Indy 500 win keeps Rossi busy en route to Belle Isle

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit — Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi woke up Thursday morning with a good night’s sleep … finally.

Rossi, a 24-year-old American rookie, won the 100th running of the Indy 500 Sunday by coasting past the finish line, showing his ability to go the final 90 miles after his final pit stop while his competitors had to go get more fuel.

Then, it was off to New York City for Rossi to help open the Stock Exchange Tuesday morning before heading to Texas to promote the Firestone 600 IndyCar race which will be run June 11.

“I can’t even remember all the things I’ve done, went to 20 places (in New York City), then we went to Texas and came here last night,” said Rossi, who attended the IndyCar luncheon Thursday afternoon at the Rattlesnake Club. “The New York Stock Exchange, that was very cool, the highlight of the trip for sure.”

When asked if he was on any late night TV shows, he replied, “No, that will probably be next week. It’s a whole year commitment I think at this point.”

Rossi had yet to step on the Belle Isle course.

“I have not yet, but I plan on walking around this afternoon and watch some video and sit down with everybody,” Rossi said. “I haven’t had any time to prepare since Indy. Things will be fine. For me, I’ve been learning new tracks all year so it’s nothing new that I haven’t experienced. I’m just hoping we’re able to carry forward the pace we had in the Indy GP because we had been struggling up to that point so I’m really hoping that what we found there translates.

“It’s big pressure for us tomorrow (practice, qualifying). I mean, a lot of eyes are now on us so we need to make sure we can deliver.”

As big as the Indy 500 win was for Rossi, making a name for himself as well as the purse of more than $2.5 million, he said it was just as important to finish 10th in the Indianapolis Grand Prix earlier in the month to get some confidence on road/street courses.

Rossi had 66-to-1 odds to win the Indy 500. His dream since a little boy was to compete in Formula One, reaching his dream last year with the low-budget Manor Marussia with a season’s best 12th in the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. He joined the No. 98 Honda IndyCar team when Bryan Herta merged with Andretti Autosport.

Roger Penske had been impressed with Rossi all month at Indy, but felt a more experienced Andretti driver like former Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay would come out on top.

“I watched him during the month of May and he was quick at Indianapolis and with a good car and a good team with Andretti, obviously he was one that you look at from the standpoint as a winner, but I think with Hunter-Reay and some of the other ones that had the experience, you might think they may have been in a better position,” Penske said. “The strategy that was deployed there to run, and he ran out of fuel on the last lap going into Turn 1, was terrific.”

So, does Penske think Rossi will remain in IndyCar or head back to F1?

“I think that’s completely up to Andretti,” Penske said. “They ran that car with good sponsorship, certainly with NAPA, a great company. I think he (Rossi) has to make a decision. He knows in order to get in a best car in a Formula One, that’s pretty tough. Right now he’s with a team that can put him in the Winner’s Circle. I guess that’s the decision he has to make.”

Hometown team set to compete in Trans Am

The Robinson Racing Team based out of Milford will be running on Belle Isle when the series makes it first appearance on the island in 15 years.

Gar Robinson, 21, will be among the frontrunners after winning at Sebring and finishing third at Watkins Glen to take the points lead in the TA2 Class.

“This is my first Trans Am race on Belle Isle and I’m excited to get going,” said Robinson, who moved from Texas to Michigan a few years ago.

Robinson won at Mid-Ohio, Nola Motorsports Park and Daytona International Speedway last year to become the youngest driver to win a TA2 championship.

Robinson said he hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps in future years. His father and team owner George Robinson competed in 46 Trans Am races from 1988 to 1994 while also running in IMSA (International Motor Sports Association), Grand-Am and ALMS (American Le Mans Series).

“A big goal of mine is winning the 24 Hours of Daytona,” Robinson said. “My dad did it so it always was a race I wanted to do. It’s like being an Andretti and watching him go to the (Indy) 500.

“His Trans Am team we’ve actually had for 25 years. It’s gone from his Prototype team and then came back for me. It’s the same team, same guys. He’s the car owner and he’ll be here too.”

Robinson will be driving the No. 74 Chevrolet Camaro.

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