LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Alexander Rossi is in good position to gain on IndyCar series leader Josef Newgarden even if he didn't win the pole Saturday for the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Andretti Autosport announced mid-day Saturday that the 27-year-old Rossi had signed a multiyear deal to stay with the team and not seek free agency at the end of the season.
Three-plus hours later, Rossi qualified second behind Will Power of Team Penske.
"It's always good to start next to Will because you know you're going to start up front," Rossi said. "That's a positive. He races hard, He races clean."
Rossi will try to defend his title and chip away at the 29-point series lead for Newgarden, the Team Penske driver who won the 2017 race and will start third. Newgarden won the last race at Iowa.
"The last three or four weeks we've just been on it," Rossi said. "That gives us a lot of confidence on the PPG car that we can tap into that consistency and have a strong result tomorrow."
Power has won a record four Mid-Ohio poles but still seeks his first win in 11 starts. He is fifth in the series, 165 points off the lead. He hasn't helped himself by finishing 18th in Toronto and 15th at Iowa.
"Just after the year or even the last couple weeks I have felt terrible because of the few mistakes I made, I was very determined to come out here and get a pole," Power said. "Things haven't gone our way. It just wears on you."
He feels like the law of averages are in his favor to claim his first victory of the season.
"When you have a bad race, the odds are then next one will be good and if that one isn't good, the next one will be," Power said. "If 10, like mine, have not been good, the next one has to be. This race is just going to have to be good with the speed we got. God is going to just say, 'Let him have it.'"
Rossi sat third in points going into last year's Mid-Ohio but won the race on the 13-turn, 2.58-mile permanent road course because of a daring two-stop strategy instead of the normal three for the 90 laps (203.33 miles)
"Whatever he does, he's completely on the edge," Andretti Autosport teammate Zach Veach said.
Rossi said the gamble was worth it.
"You have to have a car that can handle it when you can make the lap time without driving it too hard. We had a great car," he said.
Rossi was coy when asked if two stops was the plan this year.
"It's two, three, four, five, six. Who knows," he said after Saturday's qualifying.
Power was more direct.
"We're planning on three," he said. "We're going to go pretty hard and go as fast as we can."
Winning the series championship, something Newgarden did in 2017, is Rossi's priority.
"It's all in what you have," he said. "For me it would mean a lot more at this point in my career, where Joseph winning the 500 would mean a lot more to him. We each have one that the other doesn't have.
"Obviously, the goal of winning the 500 eluded both of us this year so the focus is on winning the championship."