Wednesday, May 31, 2023

IndyCar ‘Missing Something’ with How Back Markers Can Impede Leader – Rossi

Alexander Rossi at IMS road course.
Alexander Rossi would like to see IndyCar address how back markers have an ability to impact a race for the leader. Image courtesy of Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment

Alexander Rossi would like to see a change with how back markers can potentially impact a race in the NTT IndyCar Series.

The 30-year-old California native drove to his eighth career victory on Saturday in the Gallagher Grand Prix on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which snapped a 49-race win-less streak.

It wasn’t a straightforward and calm drive to the win, though, as Rossi’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda was trying to put the No. 4 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet of Dalton Kellett a lap down in the final laps of the race. A near 4s lead over second-place Christian Lundgaard was cut in half after trying to navigate around Kellett for several laps. When he was finally able to put Kellett a lap down, Rossi widened the gap back out to 3.5441s.

During the post-race press conference, Rossi addressed his mentality towards the end of the race, leading late and trying to find Victory Lane for the first time in 1,133 days.

“I was getting pretty pissy, stressy with the 4 car there,” Rossi said. “I just — it’s not just me. There’s a lot of guys in this series that have had issues with coming down to the end of the race and lap cars are using overtake to stay in front, and it’s just very frustrating. That was the only thing because I saw my lead got cut in half, and we burned 60 percent of the overtake we had left to try and get around a car that is in last. That’s very upsetting. That was the only thing I was stressed about.

“But once we were able to kind of deal with that, I think the pace of our car was still superior, so it was just about finishing the last seven or eight laps of the race.”

The conversation with how back markers are allowed to impact the race leader, particularly on road and street circuits, has been one of the primary conversations the last couple of seasons.

Although IndyCar implemented a rule this season to eliminate push-to-pass for cars that are a lap down on road and street circuits, the current formula still allows a car at the back of the field in danger of going a lap down to still impede the leader.

“Yeah, I don’t understand,” Rossi said. “I get it on ovals a little bit because you can — you want to try and stay on the lead lap to hopefully catch a yellow because you don’t want to lose a lap on an oval because on an oval theoretically if you get that yellow and come back to the back of the grid you can in theory make your way forward again if you have a good car. On a road course you’re not going to restart in 24th and drive to a position — that doesn’t exist, so it’s very frustrating to compromise someone’s day for no good reason.

“We talked about it. I’m not the only one that deals with it. I’m not saying that that person doesn’t have a right to fight for their lead lap, but when they’re able to use overtake to defend you, I just think that we’re missing something as a series. We need to implement a rule where if you’re a lap down or you’re going a lap down, you shouldn’t be able to use overtake to defend the leader. That’s all.”

In turn, is this something that needs to be further discussed in the off-season?

Rossi added, “For sure, for sure.”

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