Alexander Rossi and Andretti Autosport have spent this offseason focusing their efforts towards improving their short oval pace, which was their weak point last year.
This year the NTT IndyCar Series is adding an additional short oval to the calendar, with Pocono Raceway having been replaced by Richmond Raceway, a circuit that IndyCar has not raced at since 2009.
Last season Rossi struggled to get a good handle on both short ovals, Iowa Speedway and the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and fears that the addition of a third short track could further derail his attempts at a championship if improvements are not made.
“I am worried about Richmond, for sure,” said Rossi.
“I think short ovals are by far our biggest weakness. I think in 2018 we were very good at street courses, OK at road courses, good at superspeedways, and bad at short ovals.
“In 2019, we were good at everything except short ovals.
“[This year’s] test plan is focused around short ovals. Our off-track development has been focused around short ovals.
“The important thing is to improve those but not lose sight of the things you’re good at. You don’t get anywhere if you get good at three short ovals but then you’re garbage everywhere else.”
The 28-year-old Californian driver started his career working towards a Formula 1 drive. He competed in Formula Renault 3.5, then spent three years in GP2 before getting five Formula 1 race starts at the end 2015 for Manor Marussia.
For 2016, Rossi made the move to IndyCar with Andretti Autosport, impressively winning the Indianapolis 500 in his debut at the legendary race.
He has continued to improve his consistency since then, with 2019 seeing him finish third in the points with two wins and seven podiums from the 17-race schedule.
Rossi acknowledges that he and his team are improving, but still wants more and has no doubt that his motivation is a key factor to getting a championship win.
“The motivation is there until I can win every single race, which will never happen. I will never be short on motivation.
“That’s what gets me out of bed each day is knowing that there’s people trying harder, pushing harder, training harder to try to beat me.
“I want to beat them more than they want to beat me.
“These things are hard to win. Races are hard to win. Podiums are hard to get. Poles are hard to get. Top-5’s are hard to get. So championships are very, very challenging.
“We’ve got all the right tools going into this year, so we’ll just start again and hopefully be in a better position going into the season finale, which I think ultimately will make the difference.”
Rossi will have to wait until the 11th round of the season to find out if the offseason focus has helped him get a better handle on the short circuits. IndyCar visits Richmond on June 27 for a Saturday night race on the 3/4-mile oval.