conditions, but soon the field would pit for slick tires as conditions improved.

Always a bridesmaid in the championship battle, Helio Castroneves charged past Rossi to take the lead off of the race in a bid to keep the points battle close. The first full-course yellow was brought on by a gearbox issue for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe. The Canadian was forced to retire the car after only five laps.

Spencer Pigot, who had spun without caution earlier in the event, would take advantage of a full-course yellow brought on by mechanical issues for Takuma Sato to take the lead through pit strategy. For Rossi, strategy was not on his side. After having reclaimed his lead, a fuel issue on the previous pitstop forced the leader into the pits under green and to the back of the field.

However, Rossi’s luck would eventually turn as another incident for Sato allowed him to cycle through the field pitting under yellow. This cycle of stops not only changed the outcome of the race, but possibly of the 2017 title. Newgarden, off of a tricky pit exit with Penske Racing teammate Will power, made contact with the pit exit wall before being hit heavily from behind by Sebastien Bourdais.

In the last green flag stint, Rossi pulled away from a charging Scott Dixon to claim his second career Verizon IndyCar Series victory. Four-time Watkins Glen winner Dixon would settle for a second place finish, closing the gap between he and points leader Josef Newgarden to just three points heading into the season finale in Sonoma. Until then, it was Alexander Rossi’s time in the limelight with his win, Andretti contract, NAPA sponsorship, and Honda engine deal to celebrate.

“An amazing job by the whole team today,” Rossi said in victory lane, dismissing the pit road fuel incident as an obstacle that the Andretti team overcame. “I knew [Dixon] was going to be pushing like hell at the end, and so it was really 12 qualifying laps, and I had the car to do it. We had time, we had the pace, the performance, the tire life, everything was going our way.”

While the focus of the title battle is on Newgarden and Dixon, Helio Castroneves’ fourth place finish puts the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner within striking distance of his first Verizon IndyCar Series title. Sitting only 22 points out of the standings lead, the double points in the season closer at Sonoma Raceway give Castroneves a second chance at a title that only a week ago seemed destined for his teammate.

“I feel really bad for Josef [Newgarden] with his incident,” Castroneves says. “It’s unfortunate for the team, but it's mixed feelings for me because it tightens up the championship. We definitely have a good chance heading into Sonoma and I feel really good about our setup there. We'll be ready to go for it and finish strong.”

After three victories in the previous four races, the title was all but assured for Josef Newgarden. However, the damage to his car in his late-race pit incident forced him back into the pits for repair and ultimately resigned him to an 18th place finish, setting up a free for all for the championship in the season finale.

“No excuse for it. It was my fault,” Newgarden admits. “It's unfortunate, but there's nothing I can do about it. We'll go to Sonoma in a couple of weeks and race for it.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma will take place on Sunday, September 17th at Sonoma Raceway. Canadian fans can catch all of the action live on Sportsnet 360.

All quotes sourced from official INDYCAR press releases.