INDIANAPOLIS – Back in June and even the months after, if you thought Alexander Rossi was the wrong guy to win the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 due to what seemed like his lack of appreciation of the event, you weren’t alone. Heck I may have even been in your corner. Myself, many race fans and even other drivers questioned if Rossi fully understood just what he did on May 29. By him being a winner of the biggest race in likely the 100 race history of the event, he had to realize that this race, most notably his success in that race, shouldn’t be a stepping stone for a ride in Formula One.
Most thought he would use that new found fame and marketing ability and use it to find a seat on the grid in F1 for next season. Heck, he made it clear when he came back to the states at the end of last winter that F1 was where he’d like to eventually end back up in.
Not only did winning the Indy 500 change that mindset, it fueled his thirst to win this race even more. The California native isn’t ruling out an eventual return to F1, but he’s also not saying he wants to go back either. He’s now embraced the fact that he’s an Indy 500 champion, so much so, he doesn’t want anyone else to win it ever again.
“I didn’t fully understand what I was doing, the traditions, etc, but now that I’ve won the race and see what all happens, I want to win it again next year. I want to be the last one to win this race. I don’t want anyone else to win it again,” Rossi said today at the PRI Show when his car the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts Honda was dedicated to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
You can’t fault Rossi for his mindset though as he’s not like you and me when it comes for the passion for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500. Rossi is an American, but he moved to Europe as a teenager to pursue an F1 seat. Racing at IMS and even in the Indy 500 never even crossed his mind until this past February when it all came to a reality so fast. Even heading into the race that morning, winning it never even crossed his mind as something that realistically can happen. He said it’s not like he didn’t think he could win it, but he’s only been back in the United States for three months and had only one other oval start during his entire racing career, could he really win the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500?
Rossi says everyone was basically right in what they thought about him and his thoughts on the race originally. He says not to the extreme that he wasn’t a deserving champion or that he didn’t care that he won, but he said it’s not like he didn’t fully appreciate the race itself, he just didn’t know what to expect by the whole pomp and circumstance of it.
Rossi admitted though that his teammates were more nervous and tight the morning of the race and he being a rookie he wasn’t at all. He basically said he didn’t know what to expect. But, now that he’s done it, he said he is going to be as nervous as anyone before the 101st Running because he now knows what this race is all about.
He even admitted that until the week of the race where everything ramped up from picking your milk choice if you won to all the other parades and the build up, he truly didn’t understand the magnitude of this event. But, as the week went on cumulating with his historic race victory, it made him appreciate this race as much as if not more than anyone. In fact, now that he has won, he never wants to imagine himself not racing in it ever again.
So, if you asked him on May 1, May 29 and Dec. 8 if he would be, is and was a deserving champion of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, it you would get different answers each time. His love and affection of this race grew as the days lead up to and behind in his rear view mirror as Rossi is a deserving champion now.
He’s the American this series has been searching and the Indy 500 win may have kept him in this series for the long-term.