The series of weekly driver interviews continues this week with Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner. Rossi, who drives for Andretti Autosport, enters this year’s Indy 500 ranked second in the Verizon IndyCar Series point standings. I spoke with Rossi during a promotional tour Tuesday in Portland. (This interview was recorded as a podcast but is transcribed below for those who prefer to read.)
1. How often do you have dreams about racing?
Never, really. Unless it’s a bad day. And then I don’t think it’s dreams, it’s just not being able to sleep — because you’re constantly replaying what happened and what went wrong. But I never have the good dreams about racing.
2. If you get into someone during a race — intentional or not — does it matter if you apologize?
I don’t think so. The result is what it is. I think if it’s someone you have a good relationship with off-track, you’ll probably talk to them. But if you don’t, then no.
3. What is the biggest compliment someone could give you?
The biggest compliment someone could give me is probably that you’re a good racing driver but also a good person. As much as we define ourselves as race car drivers, outside of that we’re just normal people and human beings who are trying to do good things in the world.
4. IndyCar comes to you and says, “Hey, we are bringing a celebrity to the race and we’re wondering if you have time to say hi.” Who is a celebrity you’d be really excited to host?
You didn’t have to think about that for very long.
Nope. Deadpool. He’s pretty cool.
5. In an effort to show they are health-conscious, IndyCar offers the No. 1 pit stall selection for an upcoming race to the first driver willing to go vegan for a month. Would you do it?
I don’t know that it’s a big enough advantage to go vegan, so I would not do it. I like meat — I eat meat pretty much every day, so I don’t think I could give that up. Conor (Daly) would. Conor is a part-time vegan. So I think he’d probably be the first to go for that.
6. It’s time for the Random Race Challenge. I have picked a random race from your career and you have to guess where you finished. This is the 2015 Formula One Mexico Grand Prix. Do you remember where you ended up?
That is correct! Are you good at remembering races?
I’m pretty good at remembering races, yeah. That one I wasn’t as sure of as other ones, but obviously I had a pretty good idea.
What were those days in F1 like for you?
Awesome. I mean, that was my dream. That was what I had worked to do for 15 years. The fact I finally got the opportunity to be a Grand Prix driver — although it was only for five races — was pretty special. Regardless of the fact we didn’t have a competitive car to win races, that was a dream come true for me. I’ll definitely cherish those memories.
7. Who is the best rapper alive?
I have a lot of respect for Jay-Z, so we’ll go with him. Just him as a businessman in general. Beyond his rapping, just him as a brand is pretty amazing. It’s something I think a lot of people can aspire to be like him.
8. Who has the most punchable face in IndyCar?
Oh, do you want a list? (Smiles)
If you have one.
That’s a mean question. We’ll go with Charlie (Kimball).
Just because of his face, or do you actually want to punch him?
I don’t want to punch Charlie. He’s just got that look about him.
9. IndyCar enlists three famous Americans to be involved with your team for one race as part of a publicity push: Taylor Swift, LeBron James and Tom Hanks. Choose one to be your strategist, one to be your spotter and one to be your motorhome driver.
Well, I feel like Tom Hanks should be the spotter because he’d be the most analytical. Considering the relationship you have with (spotters), you’re kind of putting your life in their hands in a remote way.
Then LeBron is going to be a better strategist than Taylor Swift, and I also think it would be pretty cool to talk to him during a race. He’s the one you’re bouncing ideas off of, so that’d be great. He’s the king.
Then that leaves Taylor as a motorhome driver, which would mean my motorhome didn’t get anywhere, I don’t think. I wouldn’t imagine she’s that good at that — she might be! That might be very prejudiced and rude. She might be an excellent driver. But I feel like she doesn’t drive a lot of places — I feel like she gets driven. And hey, when you’re that level, you should (get driven).
10. What is the key to finding the best pre-race bathroom?
I don’t know there’s a key, but it’s definitely something we all scout out. And of all places for there not to be an abundance of bathrooms, it’s the Indy Motor Speedway — which I think is ridiculous.
There’s as much as a panic to get to the restroom before the national anthem for the 500 as there is a panic getting into Turn 1 on Lap 1 of the 500. Like it’s ridiculous. I don’t understand how they think it’s OK to have the highest-attended race in the world and have like four bathrooms. Boggles my mind.
11. Carl Edwards used to do backflips when he won a NASCAR race, and IndyCar decides it wants something similar. How much money would they have to pay you to backflip off your car after your next win?
Well, they would have to pay me a lot to break my neck. That would be a pretty high medical bill for them. So it would be a pretty astronomical number. (Laughs)
We also have a lot less height to start that from (than NASCAR cars). I don’t think anybody is going to be able to pull that off.
Yeah, you’d pretty much have to backflip…
…from the ground. Which none of us are doing.
12. Each week, I ask a question given to me from the last interview. Last week, I interviewed Erik Jones. He wanted to know if IndyCar is about how hard you guys can drive the car with all the downforce you have, or is it like it super finesse where you’re trying to get the car through the corners that way? (Editor’s note: The Erik Jones interview will run next week. The order was switched to get an Indy 500 winner as the 12 Questions leading into Indy 500 week.)
That’s a great question. It’s both. With the downforce on a high-speed corner, it’s more about who is willing to muscle it though the most. Even though there’s a lot of downforce, the car is sliding and moving around a lot. So it kind of rewards bravery and commitment.
But then the slower speed corners, because there’s a lot of downforce, it’s also drag. We don’t have a huge amount of horsepower for the amount of downforce/drag we create. So you’ve got to be pretty precise with it in order to get the power down quickly and extend your full throttle time.
It’s a tale of two worlds. I would say it’s more finesse required on a street circuit versus a short oval or a road course.
The next interview I’m doing is with a yet-to-be-determined NASCAR driver. Do you have a question I can ask him?
What is your opinion of Danica?
Oh man. I would love to know this.