Rossi Dominates IndyCar Thriller In Long Beach

Alexander Rossi dominated the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the Streets of Long Beach. [credit Dan Bathie / Spacesuit Media]

Alexander Rossi dominated the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the Streets of Long Beach. [credit Dan Bathie / Spacesuit Media]

by Joe Jennings

Alexander Rossi totally dominated the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the third Verizon IndyCar Series event of the young season. Leading 71 of the 85 laps around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course, Rossi made it look easy from the start as he pulled away to a commanding lead and even when the field was bunched up during caution periods, the Californian pulled away after each restart.

Driving the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, Rossi posted his third career victory, all coming in the series most high-profile events, the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, on the legendary road course at Watkins Glen International in 2017 and here at Long Beach.

And with his strong runs in three races in 2018, Rossi moved into the point lead by 22 over Josef Newgarden.

Andretti Autosport scored its 58th series victory.

“It’s pretty hard to put into words honestly what it means,” Rossi said. “This one, even though it’s not my true home race, it really feels like one, and the crowds here and just the whole atmosphere is so welcoming and inviting that it’s no surprise that this race has been on the calendar for so long. It’s a pleasure to be able to come here and race, first of all, and to be able to win here is pretty special.

“This one I’ll definitely remember for a very long time for a lot of different reasons, and I’m very glad that there were so many people here (60 guests) that were able to witness it.”

Regarding the restarts, Rossi added, “Turn 11 is kind of the most important corner on the track because it leads on to the longest straight, so we put quite a bit of focus on that throughout the weekend even for a qualifying lap to be able to get a good drive out of there, and the Honda engines have pretty amazing drivability, and that allowed me to do what we were doing today. Yeah, I mean, it’s an important aspect of the race for sure, but then you obviously have to not only get a good drive out of the last corner, but you have to be clear on cold tires and all those things, and in order to do that, you have to have a car that allows you to, and obviously I did all weekend.”

Runner-up Will Power attempted to catch Rossi in the closing laps but came up 1.2 seconds short after giving it a valiant try in the Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

“I needed to get close enough to him to make him use his (push to pass option), but I just stayed at that one-second gap, just kind of couldn’t make time on him enough to use it up,” Power commented.

“Yeah, it’s like qualifying every lap for both of us there at the end. At the end of the day, I mean, Rossi was just too fast all day. Just really good. Yeah, that’s pretty much all we had.”

Third went to unheralded Ed Jones in the PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Said Jones, “It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for me with Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s a big move for me after my rookie season. We struggled this weekend early on, especially on Friday. We made some good jumps for Saturday, but we still qualified 13th, which wasn’t good enough. But you know, the guys played a great strategy and did great pit stops, and a little bit lucky with the yellows, as well, to be able to end up third.

“It was great after the disappointment at Phoenix where we were on easy for second place, so that was disappointing, but it’s good to be on the podium, and hopefully this will give us some momentum for the upcoming races.”

Zach Veach had a strong run to earn fourth place with Marco Andretti coming in sixth, both in Andretti Autosport Honda.

Sandwiched between them was Graham Rahal, who overcame a first-lap penalty that sent him to the rear of the field after he punted Simon Pagenaud out of the race as the field headed toward Turn 1 of the opening lap. Pagenaud’s car was too damaged to continue and he was scored last.

Seventh through 10th were Newgarden, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball.

Six of the top-10 drove Honda-powered cars.

Former Long Beach winners Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais were up to second and third until they got caught by a yellow flag while headed into the pits. Dixon did stop while Bourdais did not stop with both losing valuable time and dropping back in the field.

Dixon incurred a penalty for stopping and ended up 11th.

Later on Bourdais got hit from behind and spun around by rookie Jordan King with the St. Petersburg victor finishing 13th.

Bourdais electrified the crowd midway through when he passed three cars, including Dixon, going into Turn 1, only to be set back a spot behind Dixon for using a tiny part of the pit exit road to make his pass. Undaunted, Bourdais got by Dixon in the same spot a half-dozen laps later.

Four caution flags slowed the race for 17 laps.

The 167-mile race took 1 hour and 53 minutes to complete at an average speed of 88 miles per hour.

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race results
LONG BEACH, California – Results Sunday of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.968-mile Streets of Long Beach circuit, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (1) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
2. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
3. (13) Ed Jones, Honda, 85, Running
4. (16) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running
5. (5) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
6. (20) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
7. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
8. (11) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (8) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
10. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
11. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
12. (17) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running
13. (9) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
14. (14) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
15. (18) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running
16. (24) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 84, Running
17. (15) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 84, Running
18. (12) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 84, Running
19. (19) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 83, Running
20. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 81, Running
21. (22) Takuma Sato, Honda, 74, Running
22. (10) Robert Wickens, Honda, 73, Running
23. (21) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 58, Contact
24. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 0, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 88.622 mph
Time of Race: 1:53:15.2434
Margin of victory: 1.2413 seconds
Cautions: 4 for 17 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders: Rossi 1-24, Power 25-30, Hunter-Reay 31, Rossi 32-55, Bourdais 56-59, Newgarden 60-62, Rossi 63-85

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Rossi 126, Newgarden 104, Rahal 93, Bourdais 88, Hinchcliffe 83, Dixon 79, Hunter-Reay 73, Power 72, Jones 69, Andretti 68.

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