Rossi goes from last row to 4th-place finish at Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) As some of the biggest names in the Indianapolis 500 crashed into the wall, and the rest of IndyCar’s stars struggled to make a move, Alexander Rossi stepped on the gas and went right to the front.

He almost got all the way there.

The surprise winner of the 100th edition of the race nearly made it two wins in three years Sunday when he drove from the final row of the field to a fourth-place finish. Even more impressive, Rossi was able to pull off the most audacious passes on a blazing afternoon while everybody else was stuck in a parade.

”I feel like we did what we could and we maximized what we had,” said Rossi, whose strong run left him second in the points race behind race winner Will Power. ”The team did everything right.”

Rossi has been strong all season, finishing third in the first two races before winning the IndyCar race at Long Beach. He also finished fifth in the Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course to begin his month of May, raising his hopes of another strong run in the 500.

Then came qualifying, when a tire puncture left him starting from the middle of the back row.

He didn’t stay there long. Rossi was on the move the moment actor Chris Hemsworth waved the green flag, slicing his way through the field. And when the cautions finally came out, his Andretti Autosport team worked flawlessly, once turning a pit stop in an incredible 6.6 seconds.

It was on the restarts where the Californian was especially strong.

The new body kits with less downforce, combined with near-record temperatures, made the cars a bit squirrely. But with his car handling so well, Rossi was able to slingshot past his rivals on the outside, including an audacious pass through the corner late in the race that nabbed him about half a dozen spots and put him in a position to challenge the leaders.

He was one of four Andretti drivers to lead at least one lap along with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and Stefan Wilson, and all six cars in the team’s stable finished the race. The 28 spots he moved up were the most since 1992 runner-up Scott Goodyear charged from the 33rd starting position.

Power and Ed Carpenter, who finished a distant second, wound up being the class of the field, but the 26-year-old Rossi’s finish behind Scott Dixon capped a remarkable performance.

In fact, you could call it an ”Amazing Race.”

Remember, it was Rossi and fellow IndyCar driver Conor Daly who were teammates on a certain globe-trotting reality show this past year. The traveled to such places as Iceland, Morocco and Bahrain, and won a show-best four legs before finishing last in the leg to Hong Kong and getting eliminated.

It left them with a fourth-place finish. That turned out to be quite a coincidence come Sunday.

”I don’t look back on anything and wish we’d done anything different,” Rossi said. ”Despite, it was a good day from a championship perspective. We didn’t have enough to win but congrats to Will.”