Rossi used Newgarden’s tire tactic to beat Newgarden to pole

Road America pole-winner Alexander Rossi admitted that he and race engineer Jeremy Milless opted to follow Josef Newgarden’s tire tactic from last year to earn top spot in qualifying.

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This afternoon, Rossi scored his seventh pole first pole position since Detroit in 2019, to land pole around Elkhart Lake, WI.’s gorgeous undulating 14-turn Road America.

Using Firestone’s harder primary tires, the #27 Andretti Autosport-Honda lapped the 4.048-mile course in 1min44.8656sec to shade three-time Road America polesitter Newgarden on the softer alternates by a mere 0.0715sec.

Afterward, he admitted to Peacock livestreaming that the team had followed the example set by the Team Penske-Chevrolet driver last year. Since drivers are granted only two sets of red tires [the softer alternate compound] for qualifying, it means those who make it through to Q3, the Firestone Fast Six, have to take used reds, and the longest track on the IndyCar schedule can be a tire-muncher.

Rossi said he was confident that the primaries were the right choice, despite the low ambient temperature, low track temperature and the threat of rain.

“We saw with Josef last year that he was able to beat Colton [Herta] on the blacks, and most of our competition was on the primaries, too,” he said. “So I think that’s just kinda the trend here.

“It was an amazing job all weekend by the NAPA Auto Parts/AutoNation Andretti-Honda guys. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in this position. It’s amazing, it’s cool, we’ll enjoy it – but we’ve got a job to do tomorrow.”

Asked if the car had the same feel with which he dominated the 2019 Road America race to score his most recent victory, Rossi replied, “I think so, I think we’re really strong on the primaries. The balance isn’t quite there on the Firestone reds so we struggled a little bit through the first two rounds [of qualifying], but we thought if we could get there [Fast Six] it would be ours to lose, really.”

A slightly deflated Newgarden, on discovering Rossi had been on primaries, admitted he was surprised his title rival from 2018 and ’19 had pulled off this particular tire strategy on this occasion.

“I’m surprised he was able to make that work on blacks, to be honest,” said the Penske ace. “In my opinion, it was clear we were going to go used reds. They just seemed significantly better this year than last year. Last year we used that strategy but the dropoff for the blacks was not as bad, whereas this year it seems a little bit worse.

“You know what? If you made that work, that’s pretty stout, the laptime he did on blacks. Really, really good. That’s an impressive pole, so you’ve got to give hats off to them. I felt like I did a good lap, it wasn’t perfect, maybe there was another tenth or two in there if I could have just put it together a little better and probably prepped the first lap. I went for it on my first lap because I didn’t know what the rain was going to do. Ultimately I’d have handled that differently.

“But the PPG car was fast, Team Chevy have done a great job for us. Just wish we had pole.”

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Road America IndyCar: Rossi wins first pole in three years
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