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IndyCar Newcomer Rossi Learns The Ropes

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AVONDALE, Ariz. – Alexander Rossi is not one of the drivers on the track at Phoenix Int’l Raceway for IndyCar’s “Test in the West,” but the young American driver who previously raced for Manor in Formula One is learning the art of oval racing from the sidelines.
“I’m very excited to be here and have the opportunity to participate especially with a team with so much pedigree as Andretti Autosport,” said the 24-year-old Rossi from Auburn, Calif. “I’m looking forward to getting in the car for the first time. I’m here in an observatory role. I’ve never been to an oval before, never driven an oval and have never driven an IndyCar. I’m trying to learn as much as I can and the people and how they operate. It’s a little bit different than what I’m used to.
“It’s good to have an idea before I get into the race car for the first time.”
Rossi’s Honda is a joint effort with team owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta after the two race teams merged earlier in the month. Tom German is the engineer. He previously worked with Sam Hornish, Jr. during his glory days in IndyCar at Team Penske.
Rossi joined Herta and German at the spotters stand high atop Turns 1 and 2 on Friday to see the various lines that can be used around the 1.022-mile short oval.
“It’s building day by day,” Rossi said. “We are still understanding each other and how communicate. It was a very interesting perspective to be up top and to see the different approaches you can take in the corner. From watching on video or on pit lane it all looks very similar but when you get up high it’s a very different perspective to understand the different ways you can approach the corners.”
This is actually Rossi’s first live experience at an oval track.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s a whole new experience and a new journey. I don’t really know what to expect so I’m going into it with a completely open mind and I’m going to rely on the experience I have around me with Bryan and Michael but my three teammates as well (Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz). They have a lot of time on ovals and have been very successful. I have a good platform and a lot of very smart people to rely upon to come out of the box in a strong position.”
Rossi is part of a rookie contingent that includes Conor Daly of the United States and Max Chilton of England.
“Being a part of that group is great for the series and for American Open Wheel racing in general to see young drivers from the United States come in and push and they are the future of this sport,” Rossi said. “To be part of that group and prove ourselves in the series at this time with the depth and experience that is already here is a great thing.
“I have a lot of respect for Max and Connor as well. I think it will be a good fight for all of us. I think Max has shown he has adapted quickly and hopefully we can follow suit.”
Rossi especially enjoyed watching Friday night’s test session at night under the lights and how the drivers used race simulation for the Phoenix Grand Prix on April 2.
Rossi believes he will quickly adapt to the IndyCar including the foreign racing of ovals. The Phoenix race will be his first contest on an oval.
Rossi will test at Sebring Int’l Raceway next week on the famed airport road course that is the sight of the 12 Hours of Sebring Sports Car race.
“That will be about fine-tuning the car and establishing a baseline for St. Petersburg,” Rossi said of the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13.
“I’m really looking forward to Long Beach in April because I have never raced in California, which is where I’m from,” Rossi said. “I also love Road America. It’s one of the classics and I’m glad IndyCar is returning there this year.”

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