Q&A: Grand Prix of Long Beach Winner Alexander Rossi Talks Karting
IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi put on a dominant performance on Sunday when he won the 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach from pole position. Despite a late challenge from Team Penske’s Will Power, the Andretti Autosport driver kept the bit between his teeth to bring home win number three in his young IndyCar career (the other wins being Watkins Glen in 2017 and winning the 100th Indy 500 in 2016). As a result, Rossi is currently leading the Verizon IndyCar Series championship by 22 points over defending champion, Josef Newgarden.
We had the opportunity to talk with Alexander leading up to the grand prix weekend to talk some karting, cars, and racing heroes. What follows is a transcript of that interview:
K1 Speed: When was the first time you drove a go-kart?
Alexander Rossi: It was in Las Vegas, it was a three-day karting school/experience, supposed to be a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity, and guess it turned into a little more than that.
K1S: Do you remember your first karting race and how you did?
AR: Yeah, I do. It was an arrive and drive event at Sears Point Raceway at the time (now Sonoma Raceway). I was eleven years old, qualified on pole and finished second.
K1S: Wow, pretty much a natural right away then?
AR: Well, I don’t know how much competition there was, but I did kind of, I guess.
K1S: What were your biggest go-kart racing accomplishments?
AR: The biggest karting accomplishment would’ve been winning the Grand Nationals…where was it that year… it’s a track that doesn’t exist anymore out in Buttonwillow, or Bakersfield… an awesome race track…
K1S: Wasn’t Moran Raceway, was it…?
AR: Yeah, it was! That’s it. Thank you! So, I raced in three classes, finished first in one, and second in the other two. So, I had a good weekend.
K1S: Do you still race karts today as a hobby or for training?
AR: Absolutely not. I did the SuperNats at the end of ’16 and it wasn’t a good experience. I did two classes – I did KZ and S1, and I mean, the guys doing it out there are pros, so it was pretty hard to get into the top ten. So, I will know where my talents end and that’s probably in IndyCars.
K1S: What lessons from karting have you been able to apply to this day?
AR: Two big things I think – first of all driving in the rain. I think you learn a lot about that and getting comfortable with that in a go-kart. And then just race craft, right? I mean, for sure it’s the driving technique and style is different when you get into a racecar, but knowing how to race someone, and how to pass, and just thinking of a whole race as an event so just trying to do the fastest laps possible – you learn all of that in karting. So, it’s a crucial step for people to be successful in motorsports.
K1S: What advice would you give to drivers who may have just had their first racing experience at K1 Speed and want to pursue the sport further?
AR: Well, first of all I think K1 Speed’s a great option, because I remember the days of indoor (gas-powered) go-karting where you’d go, and you would reek, and you would hate being in there. You’d smell of fumes and fuel and that was my indoor karting experience. It was necessary to be able to have (indoor karting) in conjunction with karting in the outside. So, I love that K1 Speed has just as fast if not faster (electric) go-karts without any of that. But it’s an amazing thing, and for anybody who’s looking into that, it’s a great benchmark for a starting point. I still love going just for fun.
K1S: What’s your favorite track to race at?
AR: Ah, favorite track, um… and where? Anywhere?
K1S: Well, yeah, just in general, race tracks that you’d have the chance to drive on.
AR: Well, my favorite track in the world is probably Silverstone in England. I love Watkins Glen. I obviously love IMS (Indianapolis Motor Speedway), I love Long Beach. I mean, there a few. But I would say my favorite of all time is Silverstone.
K1S: What car/truck/SUV is your daily driver?
AR: Honda Pilot
K1S: What’s your favorite vehicle in your garage?
AR: My Honda Pilot. Well, probably the NSX, when I actually finally get it.
K1S: Not yet, huh?
AR: Been waiting a while, but yeah, it’ll be in the garage at some point.
K1S: Did you have any racing heroes growing up that inspired you?
AR: I guess my one racing guy was Mika Hakkinen. You kind of always want to go for the underdog, and he was the one guy at the time who was able to compete with Michael (Schumacher) and Ferrari, so he was my hero.
Did you enjoy this interview? Check out our interview with Graham Rahal by clicking HERE. What driver would you like to see interviewed next? Let us know in the comment section below!