One important win changed his life, but Alexander Rossi’s goal is to make sure that race doesn’t define his career.
The fact that he won May’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil paved the way for Rossi to return to Andretti-Herta Autosport and drive the No. 98 Honda in 2017.
But Rossi reiterated in a media teleconference that his mission is to make something lasting out of that memorable Indy 500 accomplishment. It’s not enough to be the 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year for both the Indianapolis 500 and Verizon IndyCar Series. Whereas the 25-year-old Californian once aspired to succeed in Formula One, he’s now set his mind to becoming an IndyCar champion.
While expressing gratitude for the opportunity to continue, he didn’t hide his displeasure about most of his 2016 results in finishing 11th in the points.
“We didn’t win nearly enough this year,” Rossi said. “That’s obviously the goal for everyone, but it’s been a long time since, well, I’ve never finished outside the top 10 in a championship before. It’s something I’m not very happy about and it’s something we don’t want to have happen next year. There’s a huge amount of motivation for everyone to be way more competitive than we were and being in the front.”
Unlike this season when he signed with Andretti-Herta less than three weeks before the season opener, he’ll have an offseason to plan for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season. His one-year contract also has a multiple-year option, which means he’s thinking beyond next season.
Andretti Autosport struggled as a team away from ovals. Rossi’s best run outside of the Indianapolis 500 came in the season finale, when he finished fifth in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Beyond that, his best results were sixth at Iowa Speedway and eighth at Watkins Glen International.
Make no mistake, Rossi considers that unacceptable.
“You wake up every day with the desire to win,” he said. “You don’t go to the racetrack to finish third.”
“While the Indianapolis 500 is obviously the race that you want to win the most, I’d say, there’s still the fact that there’s an entire other championship where you set out in January or October or whenever, you know what you’re going to do for that year with the goal of winning the championship,” he added.