Rossi came to May's 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, but he went away with the bottle of milk after a stunning drive coupled with a brilliant fuel-saving strategy from his Andretti-Herta Autosport team. Near the end of the race the young American had to stay out for a total of 36 laps, yet he managed it (pictured below) to become the first American rookie to take home the Borg-Warner trophy since 1928.
Before that Rossi had spent most of his racing career in Europe — in series including Formula BMW, GP3, Formula Renault 3.5 and GP2. In 2012 he made his Formula 1 practice debut, becoming the first American F1 driver since, ironically, Scott Speed. He made his grand prix debut at the 2015 Singapore GP for Manor and contested a total of five races before this year's triumphant switch to IndyCar. Now he will make his Race Of Champions debut in front of his home fans in Miami.
Rossi said: "I'm honored to be invited to race in this year's Race Of Champions. ROC is so well respected in motor sport, bringing together the best drivers from around the world and across every series. This international event is always ultra-competitive and I'm looking forward to the competition and the very first US race venue in Miami. It will also be great to race with my Andretti Autosport team-mate, Ryan Hunter-Reay. I can assure you, neither of us will be holding back."
Speed not only has the fastest name in motor sport, he has also established himself as the man to beat in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship. He sealed his second successive title last month, overhauling rival Tanner Foust at the final round in Los Angeles for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross. But this is only the latest chapter in the American racer's versatile racing career.
When Speed made his Formula 1 debut for Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006, he was the first American driver to race in a grand prix since Michael Andretti in 1993. He made 28 appearances before losing his seat to Sebastian Vettel, with whom he can resume his rivalry in January. Speed later spent several seasons in NASCAR before his GRC move. Added to appearances in series as diverse as A1GP, IndyCar and Formula E, such a wide mix of experience will doubtless come in very handy at ROC Miami.
Speed said: "I am beyond excited to join the Race Of Champions. Being selected to represent the USA on home soil is such an honor. I have always been a huge fan of this event: having so many greats of motor racing in one place is a very rare thing. I am sure that Miami will prove to be a fantastic host of such a prestigious event."
Rossi and Speed join a star-studded ROC Miami field that features many of the greatest stars in world motor sport. Confirmed racers include four-time Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel, fellow F1 star Felipe Massa, ‘Mr Le Mans' Tom Kristensen, Rossi's fellow Indianapolis 500 winners Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan, action sports legend Travis Pastrana, NASCAR champion Kurt Busch and double FIA World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg. Even more big names will be announced in the run-up to January's event.
The Race Of Champions is an annual contest which has been held for over 25 years. It brings together some of the world's greatest drivers from motor sport's major disciplines — including Formula 1, NASCAR, IndyCar, Le Mans, MotoGP, Touring Cars, World Rally and action sports — and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery. All the racing takes place in a stunning range of super fast cars.
The ROC event is run over two days: first comes the Race Of Champions itself (on Saturday, January 21) featuring a flat-out battle for individual glory. Then on Sunday, January 22 comes the ROC Nations Cup when drivers pair up in teams based on nationality to bid for the title of ‘World's Fastest Nation'. In 2017, this will see America take on the rest of the world in a special contest in celebration of the host venue.
In recent years, ROC has visited the Stade de France in Paris (2004-2006), London's Wembley Stadium (2007-2008), the ‘Bird's Nest' Olympic Stadium in Beijing (2009), DÃ¼sseldorf's Esprit Arena (2010-2011), the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok (2012), Bushy Park Barbados (2014) and London's former Olympic Stadium (2015).
Now the event is heading to the United States for the first time to soak up the heat of Miami. Florida's sports fans will have a chance to watch the speediest action Marlins Park has ever seen as many of the world's greatest drivers push to the absolute limit on a specially-designed racing track winding its way around the infield and outfield.
But that's not all. The Race Of Champions has non-stop action from start to finish — featuring stunt shows on four wheels and two wheels plus DJs, cheerleaders and plenty of other entertainment to keep race fans on the edge of their seats.
ROC president Fredrik Johnsson said: "We are thrilled to have Alexander and Scott in our field for the first ever Race Of Champions on American soil. Not only are they the only two US drivers to compete in Formula 1 in the last 20 years, they've both put in exceptional performances in 2016.
"Alexander's rookie victory in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 was a stroke of genius from him and his team. Scott has also become an unstoppable force in the Global Rallycross Championship, winning two titles in a row. They are both exciting drivers to watch and now we hope to see plenty of fans inside Miami's Marlins Park cheering them on to glory against some of the best in the world."
Tickets for ROC Miami are now available via www.raceofchampions.com. For access to rights-free high-resolution imagery and to keep up with all the latest news ahead of this year's event please visit www.raceofchampions.com, Race Of Champions on Facebook plus @raceofchampions and #ROCMiami on Twitter.
Drivers already confirmed for ROC Miami:
Sebastian VETTEL, four-time Formula 1 world champion
Tom KRISTENSEN, nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner
Petter SOLBERG, double FIA World Rallycross Champion
Juan-Pablo MONTOYA, 2015 Indianapolis 500 winner
Ryan HUNTER-REAY, 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner
Tony KANAAN, 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner
Felipe MASSA, 11-time Formula 1 grand prix winner
Kurt BUSCH, 2004 NASCAR champion
Travis PASTRANA, action sports legend
Scott SPEED, double Global Rallycross Champion
Alexander ROSSI, 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner