When it came down to it, Alexander Rossi was happiest in his current surroundings.
The surprise winner of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will return in 2017 as driver of the No. 98 Andretti-Herta Autosport Honda in an agreement announced today by the team.
Rossi also earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for both the Indy 500 and the entire 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, which included six top-10 finishes. The 25-year-old Californian joined the team less than three weeks before the season opener in March, when team owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta merged their separate efforts to form Andretti-Herta Autosport and field Rossi.
“What an incredible eight months this has been,” said Rossi, who finished 11th in the final standings, “from getting the opportunity to join the Verizon IndyCar Series in February, to winning the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in May and now re-signing with Andretti Autosport.
“I am incredibly proud and grateful to be able to have the opportunity to work with a team of this caliber as we chase after more race wins and continue to make our mark in this amazing championship. I want to thank Michael, JF (Thormann, Andretti Autosport executive vice president and COO), Bryan and Honda for the faith and trust they have in me to put the Andretti name at the front. We have a lot of work ahead of us and we are already completely focused on being back at the sharp end of the grid where we belong.”
Rossi moved to Europe at the age of 16 to further his open-wheel racing career, eventually driving in five Formula One races in 2015 for Manor Marussia. In just his sixth Verizon IndyCar Series race, he completed the final 36 laps of the Indianapolis 500 on a single tank of ethanol, literally coasting across the finish line to win the historic 100th running after running out of fuel on the last lap.
“Alexander showed tremendous growth this year and we are excited to welcome him back to the team,” said team owner Michael Andretti. “In his first INDYCAR season, Alexander was able to form trusting relationships with the team’s engineers, mechanics and his teammates and that itself is a great foundation to begin 2017. We also know he is competitive and can win races.”
The Andretti-Herta alliance that began this season was confirmed to continue for 2017 on Friday. Andretti Autosport previously announced it has also re-signed drivers Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay for next season.
“Continuity plays a big role in the success of our programs and being able to confirm that Alexander is remaining with the team is incredible,” Michael Andretti added. “His extension, along with Ryan and Marco’s continuance, is a promising factor for not only the team, but the series as well.”
Rossi’s Indianapolis 500 victory was the second for car owner Herta, who also fielded winner Dan Wheldon in the 2011 “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Herta also stressed the importance of continuity in Rossi’s return.
“Last season showed great progress and I could not be more excited about our prospects moving forward,” Herta said. “Last season we were late in the game putting our deal together. This winter we are focused on the season ahead, the continuation of our successful partnership with Andretti Autosport and seeing Alexander become a consistent winner in the Verizon IndyCar series.”
Rossi will be the guest on a Facebook Live chat beginning at approximately 2:15 p.m. ET today. Join it at facebook.com/AndrettiAutosport.