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Alexander Rossi returns to drive at Indy for first time since winning 500

Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 30: Alexander Rossi of the United States, driver of the #98 Andretti Herta Autosport Honda Dallara, kisses the Borg-Warner trophy during a photoshoot after winning the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 30, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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Monday marked 72 days since the biggest day of Alexander Rossi’s life.

It was back on May 29 that the California native and Verizon IndyCar Series rookie literally came out of nowhere to win the milestone 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

When he finally returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again in a race car on Monday (he attended NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 last month as a fan) as one of six drivers in a closed Firestone tire test, Rossi’s triumphant win and sold-out grandstands were replaced by the atmosphere of just another tire test and empty stands.

“It’s a lot quieter and you’re not as worked up about everything, for sure, but yeah, the first lap was special,” Rossi told of taking his first lap on the legendary 2.5-mile Monday since his win in the 500.

Rossi was one of four former Indy 500 winners to take part in the test: Tony Kanaan (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Juan Pablo Montoya (2015 and 2000) and Rossi (2016). Also taking part were Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter.

While his bank account is significantly larger and the winner’s trophy holds a prominent place in his home, winning the 500 really hasn’t changed Rossi.

While he could afford caviar and filet mignon three times a day, Rossi would rather chow down at places like Jimmy Johns (he gets all the sandwiches he can eat for the next year and a half).

As part of his winner’s duties, he rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange – well, it was actually pushing a button, as he told – and attended the ESPYs, where he lost to Kyle Busch as Best Driver.

“Other than that, normal life hasn’t changed,” Rossi admits.

Rossi doesn’t want to live on his Indy 500 laurels by any stretch. He told that -- his biggest win notwithstanding -- the rest of this season has been a mixed bag of ups and downs.

His 500 win is his only podium finish thus far in 2016; he has no other top-fives and just three other top-10 finishes in the first 12 races of the season.

He’s gone through a particularly rough stretch of late, with finishes of 12th (Belle Isle 2), 15th (Road America), sixth (Iowa – his best finish this season other than at Indy), 16th (Toronto) and 14th (Mid-Ohio).

Rossi knows what he needs to do:

“I need to win more races, man,” he told “(Winning the 500 is) unbelievable, it’s amazing, it’s given my career new life, for sure.

“But you’re only as good as your last race so we need to definitely work on improving things and winning more at all the other tracks.”

Now that the 500, the Brickyard and Monday’s test are in his rearview mirror, Rossi had a chance to reflect on how the last 2 1/2 months have been.

“I have a whole new kind of outlook on the Speedway,” he told “That was very cool to come back here.”

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