LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Alexander Rossi took a gamble Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course that paid off with his second IndyCar victory of the season and fourth overall.
Starting from the pole and using a two-stop strategy while the rest of the field pitted three times, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner finished 12.8 seconds ahead of rookie Robert Wickens in the caution-free race on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course. The race covered 90 laps and 202.3 miles.
“It was a little concerning at times,” Rossi said. “Guys committed to doing it, but they bailed. (The strategy) worked.
“We didn’t know how it would work. Without a warm-up we were not capable of knowing the fuel mileage you’re getting.”
Will Power was third, 14.7 seconds back. Josef Newgarden was fourth, and points leader Scott Dixon fifth.
“Maybe we should have thought of that,” Power said about Rossi’s strategy. “I don’t know what my fuel number would have been.”
Rossi also won the street race in Long Beach, California, in April. The victory Sunday was Andretti Autosport’s 60th in the series.
Rossi had a 23-second lead over Wickens when he made his second pit stop on Lap 59. Wickens took the lead but, because he had been so far back when Rossi pitted it, was only a matter of time before he would fall behind again.
“We ran a good race today,” Wickens said. “We were just unfortunate with the traffic. I got stuck behind (Takuma) Sato. We had to wait 10 to 15 laps to make a move. It was a frustrating stint.”
Rossi got the lead for good when Wickens pitted on Lap 65 and Power temporarily moved to second. Rossi cruised from there and his only problem was trying to do a post-race doughnut in celebration only to get stuck in the grass.
He led 66 laps.
Dixon leads the series with 494 points, 46 more than Rossi. Newgarden, the defending champion is third, 60 points back.
Rossi led the first 30 laps until pitting, allowing Wickens to take the lead.
NOTABLES: Local favorite and 2015 race winner Graham Rahal was ninth.
Rookie Pietro Fittipaldi in his first race since sustaining a compound fracture of his leg and a broken right ankle during qualifying in Belgium in early May finished 23rd of 24 cars in the PaySafe Honda for Dale Coyne Racing. . Jack Harvey, driving for Meyer Shank Racing from Pataskala, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus about 55 miles south of Lexington, placed 20th and Zach Veach from Stockdale, Ohio, was tenth for Andretti Autosport.
Dixon made his 300th IndyCar start and Power his 200th on Sunday. Dixon was born in Australia but is a citizen of New Zealand, where good friend Power is from. Naturally there is a lot of bantering that goes on when it comes to sports such as soccer, rugby and cricket in those neighboring countries, although Dixon said the Kiwis dominate their counterparts in most competitions.
“He doesn’t have much to fight for coming from Australia,” he joked.
Power shrugs off barbs, “It’s a friendly rivalry between New Zealand and Australia. Every time he sees me he flips me off. I do that back to him.”
Dixon, by the way, has finished in the top five of half of his career starts.
Sebastian Bourdais started last after causing a red flag in qualifying Saturday but made up ground in a hurry to finish sixth. He led all drivers with 20 passes.
Max Chilton seemed prime for a god race after running well and qualifying sixth, However, he made contact with Takuma Sato on Lap 2 and had to serve a drive-through penalty. Chilton never recovered and finished last, two laps off the pace.
Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania, Aug. 19.