AUTO RACING ROUNDUP: After slow start to season, Alexander Rossi races to podium finish |

AUTO RACING ROUNDUP: After slow start to season, Alexander Rossi races to podium finish

On a track where he’s had success before, IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi broke out of an early season slump and earned his first podium of the season.

When asked if this was a turning point for him and his team, Rossi said, “It better be.”

Rossi raced to a third-place finish at the REV Group Grand Prix (Race 2) Sunday at the Road America track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. It was his first top-five finish of the season and 29th since joining the IndyCar circuit in 2016.

“We’ll take this. It’s not a win, but it’s a step in the right direction and it’s what we needed to get the momentum going,” said Rossi, who won the race at Elkhart Lake in 2019. “… I think we have some of our mojo back, at least a little bit, and we’ll just keep at it.”

The Nevada City native started the contest in 10th, avoided several early crashes by fellow drivers and finished behind only race winner Felix Rosenqvist and runner-up Patricio O’Ward.

Coming into Sunday’s race, Rossi had finishes of 15th, 25th and 19th across the first three races of the season, which started up June 7 after a nearly three-month postponement due to COVID-19.

“We’ve talked a lot about how difficult it’s been, but I think the one constant has been this Number 27 Auto Nation/Andretti team,” said Rossi. “There’s never been a question of what we’re doing, or why we’re doing it, it’s just been problem solving and keeping our foot down on the pedal and attacking as much as we can.”

After four races this season, Rossi has 66 points and sits in 18th in the overall standings. Scott Dixon, who has won three of the first four races, is in first with 173 points.

Next up for the IndyCar Series is a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader at Iowa Speedway. Rossi finished sixth in Iowa last year. He’s looking to improve on that this time around.

“It’s not been one of our best tracks,” he said. “But, we’re going to change that this year.”

Since joining the IndyCar circuit, Rossi has seven race wins, including the 2016 Indianapolis 500, and finished among the top-three in the overall points race the past two seasons.

DiBenedetto impresses at Kentucky Speedway

NASCAR driver Matt DiBenedetto drove to a third-place finish at the Quaker State 400 Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.

It was the first podium finish and second top-five of the season for the Grass Valley native.

“Ran around the top 5 all day and then we had to drive 3 and 4 wide from 18th or so to 3rd in the final 2 restarts…I’d say my @woodbrothers21 team gave me a fast car,” DiBenedetto wrote on Twitter Monday morning.

Cole Custer won the race and Martin Truex Jr. was second.

For the season, DiBenedetto has five top-10 finishes in 17 starts, and is ranked 12th in the overall points race.

DiBenedetto, who drives the No. 21 car for Wood Brothers Racing, is now in his sixth season in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Sweet remains on top after busy stretch

Reigning World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champ Brad Sweet was busy last week with three races in three different states in a matter of three days.

The Grass Valley native took third place at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa, on Friday, then placed 19th at the Wilmot Raceway in Wisconsin on Saturday, and wrapped the weekend with a 22nd place finish at the Terre Haute Action Track in Indiana.

Despite a couple of uncharacteristic back-of-the-pack finishes, Sweet still holds the World of Outlaws overall points lead thanks to his series-leading seven wins this season. With 2,932 points, Sweet leads second-place Donny Schatz by 44 points, and third-place Logan Schuchart by 52 points. In 22 starts this season, Sweet has finished outside the top-10 just three times.

Sweet, who drives the No. 49 NAPA Auto Parts car, dominated the Fourth of July Weekend races, taking the checkered flag in both feature races at the Independence Day Spectacular in New Richmond Wisconsin July 3-4.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email or call 530-477-4232.

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