Just like his life, Indy 500 winner Rossi remains low-key in return to IMS

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How has Alexander Rossi’s life changed since winning May’s historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil?

He eats free sandwiches at Jimmy Johns. He got to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. And he attended the ESPY Awards as a Best Driver nominee.

Other than that, the Verizon IndyCar Series rookie for Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian still sounded as understated and ho-hum as they come during Monday’s return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a Firestone tire test.

Alexander Rossi“It’s a lot quieter and you’re not as worked up about everything, for sure, but yeah, the first lap was special,” he said of his first time on the 2.5-mile oval since his stunning May 29 triumph.

“I think it was more impactful when I drove into the track for the first time since the month of May, a couple of weeks ago for the Brickyard (as a spectator of the annual NASCAR race).”

The 24-year-old Californian redefines the “low” in low-key. He doesn’t need to shrug, although his reserved words sound like they should include the matter-of-fact body language. He works out each day, enjoys eating those free sandwiches and keeps striving to become a stronger contender in each race.

This is a driver who celebrated his Indy 500 win by taking his trainer to Jimmy Johns. It’s fair to suggest other drivers might party harder.

“Welcome to my life, bro,” he said.

Say this for Rossi, eating Jimmy Johns became part of the perks. He received a card from the company for 18 months of free sandwiches after mentioning the celebratory sandwich visit in a news conference the week following the race. 

“That’s kind of cool,” Rossi said.

He also uses that word “cool” to describe the other spoils awarded to the winner, including ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange on May 31.

“That was very cool,” he said. “That was great. I was a little bit disappointed it wasn’t an actual bell. It was a button. It’s a digital bell, which is kind of weird. It’s very interesting how everything is all digitized now.”

What else has been fun?

“The ESPYs were cool, too,” he said of the annual awards ceremony July 13 in Los Angeles.

NASCAR’s Kyle Busch won the award, though. Not cool.

“I would have understood if (Formula One’s) Lewis Hamilton won,” a smiling Rossi said, jokingly.

He acknowledges more fanfare for him at tracks since his win.

“That’s made my life busier,” he said. “But other than that, normal life hasn’t changed.”

Rossi recently said he’s received interest for 2017 from other Verizon IndyCar Series teams as well as from Formula One, where he had five starts in 2015. He didn’t say who was reaching out to him.

His Indy 500 victory aside, Rossi has had just three top-10 finishes in the other 11 races, the best run a sixth place at Iowa. That’s why he’s more consumed with trying to make the car better as opposed to basking in the spotlight of his lone series win.

“I need to win more races, man,” he said. “It’s unbelievable, it’s amazing, it’s given my career new life, for sure, but you’re only as good as your last race so we need to definitely work on improving things and winning more at all the other tracks.”

He acknowledges winning the Indianapolis 500 once makes him want to win it again. And in addition to those modest perks, swigging the milk gave him a heightened perspective about racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I have a whole new kind of outlook on the speedway,” he said, before going back to his favorite word. “That was very cool to come back here.”

Rossi and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series field return to action Aug. 20-21 for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Practice and qualifying take place Aug. 20, with the Verizon P1 Award battle for the pole position streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com at 1:30 p.m. ET and a delayed NBCSN qualifying telecast that evening at midnight ET. Live coverage of the 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” oval begins at 3 p.m. ET Aug. 21 on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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