WATKINS GLEN, New York – Verizon IndyCar Series driver Alexander Rossi was immersed in the world of stock-car racing over the weekend at Watkins Glen International.
And while the Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian driver was pleased with the reception he received and what he learned as a spectator at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event, he’s even more appreciative of his opportunity as an INDYCAR competitor.
As a guest of NAPA Auto Parts – which sponsors Rossi in the Verizon IndyCar Series and Chase Elliott in NASCAR – Rossi attended Sunday’s I Love New York 355 at Watkins Glen. The Verizon IndyCar Series visits the popular permanent road course in upstate New York for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen the weekend of Sept. 1-3.
At the track Sunday, Rossi witnessed the Watkins Glen fan excitement in the campgrounds and midway before being introduced in the pre-race drivers’ meeting. He also conducted numerous media interviews, including on NASCAR’s radio network.
“Being at Watkins Glen – which is one of my favorite tracks – it was cool to see a different environment,” Rossi said. “It’s very good to see the common kind of respect, I thought, between the NASCAR organization and (INDYCAR). The excitement that I was there – which kind of surprised me a little bit – with the fans and the drivers was very cool to see and it just shows how racing is one big community.”
Rossi watched part of the race from Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports timing stand in pit lane, which gave the 25-year-old Californian a new perspective. It made him think back to when he won the 2016 Indianapolis 500 by squeezing every drop of fuel out of his No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda and coasted across the finish line.
“On the timing stand, we’re with Chase and there’s no telemetry, there’s no data being streamed back to the engineers,” Rossi said. “They’re kind of just looking at the lap times and being as much of a spectator as really anyone else. The big thing that they’re calculating, from my understanding, is kind of a strategy and the fuel loads they have and the mileage they think they’re getting based on the lap time that they’re doing and such.
“It’s a little bit more rudimentary – they’re weighing the fuel instead of actually having (within) a 0.1 gallon (measurement reading) of what’s in the car, which would have made a pretty big difference from my 2016 (Indy win). It’s different, but there’s pros and cons to everything.”
Elliott, the son of former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott in his second full Cup season, finished Sunday’s race in 13th place. The visit to Watkins Glen further reinforced for Rossi how Indy cars are made for the circuit. The two series do not run the same layout, with the Verizon IndyCar Series using the “Boot” section that adds nearly a mile in track length to 3.37 miles.
“It’s a really different experience. It’s a different racetrack and Indy cars are unbelievably faster (than stock cars) on Watkins Glen,” said Rossi, whose Andretti Autosport team is among a handful that will conduct a private test Thursday at the track.
“It’s Indy cars in a place where they’re really meant to shine. For the drivers, we love coming here and I think the teams do as well. That reflects in terms of the show that we put on and I think the fans see that.”
In addition to the excitement surrounding the NASCAR race Sunday, Rossi said he could sense the anticipation for when the Verizon IndyCar Series returns in four weeks to stage the penultimate race of the intensely competitive 2017 season.
“I think everyone’s really excited about INDYCAR, which is wonderful to hear about and to see,” he said. “We know that Watkins Glen can bring a good crowd and hopefully we can continue to grow that and keep putting on an amazing show for them year after year.”
Race weekend and ticket information is available at theglen.com. The race on Sept. 3 airs live at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.