I can’t believe it. Alexander Rossi in Wilsonville. I am there. The doors are to open at 6:00. I was there at 5:30. I expected a mass of people, after all, it is Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi! There was only one other person there. At 6:00, the doors opened and by then, there were a lot more people. I bought my ticket and entered paradise. The marque display was Porsche 911 cars.
The Porsche 911 is a beautiful car. In race form, with wide wheels and tires, with it’s aerodynamic body work and flared fenders and wings it’s gorgeous. The 57 racer that was driven by Portland’s, Monte Shelton was there.
I met Ron Huehli, the curator of the museum. In 2017, Ron drove the number 26, a 1966 Lola at the vintage race at the speedway. The Lola was originally raced by Roger Ward, who came in 18th in the 500, in 1966. Mr. Huegli was kind enough to show me around the facilities. We went through the area designated for restoration, the shop area where auto repair classes are held and storage for cars not on display. In that area was stored Rolla Vollstedt’s first Indy car he built. The Offy powered car rain in the 1965 Indy 500. It was driven by a northwest driver, Billy Foster of Canada.
Enter Alexander Rossi. He said that he was glad to be there. He would be starting in 32nd positions in this years 500, not 3rd like last year. Would be challenge. He seemed positive that he could work his way up through the field.
Now question and answer time:
What is the difference between Formula 1 and Indy cars?
“Formula 1 is more robotic. As a driver you have to optimize the package that you have. Where you have no adjustments to the car. In Indy cars, you can adjust spring rate, roll center and dampeners, all within the rules The Indy cars are more of a driver’s car and how much the driver wants to win.”
Do you prefer to hand out with Formula 1 drivers or Indy car drivers?
“Indy car drivers. Indy car drivers are real people.”
Have you seen the PIR track yet?
“No, not yet.” “We are concentrating on the 500.” We are excited to come back to Portland.”
What is the difference your own car and an Indy car?
“My Honda Pilot goes from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds.” “It’s a different environment. In the Indy car, you are in the zone, concentrating.” In the Pilot, it’s about comfort.”
Any speeding tickets?
What’s a normal day?
“Wake up. Go work out. Go to the Honda Development Center. Work on the racing simulator and practice on the different tracks. Or, go do whatever my manager has arranged for me, like a cooking show, in my own kitchen.”
What other forms of motorsports would you like to drive?
“I am very fortunate to be able to drive Indy cars, here I’ll stay.”
Having raced Formula 1, today, would you rather race at the Grand Prix of Monaco or the Indy 500?
“I would, 100 percent be at the Indianapolis 500. There is nothing better than the Indy 500.”
What was the first car you drove when you got your driver’s license?
“I might get in trouble for answering that but, it was a Chevy Silverado. The team I drive for, Andretti Motorsports, that car is powered by Honda. Some competitors have cars powered by Chevrolet. Now, we are a Honda Family.”
After winning the 2016 500, coasting across the start-finish line, coming to a stop, you sat in the car for a long time?
“I got to hear the crowd as I coasted around turn 4. Getting a chance to listen to the crowd cheering was very very special.”
There were other questions but, I thought these were an example of some of the good questions. Now, off to the “meet and greet.” There are over 200 people there. Among them was Tony Wilson, Founder of Wilson’s NAPA, with about 20 stores throughout the Wilsonville Valley and the Columbia Gorge. Also, my former boss for 18 years. After I got Alexander’s autograph, I asked him a question about what happened on the second qualifying attempt?
“I had a low line and it took all I could do to keep the car on the track.”
On Sunday I watched the greatest spectacle in racing, watching Alexander move up through the field. Driving smoothly, he was passing cars on the outside, dodging wrecks, and working his way into the top 10. At one time he was leading the race, then he finished in fourth. Great job of driving especially since he started 32nd.
I’m looking forward to watching him race at Portland International Raceway in the September Grand Prix of Portland.