What does one do after winning his second Verizon IndyCar Series race on the historic and iconic Watkins Glen International road course? If you’re Alexander Rossi, you visit and become enthralled with another form of professional motorsports that you’ve never seen before.
On Monday, the day after he won the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen in upstate New York, Rossi was in suburban Indianapolis to attend the finals at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals – a highlight event on the NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series calendar. Rossi was the guest of 2016 Funny Car champion Ron Capps as a return favor for when Capps visited his fellow NAPA Auto Parts-sponsored driver in April at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Rossi had never attended a drag race before, other than when locals would race on Sonoma Raceway’s dragstrip near his hometown of Nevada City, California. The Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian driver admitted to sensory overload when standing at the starting line of the quarter-mile strip.
“It gets all your senses going, which is kind of weird. You don’t see that in a lot of other forms of motorsports. You get the sounds and the smell a little bit (in other forms of racing), but in this you have the ground shaking and your emotions.
“It’s like your soul is being disturbed. It’s pretty great.”
Rossi admitted to being a bit bleary-eyed following his early morning return from Watkins Glen. In addition to Sunday's post-race media requirements following his first Verizon IndyCar Series win since the 2016 Indianapolis 500, Rossi made the traditional visit to Seneca Lodge in Watkins Glen to hang his victory wreath along with the likes of Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and others from when Formula One raced on the circuit from 1960-80.
.@AlexanderRossi keeps the tradition alive and hangs the wreath at Seneca Lodge. Well done. #INDYCARGP @IndyCar @FollowAndretti #INDYCAR pic.twitter.com/bnxxnb0zWG
“It’s coming off a big stretch where we had three (races) in a row,” Rossi said. “We had Pocono, Gateway and Watkins Glen so by the end of it, everyone was pretty worn out. But obviously when you get a race win, all the adrenalin is pumping and the energy and positivity is there. I think the whole team’s pretty stoked right now.”
The 25-year-old Californian was thoroughly impressed as he surveyed the scene around Capps’ Don Schumacher Racing entry. Capps finished runner-up but goes into the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship as the leader in the Funny Car standings. Rossi said Capps has rapidly become one of his “motorsports heroes,” for the sheer power involved in the sport.
“I got my head around the initial acceleration, but I didn’t then understand how, once the clutch stops slipping, I guess, they continue to accelerate even more,” Rossi said. “That part was the most impressive to me. The whole thing is a very visceral and raw experience.”
But was it enough of an adrenalin rush to make Rossi want to jump in and try it? Probably not.
“I don’t think so,” he admitted. “I love watching it; I don’t really want to get in.
“If I’m nervous and stressed out standing there (watching), how do you think that’s going to translate if I’m sitting in it?”
Rossi has the opportunity to get back to the comfort of his No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale on Sept. 17. Live coverage airs at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Tickets are available at sonomaraceway.com.