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Winning Indy 500 still hasn’t sunk in for little-known Alexander Rossi

Indy 500 champ Alexander Rossi makes pit stop in DFW

Alexander Rossi won the Indy 500 on Sunday, and swung through DFW on Wednesday. Video by Drew Davison.
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Alexander Rossi won the Indy 500 on Sunday, and swung through DFW on Wednesday. Video by Drew Davison.

Alexander Rossi wasn’t a household name a week ago. Diehard racing enthusiasts may have heard his name affiliated with his Formula One dreams.

Now, though, Rossi is among the darlings of motorsports with his surprising win at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. Rossi and his team gambled on fuel in the final laps and barely had enough to cross the finish line ahead of a charging field.

That improbable story of how a 24-year-old Californian rookie driver won the centennial race of the prestigious event will be told for years. It just hasn’t sunk in for Rossi quite yet.

He laughed off a question about whether people are starting to notice him in public during a publicity stop Wednesday at Cool River Café to promote the Firestone 600 on June 11 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“No, I’m not that important,” Rossi said, smiling. “I don’t understand yet the full effect.”

He will in time. Just ask any IndyCar driver who has been in his shoes how sweet the taste of milk is following the Indy 500, and what it means going forward.

It was the greatest, largest motor racing event in history, so to be a part of that — regardless of the end result — was pretty spectacular.

Alexander Rossi about winning the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500

Fort Worth’s Johnny Rutherford knows he’ll be best known as a guy who won the Indy 500 three times, and he’s OK with it.

Rossi is more than OK with that, just like he is with being somewhat oblivious to it all for the time being.

“Just taking it one day at a time,” Rossi said. “It meant just as much to be competing in the 100th Indy 500. It was the greatest, largest motor racing event in history, so to be a part of that — regardless of the end result — was pretty spectacular.”

Rossi recalled the final laps of the race and the feeling of relief when his car took the checkered flag. His crew made the determination to avoid a late pit stop for fuel, rolling the dice that they’d have enough to go 36 laps on the final tank.

California native Alexander Rossi raced last year with Manor Marussia Formula One, becoming the first United States driver in Formula One since Scott Speed in 2007.

It’s a bet that paid off handsomely, something that likely wouldn’t have been done in any race except the Indy 500.

“It’s a huge team sport. The driver obviously gets a lot of the credit, but that’s wrong,” Rossi said. “I’m relying on a lot of different people to make good decisions. They didn’t only do a good job, they did an absolute perfect job. We ran out of fuel when we crossed the finish line.”

That feeling of winning?

“I was relieved because it was a very stressful final lap,” Rossi said. “It was the longest 2  1/2 miles of my life. It was relief followed by sheer joy. We pulled off something nobody thought we could.”

The victory puts Rossi and his Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian team in the championship hunt. That, more than anything, is what Rossi is focused on pulling off.

I’ve stopped trying to predict where my life is going and my future is going. I’m very much committed to IndyCar and the program we’re on at the moment.

Rossi

He refused to look too far ahead about whether this victory would make IndyCar his future racing circuit or if Formula One is still where he ultimately wants to end up.

“I’ve stopped trying to predict where my life is going and my future is going,” Rossi said. “I’m very much committed to IndyCar and the program we’re on at the moment.

“Because of last weekend, we’re now in the championship fight so we need to continue that and focus on that.”

Firestone 600

7:45 p.m. June 11,

NBC Sports Network

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