With the IndyCar Classic taking place at Circuit of the Americas this weekend, one of the series’ top drivers is ready to prove he’s on a fast track to winning.
By Chantal Rice, Photos courtesy of IndyCar
As the NTT IndyCar Series revs up to take on its inaugural race at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas track this weekend, ushering in a new era of motorsports merriment for race-loving Central Texans, IndyCar drivers, now one race into the season, are primed to put the pedal to the metal and deliver a legendary competition.
Even folks who are not entirely familiar with IndyCar or motorsports in general have likely heard the name or seen the slick visage of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi. In addition to winning the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 (the first American rookie to achieve that feat since 1928) and coming off his best IndyCar career season in 2018, nearly escaping with the series championship, Rossi is not shy about making public appearances. He competed on reality-TV show TheAmazing Race, has been featured on countless national media outlets and is almost as suave as his mini-goldendoodle pup, Brunner, who maintains a wildly popular Instagram account (@fun.with.brunner).
With previous Formula 1 racing experience at the COTA (a rarity among IndyCar drivers) and a fifth-place finish in his No. 27 Honda at the first race of the season in St. Petersburg, Fla., Rossi is eagerly chasing this IndyCar season with a fierce competitive attitude.
Here, Rossi shares his thoughts about racing the COTA track for the first time as an IndyCar driver, how he preps for the racing season and why you probably won’t see him casually hanging out in Austin during his visit.
ATX Man: As a driver with previous F1 experience at the COTA, do you feel like you have an advantage in this first IndyCar race in Austin?
Alexander Rossi: Not really. … At the end of the day, it’s such a different car and package and a different way of driving the track to be successful in IndyCar. There’s not a lot that carries over. … It’s such a different experience.
AM: You had a great showing at spring training at the COTA in February. Do you feel like you can put down a pole lap in qualifying?
AR: Yeah, that’s the plan. It was a great test there. It was different for us. We did a test in October then we came back with a slightly different tire. We’ve been doing big changes you wouldn’t normally do. But we ended pretty happy with the car. This will be a pretty good opportunity for us.
AM: What’s your favorite characteristic or portion of the COTA track?
AR: I think when the track was designed, they tried to take three different elements from famous tracks in Europe and combine them into one. … Turn 1 is visually pretty impactful and the esses are quick. For me, the most exciting part is the last three or four corners. That’s very demanding on the car but you can get a lot of lap time there if you get it right. That’s where the difference is going to be made.
AM: How do you get your body physically ready for the COTA racetrack and the racing season?
AR: There’s a lot of time prepping as a racing driver. In a year, 75 percent of my time and job is outside the car, and 25 percent inside. I live in Indianapolis. There’s a race-specific performance center where there are a lot of unique things we do: fundamentals of muscle endurance, strength, cardio. … There’s more focus on the neck and shoulders, core and upper body because we don’t have power steering.
AM: You’re coming off a great season last year. What are you most looking forward to this season?
AR: Obviously, the [Indy] 500 is our flagship race and there’s a lot of time and energy and mental thought that goes into that event. … From the start of the race season, we’re only a couple months away from the Indy 500. On top of that, I’m thrilled to be able to come to the COTA and add a new track to IndyCar. … But it all boils down to the 500.
AM: Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World. When preparing for race day, do you listen to any particular music as you’re gearing up?
AR: Not really. I prefer to be with the team in the time before the race and keep it light with them. I like to be around the people and the personnel. After the race, I just want to go have beers with those people.
AM: Do you have any favorite local spots you like to visit when in Austin?
AR: I love South Congress and everything there. I’ve not been to one place I dislike. In terms of favorites, I’d probably say Perla’s. … But when you’re there on race weekend, it’s not about a lot of fun. You have to focus on the job you’re there to do.
Check back for more IndyCar coverage following the IndyCar Classic at the Circuit of the Americas March 22 through 24.