Our View: Nevada County community cheers on its champion, Alexander Rossi
September 14, 2018
California, here he comes. Right back where he started from.
Alexander Rossi's racing season in the IndyCar circuit brings his career full circle Sunday, when the green flag flies for the Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Cheered on by a strong contingent of his most-ardent supporters, one of Nevada City's favorite sons will be among four drivers vying for the IndyCar season championship on what has to be considered his home track.
After all, it was Sonoma where he won the first in a slew of series championships over the course of a 15-year racing career. At 11 years old, Rossi became the youngest winner in the Jim Russell Championship Karting Series, in a division of 12-15 year-old drivers.
At each level, Rossi has been a regular atop the post-race podium, often hoisting the top-prize trophy. He claimed checkered flags in Formula BMW, International Formula Master, GP3, GP2 and World Series by Renault. In 2015, in Singapore, he became the first American to race in Formula One since 2007.
The following year Rossi returned to the U.S. to compete in IndyCar, and promptly won the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, "the greatest spectacle in racing," in his rookie run.
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Now, in his third full-season in the series, he's got a real shot at the capturing the championship crown Sunday in Sonoma.
Each arrival in victory lane only deepens his desire to dream big, and at 26 years old he's already got the racing resume to prove that dreams do come true.
But Alexander Rossi didn't achieve these dreams with his head in the clouds.
Way back when he won that go-kart championship, he learned a lesson that he has continued to serve him quite well. In addition to awards and accolades adorning his bedroom, stood a photo of Alexander and his kart — though not one with him behind the wheel nor of him with another trophy held high.
It was a shot of him with wrench in hand, working on his kart.
"Mom put that up," he said, "to show me what hard work does."
His parents clearly also taught him to value the connection to his community. From his earliest days as a driver, a teenage Rossi often shared his passion with the community that supported him whether offering the inside scoop on the sport for Rotary Clubs, encouraging Cub Scouts to use their seat belts or showing preschool students that dreams can come true.
Even today, as he deals with all the demands of being a celebrity, he still manages to find time to squeeze in a phone call with a local sports writer, to make a guest appearance to support charity efforts back home or to take the time to thank those who have helped him realize his dreams.
"I am thankful," he wrote in letter to the editor in 2008, "to live in a community that is so willing to stand behind its youth and encourages them to dream big and reach for their goals."
His hard work and dedication no doubt has inspired other young people in our community, and beyond, but so should his professionalism and the classy way he carries himself. At a time when much of society might seem bereft of role models, he continues to set an example that makes his family, friends and hometown proud.
"Follow and chase your dreams," he told The Union just a few days before he won the Indy 500. "Take no shortcuts, work harder than your competitors, make the sacrifices, build the necessary relationships and lastly, first learn how to lose.
"No one needs to learn how to win, that's the easy part; but losing at times is your best teacher and motivator. Put in the work, make the sacrifices, really believe that you are able to achieve what you want to do and never, never, never give up."
Regardless of Sunday's final standings, we know Alexander Rossi will once again give Sonoma his best shot. And he should know, even if he won't hear all the cheering from up here in the hills, he's already made his hometown very proud.
But all the same, we'll be among those in western Nevada County watching and hoping that he'll make one more trip to victory lane.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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