What next for Rossi? (2024)

Alexander Rossi is facing the first significant crossroads in his North American racing career.

His return home from Europe and Formula 1 in 2016 to join Andretti Global produced his first NTT IndyCar Series victory, at the Indianapolis 500 of all places, and saw him vie for championships in 2018 where he placed second and again in 2019 with a run to third in the standings.

By the end of his time with Andretti in 2022, Rossi had garnered eight wins and seven pole positions, which drew the interest of Arrow McLaren, who signed the Californian to a two-year contract starting in 2023. With McLaren having signed Christian Lundgaard to replace Rossi next season after both sides were unable to agree on the terms of an extension, the 32-year-old doesn’t have his next destination in the sport lined up and ready to go.

And despite the lack of clarity of what his future in the sport will hold, including possible opportunities in other series, there’s no question as to where he wants to be.

“I’m an IndyCar driver,” Rossi told RACER. “I’m going to be an IndyCar driver, and we’re just trying to figure out the best situation to be said IndyCar driver, to go win races and try and get another 500 is where we’re at.”

In his second year with Arrow McLaren, Rossi has hit his stride and sits just 10 points behind recognized team leader Pato O’Ward in the championship. More impressively, Rossi’s been the team’s top performer in half — four out of eight — of the races held this year, which speaks to his rise in competitiveness.

Based on conversations with the team and Rossi’s manager prior to the June 5-7 Road America IndyCar race, there was a strong belief he’d be staying in the No. 7 alongside O’Ward, but within a matter of weeks, negotiations ceased and a deal was struck with Lundgaard.

So how did Rossi and Arrow McLaren go from being close to signing another contract earlier in the month to ending up on the road to a separation by the June 21-23 race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, where he finished on the podium?

“It’s a fair question,” he said. “Ultimately, the business side of this sport was the bigger lever in this round of negotiations. I don’t know that I have all the answers to why that is, and why that’s potentially different or not, but ultimately, we went along the path and down the road of trying to figure out an extension and what that looks like and how that works for all parties involved. We just got to the point where we weren’t really making progress, and that became clear going into Laguna, and then was official right after Laguna.

“So that’s the high-level answer. We just couldn’t get to terms on an agreement that worked for everyone. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all. It wasn’t a tumultuous back and forth. It wasn’t. There’s no angry people. We tried. It’s not going to work. Let’s finish the season off and the best possible way that we can, because it’s actually a pretty good year for all of us so far and that’s where we are now.”

With his interest in remaining in IndyCar, Rossi has a handful of options to explore with teams that currently rank lower than Arrow McLaren in the standings. A.J. Foyt Racing could have at least one vacancy to fill; Dale Coyne Racing could have openings along with Ed Carpenter Racing, Meyer Shank Racing, and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team Lundgaard is departing. There’s also the inbound PREMA Racing team and its two-car program that will debut in 2025. In each case, acquiring a driver of Rossi’s caliber and experience, plus his renowned technical prowess on the chassis and engine side, would have an instant effect on any of those programs.

Racing for one of IndyCar’s title-contending teams is not an option for Rossi next season, but he welcomes whatever comes next.

“I do think there are some very, very strong potentials out there,” he said. “It’s not a situation where I feel like I’m in a career-detriment position. I’m not going to go somewhere where I don’t feel like there is potential. And let’s be quite frank: I haven’t won a race with Arrow McLaren. I’m going to try before the end of the year, but it’s not like I’m going from having won four races in two years with this team to potentially going to a team where I haven’t won any races.

“There’s two teams in this championship (Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske), everyone knows that, and all the rest of us are just trying to do the best job that we can, to work and find a way to close that gap. And that’s what I’ve been doing. That’s what I was doing at Andretti. That’s what I’ve been doing at Arrow McLaren. This is a top-four team, without a doubt, and I’m not saying anything otherwise, but there’s really two teams in this championship that have controlled everything for quite some time.”

Rossi took his Arrow McLaren to the front at Laguna Seca en route to a third-place finish. Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images

Barring his rookie season, Rossi has finished inside the top 10 in the driver’s championship for the last seven years and is on pace to make it eight consecutive seasons. Teammate O’Ward enters this weekend’s race at Mid-Ohio in sixth, two points out of fifth, and Rossi’s seventh, 10 markers behind O’Ward. Rossi’s consistency with six finishes inside the top 10 from eight races in 2024 have fueled made the latest championship run a positive one, and he knows a strong finish to his tenure with Arrow McLaren can only help his chances of finding a good new team to join.

“The first thing is we have the potential to get two cars in the top five this year,” Rossi said. “I think that’s a very real possibility and that is a huge priority for us because that makes everyone look good. So I think that now that all of this (contract stuff) is behind us, there is no distraction about it, and we can be very in tune and focus on what we’re doing for the second half of the season.

“And then in the longer-term picture, I’m not concerned about what we have going on. There’s not a lot of stress going on other than trying to get results. Number one is, how do we go beat Ganassi and Penske in what is a part of the (oval heavy) calendar that is a strength of ours? We’re now through the hard parts for us, I believe, and we’re getting into the part of the year where we should really be able to capitalize.”

Writing Rossi’s next IndyCar chapter will start after the Sept. 15 season finale in Nashville. To get to wherever he’ll drive next, matters within the paddock — namely teams deciding whether to expand or contract as the series’ new charter system is being readied to implement — need to be settled before Rossi can develop a firm picture of where his best opportunities will be found.

“There’s a whole load of things happening behind the scenes with the series that will play a role in some of this,” he said of the charters. “There’s a whole lot of moving parts still, that isn’t just drivers available and empty seats, right? Like, I still think there’s a lot more that’s going to happen that’s potentially going to going to shake things up a little bit. So I don’t know that I’m necessarily in a position to demand a timeline, and I don’t know that I want to be in that position.

“Obviously you don’t want to get into mid-August where you still have things undecided, because things all move very quickly and sometimes at random at the end of the season, but I wouldn’t say that I need an answer by Monday, or I’m starting to get concerned. It’s a fluid situation. We’re just trying to understand all of that, as is everyone, and then from there, just make the best decision possible.”

What next for Rossi? (2024)

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