LONG BEACH, Calif – We knew entering Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach that once Alexander Rossi earned the pole, it was pretty much game over. In three of the previous four times that Rossi had won an NTT IndyCar Series pole, he won the race itself as well.
Last year, Rossi led 71 of 85 laps en route to a dominating win on the streets of Long Beach. He didn’t think that it could get much better than that. Well, it did.
Rossi, led a race high 80 of 85 laps this time in pure domination. His No. 27 Honda bested the field by 20+ seconds in the most dominating win since Al Unser Jr. won this race by 23 seconds in 1995. He becomes the first repeat winner of this race in the last seven years and just the eighth multiple time winner on the 1.968-mile street course joining a prestigious list of Mario Andretti, Unser Jr., Alex Zanardi, Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power and Mike Conway.
“You never think (you’ll dominate the race),” said Rossi after earning a historic victory for Andretti Autosport while racing with a heavy heart. “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 hats 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.”
Rossi was untouchable. He led the first 25 laps before hit first pit stop. He took the lead back when the sequence ended on Lap 30 and held onto it until the 56th circuit before pitting for the final time. Rossi, got the lead back on Lap 58 and never looked back en route to his sixth career win.
It was a picture perfect day and gets him back in the championship hunt after earning his third top five finish in four tries this season.
Josef Newgarden charged from fourth to bring his No. 2 Chevrolet home runner-up for his third top two finish in four tries this season. Newgarden, also earned his fifth consecutive top 10 finish at Long Beach too.
“It’s tough when you’re not able to compete at the very, very front,” said Newgarden. “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. We had good fuel mileage (and) Chevy did a good job for us. We just were a little short. It’s a good day, it’s just tough when you’re not competing for the win.”
The third place finish was controversial as Graham Rahal crossed the finish line third with Scott Dixon in fourth. But, series officials called Rahal for blocking in Turn 8 and moved him from a podium effort to fourth behind Dixon.
That had Rahal and his team irate as they agreed that yes, they did block, but it wasn’t any more blatant than what normally goes on.
“It’s not that tough (of a pill) to swallow; we were going to lose the spot anyway,” said a dejected Rahal. “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. Our car wasn’t great today, but it was decent and the TOTAL Oil team pushed hard. That’s all we can say. Did I block? Yes, I blocked; you’re allowed to block in this series. You’re allowed to make a move, (and) I made a move. That’s allowed, I mean that’s allowed. I didn’t go back to the left; there’s a lane to the left. He had overtake (remaining), I didn’t. If he wanted to go (there) he could go. But, I don’t know, we’ll discuss it with the officials.” (About how he would feel if he was in Scott Dixon’s position): “You would try the exact same, there’s no doubt. I think I played the rules as I see them fit. Did I block? Yeah, I take full (credit). Yeah, I blocked, but you’re allowed to in this series, and if they don’t want blocks, they should say you can’t make a move at all and just change the rule. The problem is, we see such large discrepancies in what is a block (and) what is not a block. It’s fine; we just need to go further and understand (the rule) a little better. At the end of the day, P4. Do we deserve P3? Probably, but you know what, it was a good day and good points for us. We haven’t had a lot of luck this season, so I’ll just take it as it is and move on.”
Dixon, has three podium finishes in four tries this season and got his fourth top four result in his last five tries in Long Beach on his No. 9 Honda.
“It was unfortunate with the Graham Rahal incident,” said Dixon. “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. Definitely the last stint was strong for our PNC Bank car. It’s unfortunate we had that fuel problem issue (on the pit stop). I think we could have had a good race for second (place) there. Congrats to (Alexander) Rossi; that was a fantastic drive. We took a real gamble at the start of the race using used reds (Firestone alternate tires). We maybe didn’t do the right thing there.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay rounded out the top five in his No. 28 Honda but was very upset with how this weekend ended. While a top five is great as it was his first since he won in 2010, he thought his pace was too good to finish off the podium. A fuel issue in the end caused him to have to slow down as he fell to a fifth place run.
“We had a fuel problem late in the race, and we’re not really sure what happened,” said Hunter-Reay. “(The car) was in emergency mode at the end of the race, just trying to make it home. All in all, it was a disappointing weekend considering the speed we had earlier, but congrats to Alexander (Rossi) on the win and good job to the No. 27 team. We gained a few points and are looking on to Indy.”
The series now has a month off before the next race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Main Contenders For Season Shown Already
It appears that this year’s championship race is going to come down to Newgarden, Dixon and Rossi. Between the trio, they’ve dominated the top fives.
Newgarden, has finished no worse than fourth all year including three top two’s.
Dixon, has three podiums in four tries.
Rossi, has three top five finishes in four starts including a win.
Newgarden, currently leads Rossi by 28 points and Dixon by 33. Takuma Sato is next best in fourth but 50 points back while Hunter-Reay is 70 points out.
American’s Strong Again
Four of the top five finishers were American’s as three of the four races have been won by American’s this season. The series has been searching for the next great American star and here we are with several.
Rossi The King Of The Beach
Between the last two years, Rossi has led 89-percent of the laps in Long Beach. Combined, he’s led 151 of 170 possible laps on the streets of Long Beach. He’s been so dominant, no one has been even close.
This was the most dominating victory in 24 years.
Penske’s Street Course Program Strong
No, they didn’t win but all three Penske cars finished in the top seven on Sunday. It’s a great start to the season on street courses for them as they went 1-3-7 in St. Pete and now 2-6-7 in Long Beach.
Last year, they were luck to get in the top 10 on street courses. That was their detriment. This year, they’re back.
Last weekend in COTA, they struggled to even get in the Fast Six with two of the three not even making it out of the first round. This weekend, all three made it to the top five of the starting lineup and used it to earn top seven finishes.
Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Results
10 Rosenqvist R
31 O’Ward R -1
98 Andretti -1
59 Chilton -1
4 Leist -1
20 Jones -1
26 Veach -1
21 Pigot -1
14 Kanaan -2
7 Ericsson -2
19 Ferrucci R -2
60 Harvey -3
88 Herta R OUT