The Andretti Autosport-Honda driver started from his first pole position in three years, and led the opening stint, surviving three early restarts. But he could never pull away from fellow front-row starter and eventual winner Newgarden in the Team Penske-Chevrolet, and they entered the pits on Lap 15 with the two-time champion just two car lengths behind.
After the crew had changed tires and refueled the #27 car, Rossi’s strategist Brian Barnhart had to delay his ‘go’ call, due to Scott McLaughlin bringing his Penske into its pitbox directly ahead of Rossi’s. This cost him 1.8sec, and allowed Newgarden to emerge from pitlane in front, an advantage he extended by 0.5sec with a very strong out-lap.
“Brian was telling me to wait,” said Rossi. “There’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just an unfortunate sequence that happens. I think it certainly cost us the lead there.
“That being said, I do think Josef had a really strong car today so I don’t know necessarily that we would have been able to beat him. Maybe. I don’t know.
“But it’s neither here nor there. That’s just part of the way it works. Ultimately it’s good to avoid contact and lose a little bit of time.”
Next time by, Rossi had also to find a way past teammate Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson, and by now he was 3.8sec in arrears of his 2018 and ’19 title rival Newgarden. By Lap 22, Newgarden’s advantage was 7.5sec, and although Rossi pegged that back to 5.5 before the second round of stops, the gap never dipped below four seconds, and was back to over 5sec before their third and final stops on Lap 42.
“I think through the subsequent three stints we were catching him,” said Rossi. “The last stint we were coming pretty hard at him. But it was going to be really hard to pass him, I think… I don’t want to take anything away from the pace and performance that he had all day. We were a little bit off on the balance to start, and it took us a little bit to get it back in the window. Then the pace was good.”
Rossi had shaved his deficit to Newgarden down to 2.8sec in the final stint when the penultimate yellows flew and bunched up the field. On both these late restarts, Rossi lost time to the leader by the time they exited the final corner for the long uphill drag to the start-finish line, and on the final one, Ericsson was close enough to pounce and grab second into Turn 1.
“[Newgarden] went pretty early on the first one. I went with him on the second and actually got too close. He executed well. It was my mistake which allowed Marcus to get by. You’ve got to try in those situations to go for the win.”
Source : Motorsport.com