AUTO RACING: Rossi closes gap on Newgarden after podium finish in Toronto | TheUnion.com

AUTO RACING: Rossi closes gap on Newgarden after podium finish in Toronto

Alexander Rossi is in the hunt once again.

After 11 races, the Nevada City native is just four points back of first place in the NTT IndyCar points standings with six stops left on the schedule.

Behind the wheel of the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda, Rossi gained some ground on points leader Josef Newgarden with a third place finish Sunday in Toronto. For Rossi, it was his sixth podium finish this season, and third in a row.

“I think that we knew going into (Sunday) that we didn’t have a race winning car, and it would take a little bit of luck to get that,” Rossi said in a press release. “The two in front of us drove a great race, so to be able to finish in front of Josef and get a trophy is a good day. Huge hats off to the 27 NAPA Andretti Honda boys — great pit stops, good strategy and we did what we needed to do (Sunday).”

Newgarden finished fourth on the streets of Toronto and sits atop the season leaderboard with 434 points. Rossi has 430. Simon Pagenaud won the race in Toronto and is in third place overall with 395 points.

Rossi has been the most consistent driver on the circuit this year, finishing in the top-10 on 10 different occasions, the most by any driver this season. His nine top-five finishes are tied for the most by any driver, and his two wins are second to only Newgarden and Pagenaud, both with three.

Rossi’s been in this position before as he tracked last year’s IndyCar Series champ Scott Dixon down the stretch. The 27-year-old phenom was within reach of overtaking Dixon at the final race in Sonoma last season, but an early collision in that race derailed his effort. Rossi finished seventh at Sonoma, and placed second in the overall standings, 57 points behind Dixon.

Rossi’s consistency, continual improvement and fierce determination on the track has propelled him to the top echelon of IndyCar drivers. In 2016, Rossi joined the IndyCar circuit and quickly made himself a household name by winning the Indy 500, becoming the first American rookie to win the race since 1928. He finished 11th in the point standings and won Rookie of the Year honors that season. The following year he made more strides and finished seventh in the overall points standings. After last year’s runner-up finish, Rossi looks to be a contender for the series title years to come.

The former Formula One driver has spent all four of his IndyCar seasons with Andretti Autosport, but is due to be a free agent. While rumors have swirled about which team Rossi will race for next season, Rossi has remained tight lipped on the subject.

After his win at Road of America, Rossi said where he races in 2020 is, “in God’s hands.”

While Rossi is keeping things close to the vest, Rob Edwards, Rossi’s strategist and COO of Andretti, is optimistic the rising star will renew his partnership with Andretti.

“We’re close,” Edwards told the Indianapolis Star. “It’s been a super competitive program the last two years, but we needed to make it stand on its own two feet, and that’s part of what we’ve been talking about is making sure that it’ll be not just as strong as it’s been but that we’ve got the tools to be stronger.

“That’s important to us and important to Alexander.”

Rossi’s next opportunity to catch Newgarden will be Saturday at the Iowa 300 held at the Iowa Speedway. The race starts at 5 p.m. and will be televised on NBCSN. Rossi has finished sixth, ninth and 11th in three races at the Iowa Speedway.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.


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