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Winner Rossi, Rest of Field Realize Significance of 100th Indy 500

Alexander Rossi is in the midst of a cross-country tour, celebrating his stunning victory Sunday in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

The 24-year-old Californian was in New York City on Tuesday, visiting the New York Stock Exchange, the Empire State Building with the Borg-Warner Trophy and toasting his victory at the swanky Peninsula Hotel rooftop bar in between stops at key Manhattan media outlets including CNBC and “FOX and Friends.”

Today it was on to the Lone Star State for the champion’s lunch at Texas Motor Speedway, site of the Firestone 600, the next superspeedway oval event on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule June 10-11. On Thursday he will be in Detroit for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix media lunch leading into the next races on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit this weekend.

Before he left Indianapolis immediately following the 100th running’s Victory Celebration on Monday night, Rossi promised to uphold the stature of his newfound status as Indianapolis 500 champion.

“I know there’s a huge responsibility in front of me and it’s a great honor and privilege to be your winner,” Rossi told the audience gathered at the JW Marriott in downtown Indy. “I will do everything in my ability to promote this going forward and make the 101st the next best one.”

While Rossi has garnered worldwide attention and praise since he coasted to victory Sunday after running out of fuel, the epic event itself has received just as much notice. Fans and media alike have been outspoken in their praise for the legendary event.

Simon PagenaudSo, too, the drivers and most made their feelings known at Monday’s banquet celebration. Veteran or newcomer, American or foreign, each sensed the measure of the moment in motorsports history and expressed gratitude for being a part of it.

“It was a very special day for all of us drivers and the entire racing community,” said Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud (pictured at right), the Frenchman who finished 19th in his fifth Indy 500. “This was just incredible, off the chart. This is the crown jewel of racing. There’s nothing else on the planet (that compares), so thank you very much.”

AJ Foyt Racing’s Jack Hawksworth echoed Pagenaud’s sentiments.

“What an event, it was unbelievable. I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life,” said the Englishman, who finished 16th. “It seemed like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the center of the universe. It seemed like the whole world was there. It was incredible to be a part of that.”

Bryan Clauson spends most of his time driving short tracks in midgets, sprints and Silver Crown cars – jumping into an Indy car only for the 500. But the Noblesville, Ind., resident still knows that “the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the mecca.

“It’s a special place, it’s Disneyland for race car drivers,” said Clauson, who led three laps and finished 23rd in his third Indy 500. “None of us want to leave. We wish we could stay there forever. Thank you for giving us a place to not only dream about, but to perform on the largest stage in sports.”

James HinchcliffePole sitter James Hinchcliffe (pictured at right) said he appreciates more in life now after his near-fatal crash at IMS a year ago. The Canadian who finished the race seventh thanked those behind the scenes who put the blockbuster month together.

“To everyone at INDYCAR and IMS, I’m not sure what all went into pulling off the 100th running of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’ but pull it off you did,” Hinchcliffe said. “And don’t think you’re going to relax because with the show that we put on, every single one of those fans is going to be back for the 101st.”

It was a thought shared by many on stage Monday night: Use the overwhelming success of the 100th running to fuel future Indianapolis 500 fortunes. Sebastien Bourdais, the French driver who finished ninth in his sixth Indy 500, may have put it best.

“It’s been an absolutely amazing event,” Bourdais said. “It was awesome to be a part of it. The one thing I will really remember is that, all of a sudden for the 100th running, everybody felt like it was the heyday of the event.

“It was so cool to see all the corporate involvement and everybody rallying together, to see everybody just so happy,” Bourdais added. “All I want to say is, ‘Let’s do it again.’”

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