Make your home page

Rossi cycles to the top of IndyCar free agent list. The former Indy 500 winner seeks strong landing

FILE -Alexander Rossi watches during a practice session for the IndyCar Indianapolis GP auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Indianapolis. Arrow McLaren Racing is making yet another change to its IndyCar lineup and will replace Alexander Rossi with Christian Lundgaard. Rossi spent last season and this with McLaren, while Lundgaard, of Denmark, has been with Rahal Letterman Lanigan. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

(AP) — Alexander Rossi won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie with Andretti Global, but when that relationship staled after seven seasons, he moved on to what he thought was a better IndyCar team.

And, technically, Arrow McLaren Racing does seem to rank third among the top teams in IndyCar right now. So it seemed like a pretty good two-year deal for the Formula 1 driver.

But at an impasse over negotiations on a new deal, Rossi and McLaren said earlier this week they’d split at the end of the season. The announcement came a little over a week after Rossi scored his first podium of the season and only second since joining McLaren in 2023.

Christian Lundgaard, the most sought-after IndyCar free agent on the market, will replace Rossi in 2025.

Now, as Rossi heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend ranked seventh in the championship standings but arguably the most consistent McLaren driver through the first eight races, he needs to find a new ride in an increasingly shrinking free agent market.

And even now that he’s quite likely the top available job candidate, Rossi must prove that there are seats still available that can keep him near the front of the field. He said there’s been no communication with Prema Racing, an Italian team that has announced its intent to field two cars on the grid next season, but that there are competitive seats still available.

Headed into Mid-Ohio, only drivers from Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing have won races this year. Rossi teammate Pato O’Ward was moved from second to the winner of the season-opening race when Penske driver Josef Newgarden was later disqualified.

“There’s two teams that are winning every week, right? All the other teams are in some ways knocking on the door, they have potential, they have good things, they have bad things,” Rossi told The Associated Press. “But in a lot of respects, they are all kind of on the same level. None of us (including McLaren) have actually taken the step to be at a Penske-slash-Ganassi level.

“So when you say what’s going to be good for Alex? They each have their skeletons in the closet. They each have their own thing they don’t know about. But then they have these glimpses of really positive things. Then you have a conversation,” Rossi continued. “You listen to what they are doing and what things they are putting into place, and you base your decisions on what you learn, right?”

Rossi is represented by his dad, Pieter, who believes a contract can be done by the end of the month. All American motorsports come to a two-week pause later this month because of the Paris Olympics.

Pieter Rossi said his son had no issues with his time at McLaren and is determined to finish the championship standings as the highest-ranked Chevrolet driver. Will Power of Penske at second and McLaren teammate Pato O’Ward at sixth are the only two Chevy drivers currently outranking Rossi, an oval specialist who closes his time with the team with six ovals in the final nine races.

“Alexander has been an incredible teammate, and we’re grateful for our two seasons we’ve been racing with him,” said Arrow McLaren team principal Gavin Ward. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without him. Ultimately we couldn’t meet in the middle on terms, but we absolutely wish him the best and will do all we can the second half of the season to get him in the top five in the championship.”

Rossi is in no way worried. The seats still available aren’t exactly the bottom of the barrel; Lundgaard’s seat at Rahal Letterman Lanigan needs to be filled, and anything can happen at Meyer Shank Racing, which could keep David Malukas or even expand to three team next year.

Rossi noted that much of the negotiating behind the scenes is constantly fluctuating because of ongoing talks between IndyCar and its teams over a NASCAR-style charter system. For example, a rule could be added that teams can only have three charters, and that could push Meyer Shank to grab one while he can and expand.

Ganassi runs an IndyCar-high five cars, while Penske for years has run three. Andretti this season downsized from four to three cars. McLaren has three cars and ran a fourth at the Indianapolis 500.

Rossi, who turns 33 in September, said he’s laughing at those who say ‘Alex is old. I’m not old,” and with the right future team he can prove it.

“I’m looking for a place that I go and fight and win races and get back to the place that I know I am capable of being at consistently.”