Racing for a championship

Rossi has a chance to win IndyCar Series title
By: Nick Pecoraro and Dave Lawicka
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SONOMA– Alexander Rossi is knocking on the door of greatness.

The 26-year-old Nevada City native, born in Auburn, has a chance to become the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Sunday if he can surpass four-time champion Scott Dixon at the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Entering the weekend, Rossi sat just 29 points behind Dixon, a 17-year veteran with 44 career wins to his name, and was considered one of the most consistent drivers all season.

Despite racing at what he calls a “hometown track” with added elements of commitment and media attention, Rossi says his preparation remains the same.

“It’s really no different,” he said. “We’ll prepare for it like every race all year long.”

The “we” Rossi refers to is his Andretti Autosport team of strategists and engineers as well as teammate and former IndyCar Champion, Ryan Hunter Reay, who was the 2012 champion as well as the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner.

“Having a previous champ, Ryan; his coaching and help has been a plus,” said Rossi. “I’ve relied on all the (team’s) experience in IndyCar racing.”

Rossi made a splash into the IndyCar circuit in 2016 after becoming the first rookie driver to win the Indianapolis 500 since 2001 – and the first American rookie to win in it since the Coolidge Administration – on the race’s 100th anniversary.

Rossi’s third year has been a breakout year racing for Andretti Autosport. From last year to this year, Rossi jumped from one win to three, five Top-5s to 10 this season and a significant jump in laps led from 99 to an astonishing 415 this season.

Rossi moved to Europe at age 17 after graduating early from Forest Lake Christian to chase Formula 1 aspirations. There, he made five starts for the Manor Marussia team in 2015 and became just the third American driver to race in Formula 1 in the last 25 years.

Sunday will be Rossi’s 50th career start in the Indy circuit. Whatever strategy the Andretti team might have entering Sunday, Rossi knows anything can happen.

“I’m in it to win it,” he said.

Live coverage of the championship race begins at 3:30 p.m. on NBCSN.