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Alexander Rossi powers through the carousel turn enroute to winning the 2018 Honda 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Rossi will try to defend his title on Sunday.

LEXINGTON -- Alexander Rossi would love to see a repeat of last year's performance in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio -- even including the ill-fated, post-race celebration.

The 27-year-old California native drove a flawless weekend in 2018, capturing the pole and then using a two-pit strategy to dominate the NTT IndyCar Series field on the 2.258-mile permanent road course.

The series returns to north central Ohio this weekend for the 13th race of the 17-race series. Drivers and teams practice on Friday with qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.

After leading 66 of 90 laps and topping second-place finisher Robert Wickens by a remarkable 12 seconds last year, Rossi made his only mistake of the weekend behind the wheel.

Podium

2018 Honda Indy 200 winner Alexander Rossi is flanked by runner-up Robert Wickens and third-place finisher Will Power at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

While trying a celebratory doughnut in his No. 27 Andretti Motorsports Honda, Ross spun into the grass and stalled.

During a phone interview Monday, Rossi laughed and said he would do nothing differently if he captures the checkered flag Sunday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

"No, I will probably do a half-doughnut again," he said.

CHASING THE TITLE: Rossi, who in 2016 became the first American rookie since 1928  to win the Indy 500, returns to Mid-Ohio in a familiar position -- second in the Indy Car Series points chase.

With two wins and seven top-three finishes this season, Rossi has 458 points, trailing only fellow American Josef Newgarden, 28, who leads with 487, including a win this past weekend on the Iowa 300 oval.

Newgarden won the race at Mid-Ohio in 2017, slipping to fourth last year.

Rossi, who finished second in points last year to veteran New Zealand racer Scott Dixon, said he believes this year is shaping up differently.

"The key for us is we have gotten through our weakest tracks already," he said. "All of the remaining tracks we have been historically strong at. It's important we capitalize on that."

rossi spray

Alexander Rossi, 27, is a seven-time winner on the NTT Indy Car Series circuit. He will be back in north central Ohio this weekend to defend his 2018 Honda 200 win at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

One thing he doesn't know yet is if the two-stop strategy is something his team can employ again this year on the 13-turn course. The 90-lap race actually covers 203.22 miles.

"It depends on the Firestone tire," he said. "We considered it last year because the red (tire) held up very well. That hasn't been the trend so far this year, so we will have to wait and see if it's an option (Sunday)."

As always at Mid-Ohio, qualifying on Saturday will be key.

"Qualifying is always important," Rossi said. "There are only one or two racetracks where qualifying isn't really essential. On any permanent road course, qualifying is important.

"(Mid-Ohio) is a track where we have a lot of confidence. It's important that we go through the process and do what we need to do to start up front," he said.

Rossi, who battled equipment problems to come back and finish second in May at the Indy 500, said he loves coming to Mid-Ohio, a track that sits on a wooded and hilly 330-acre site.

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"We love coming to Mid-Ohio. It's always a pleasure to go there. First, it's a beautiful racetrack. It's really a high-speed track with a lot of blind crests that you have to commit to on entry," Rossi said.

"There is always a great fan turn-out. It's close enough to Indianapolis that the fans are super knowledgeable and aware of what's going on (in the series)," he said.

rossi pit

"You could have the best drive of your life and finish second and you're still going to go home angry," NTT Indy Car Series driver Alexander Rossi said earlier this season.

YOUNG GUNS: Rossi and Newgarden, a native of Hendersonville, Tenn., have dominated the Indy Car circuit thus far this season with six wins and 13 top-three finishes between them.

Simon Pagenaud, 35, from France, who won his first Indy 500 this year, is third in the points standing with 429.

Two Indy Car veterans, Dixon, 39, from New Zealand, and Will Power, 38, from Australia, round out the current top five.

Rossi said it's great to see two young Americans doing well on the circuit.

"Scott Dixon and Will Power have been winning championships for a really long time," he said. "They are both still really fast and are still winning races and are always in contention.

"But at some point, it's time for the younger drivers to step up and challenge. The fact that Josef and I are both Americans is good and hopefully we are inspiring some young American racers for the future.

"It's great that Josef and I have found our homes in the Indy Car series and hopefully we will be battling for years to come," Rossi said.

TICKET INFORMATION: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course offers an exceptional family value. Children 12 and under are admitted FREE all weekend (general admission and paddock areas, not the grandstands) when accompanied by a ticketed adult, plus free parking is available. General admission is $75 for the weekend, $55 on Sunday and $40 on Friday and Saturday. Grandstand seating is $85 for the weekend and $65 on Sunday. Additional $5 for all tickets purchased at the gate. Paddock passes are available for $40. Tent and motor home camping is available on site, but is subject to sell out. To order tickets in advance, visit midohio.com or by phone at 419-884-4000.

City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"

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