Rob Edwards, Andretti Autosport’s team manager and Alexander Rossi’s strategist, believes the 2016 Indy 500 winner will remain in the hunt for this year’s IndyCar Series championship.
Rossi clocked his second podium in consecutive races with third place in Saturday night’s race at the ISM Raceway in Phoenix – his seventh top-six finish in the last eight events, which include a win at Watkins Glen last September.
Without a pitlane error on his first stop in Phoenix, which squeezed his refueler and front-left tire-changer against pit wall – and incurred a subsequent drive-through penalty – Rossi would likely have won. From two laps down he made 52 on-track passes to fight back into contention, and clearly had the fastest car on heavily worn tires.
Edwards told Motorsport.com: “There were some small setup differences comparing the #27 car [Rossi’s] to our other cars. But I think what you saw was a continuation of what we’ve seen from Alex since he took second place at Toronto last year.
"He’s found his groove, and he and Jeremy [Milless, race engineer] are very in tune with each other and make the right decisions.
“Alex had a lot of confidence in what he had [at Phoenix] and it built from there.
“We were happy with the car in the last night session of the preseason test here, happy with it again in the night practice before the race, after we made a couple of changes to make it a little more secure. And actually we were a bit disappointed in qualifying. But that’s a sign of progress, right? Being disappointed to qualify fourth.
“So going into the race, yeah, we were fairly certain we had a strong car, and I think we proved it was good for running in clean air or dirty air.”
After two rounds of the championship, Rossi lies second behind only Newgarden, and Edwards says he believes his driver will stay in contention all the way through to the series finale in Sonoma.
“I’m 100 percent confident – no question at all,” he replied immediately. “Our idea going to St. Pete was to just pick up where we left off last year, and we did that, even from mid-grid.
"Now with two podiums from two races, I think we’re continuing along that path. Long Beach next weekend… I think that place owes us a little bit. We had a chance to win last year until the engine let go.
“It’s hard, it’s super-competitive out there, and we’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing. The goal is top-six in qualifying every weekend and get on the podium every weekend. Wins and championship positions will take care of themselves from there.”