Rossi Romps At Long Beach

Alexander Rossi celebrates on top of the podium after a dominating win in the NTT IndyCar Series Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach © [Jamie Sheldrick/ Spacesuit Media]

Alexander Rossi celebrates on top of the podium after a dominating win in the NTT IndyCar Series Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach © [Jamie Sheldrick/ Spacesuit Media]

By Joe Jennings

Alexander Rossi made it look easy in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach as he handily romped in the annual NTT IndyCar Series visit to the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street course in this colorful southern California city.

Driving the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, Rossi led all but five circuits of the 85-lap race, ending up with a 20 second margin of victory and winning the race for the second consecutive year.

And he gave his Andretti Autosport team its 200th all-time victory.

Said Rossi, “You never think (you’ll dominate the race). We knew it was going to be a really hard-fought battle. The NAPA AUTO PARTS crew gave me such a great race car. This is the 200th win for Andretti Autosport, so what better way to do it than in that type of fashion here at Long Beach (and) here in California. It’s an amazing day. I have a great car and a great crew behind me. I couldn’t do it without them, so hat’s off to them. This is a special one. I just found out my grandfather died yesterday, so I wanted to dedicate this (win) to him and obviously Michael (Andretti) for 200th win.”

Starting from the pole for the second time, Rossi took off at the drop of the green flag and steadily pulled away from the other 22 competitors.

Lap one saw a three-car brush-up in the fountain area with Jack Harvey’s car momentarily ending up in a flower bed. Rookie Marcos Ericsson was penalized for causing the incident. Spencer Pigot was also involved but was able to continue.
This incident brought out the race’s only caution flag.

Rossi’s foes tried various strategies but none worked for catching the leader. However, the positions behind the fleet leader were up for grabs all the way to the checkered flag, to the delight of the sunbaked crowd.

Finishing second was Josef Newgarden with champion driver Scott Dixon gaining third on the last lap after a bout with Graham Rahal.

Newgarden said, “It’s tough when you’re not able to compete at the very, very front. We were at the front, but you want to be competing for first (place). That’s disappointing, but we gave it our all today and thought we had a pretty good race, for the most part. The Hitachi car was fast, it was just a touch off what other cars had. Alexander (Rossi) did a nice job; congrats to Andretti Autosport.”

Commented Dixon, “It was unfortunate with the Graham Rahal incident. I think he overshot Turn 8 and then quickly tried to turn in reaction, and you know the rule is you can’t come back to defend if somebody’s already there, and that’s what happened. I was on (overtake) and hit his rear tire and had to lift off. I lost my momentum and that also turns the overtake off, as well. It was just one of those things. Had he not reacted there we would have (passed him) anyway. But it’s racing, hard racing.”

Rahal ran third for a lengthy spell only to have an issue in one corner on the final go-around, allowing Dixon to catch up. In trying to fend off Dixon, Rahal attempted to block him only to have officials set him back to fourth to his dismay.

“It’s not that tough (of a pill) to swallow; we were going to lose the spot anyway,” Rahal said. “My front (tires) were absolutely gone. Those were used reds (Firestone alternate tires). We should have gone to new blacks (Firestone primary tires) there at the end. My tires were absolutely shot. I had no braking grip whatsoever, but I moved right as quick as I could out of the corner and then I gave him a lane. By the rules you’re allowed to make your move, which I did on the exit of the corner. That was it. We’re just going to have to discuss it (with the officials). Look, I’m not like upset about it. We had a good day.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay held on for fifth.

Rounding out the top-10 were Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Barber victor Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe and rookie Felix Rosenqvist.

Power seemed to be headed for a podium finish until going off in Turn 1 while battling Dixon and others.

Dixon also had another issue when his team had a problem with its fueling mechanism, causing an 18-second pit stop and a loss of important track positions.

At the finish, all but rookie sensation Colton Herta was running.

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