Saturday, April 1, 2023

Rossi Hoping for a Weekend ‘That Makes Me Love’ Barber

Alexander Rossi at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Alexander Rossi is hopeful a third-place result in opening practice translates come Sunday’s race at Barber Motorsports Park. Image courtesy of Chris Owens / Penske Entertainment

Alexander Rossi is looking for a reversal of fortune at this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

It has historically been a tough circuit for the 30-year-old California native, with only three laps led and a best-ever finish of fifth (twice – 2017, 2019) in five starts. Additionally, he has two results outside the top 10.

This weekend has started off on a positive note, though, with Rossi putting the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda in third on the timesheets when opening practice concluded on Friday afternoon. Rossi was one of three Andretti cars to end the day in the top five, with teammates Colton Herta and Romain Grosjean ending up first and fourth, respectively.

“I mean, it was a fine session,” said Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner. “I think we have some areas to work on, for sure. The team’s fast, and that’s good.”

One unique element for this year’s event is the tire compounds (alternate, red sidewall and primary, black sidewall) from the 2021 were altered, despite Firestone keeping the same construction. The change hasn’t been something Rossi see as “significant” thus far.

“Yeah, we had a test here a month ago,” he said. “It was on the 2021 tire. I think we learned a lot, but we also were trying to take it with a grain the salt knowing it was going to be a different tire here.

“It is a little bit different; it’s not significantly different. Obviously, we still have the reds  to experience tomorrow. I think it’s very similar to what it’s been.

“I think, based on the preliminary feelings, it will still be a black race in terms of the deg (degradation) will still be pretty high, which is usually a characteristic of this place, why the races end up being as good as they are, because you have cars coming and going with the falloff.”

Examining his own group within the Andretti squad, Rossi pointed to last year’s test at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca as the springboard for some of the improvements to its road course program.

“On the 27 side, I think we were weaker on road courses than Colton for the past year and a half or so,” said Rossi, who qualified second in last year’s race. “.. It was at a Laguna test last year. On our side we found something that we could really take most places, whereas before we were kind of scrambling every weekend we showed up, trying to find a package we were happy with. We kind of settled on something that was pretty adaptable.

“Obviously, this is our first road course race of ’22, but it’s translated to the test this weekend so far. Yeah, hopefully we have a weekend that makes me love this place. It’s been six years of really struggling around here, frankly. We had a decent qualifying last year, but no results to show for it.

“I’m optimistic this is a good sign of our road course progression from last year carried over to this year.”

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