Two-stop pit strategy gamble pays off for Alexander Rossi at Mid-Ohio

Alexander Rossi makes the most of a two-stop race strategy to win from the pole in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday.

Rossi headed into his final stint with a sizeable lead due to this pit strategy, besting the three-stop approach made by other teams. With the race surprisingly going without a yellow flag, despite several red flags across practice and qualifying sessions, Rossi coasted to the checkered flag on fuel mileage ahead of rival Robert Wickens.

After having suffered a series of unfortunate incidents in recent weeks, Rossi is now back in a position to fight for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.

“It’s what we needed, man,” Rossi said in victory lane. “We said coming into this weekend that we have to execute for five weekends in a row. This is the start of that, hopefully.”

In taking a shot at a completely different race strategy from the rest of the leaders, there was a major possibility of it all going wrong for the #27 Andretti Autosport Honda. However, Rossi had faith in his team and the strategy they laid out for him.

“We knew we could two-stop if we committed early, and that’s what we did,” he said, before alluding to how much fuel remained in the tank after his botched victory celebration. “Enough to do a half donut, get to half centre, stall, restart, and make my way back to pit lane. Never a dull moment.”

The gamble played out less favourably for Robert Wickens. While the #6 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda had the pace to fight for the win, being trapped in traffic spelled the end of Wickens’ victory hopes as he continues to hunt that elusive first IndyCar win.

“On my third stint I got stuck in a whole gaggle of cars,” he explained. “I just lost loads of time. I was probably losing a second a lap for a good 10-15 laps. It’s unfortunate, I think our three stops could have worked. It would have been racy, last couple laps I would have caught him.”

“Nevertheless, P5 to P2, hard to complain.”

Sebastien Bourdais stole the show away from the podium finishers, finding grip where there was none as he fought his way up the field. Starting P24 after running off in qualifying, Bourdais dominated the field without equal to finish the race P6. Amid frustrating times, the performance proves that the four-time Champ Car champion has a lot of fight left in him.

The championship battle was shaken up considerably by the event, with Will Power rounding out the podium ahead of teammate Josef Newgarden. Scott Dixon followed behind them, diminishing his points lead and leaving him within reach of the field.

For Rossi, this proves that he can continue to fight through to the end of the season. Rossi maintains that while the championship is on the team’s mind, it’s not their current focus.

“We’re thinking about it,” he admits, “we’re just also focused on race wins.”