Alexander Rossi ends IndyCar drought with victory at Indianapolis

Alexander Rossi drives in the IndyCar race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi leads the field into a turn on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday. (AJ Mast/Associated Press)

Alexander Rossi snapped a 49-game losing streak dating back to the 2019 IndyCar season with victory at one of his favorite tracks.

Rossi won Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where his 2016 victory in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 launched his American motorsport career. Rossi’s last win was at Road America in the 10th race of the 2019 season.

“It’s a relief,” sighed Rossi on the podium. “To be back in Indianapolis, at home, is really amazing.

A long slump left him looking for a fresh start, and the California native will leave Andretti Autosport at the end of his seventh season to drive for Arrow McLaren SP next year. It was Michael Andretti who gave Rossi a chance in IndyCar when he dropped out of Formula 1 and returned to the United States to continue his career.

Rossi’s surprise victory as a rookie in the celebrated 100th running of the Indy 500 made him a star and earned him a loyal sponsorship that ended his long drought. Some of its problems over the past three seasons have been team-driven — mistakes, mechanical failures and the Andretti team’s complete meltdown earlier this month at Mid-Ohio — and Saturday was hardly an ideal day for the organization.

Colton Herta controlled the early part of the race but slowed from the lead just before the halfway point.

“There’s nothing I can do,” he radioed as he struggled to drive his underpowered Honda back into the pit lane.

He later walked alone down the pit lane back to the paddock as the race continued without him.

“Man that’s sad,” Herta tweeted. “We’ve shown what we can do, we’ll keep going until we win again.”

Meanwhile, Andretti rookie Devlin DeFrancesco drew the ire of Conor Daly when tempers flared when DeFrancesco forced Daly off the track.

“Devlina needs to be fired from this racing series! He’s an idiot!” Daly yelled into the radio.

There is speculation that Michael Andretti is reconsidering DeFrancesco’s return for a second season.

Christian Lundgaard, a rookie from Denmark who made his IndyCar debut in this race a year ago, finished second and Rahal Letterman Lanigan earned his first podium finish of the season. It also ensured a 1-2 finish for the Honda-powered riders.

Will Power finished third for Team Penske and the Chevrolet driver returned to the top of the IndyCar standings for the third time this season. He now holds a nine-point lead over Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, who started last and finished 11th.

Scott McLaughlin finished fourth and was followed by Josef Newgarden as the Penske drivers worked together to cross the finish line in a row. Newgarden was cleared to race Saturday by IndyCar medical staff after collapsing and hitting his head at Iowa Speedway on Sunday.

The race started with six drivers tied for 44 points with five races remaining in the IndyCar season. The six drivers are now separated by 52 points and reigning series champion Alex Palou’s 10th place cost him ground.

IndyCar returns to the streets of downtown Nashville next Sunday for the second straight season. Ericsson is a plant advocate.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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