LONG BEACH, Calif – Alexander Rossi put on a show over the final two days of action on the streets of Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver was fastest on the speed charts in the third NTT IndyCar Series practice session on Saturday morning. He backed that up with his fifth career series pole later on in the afternoon for Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
We knew then, this race could likely be over.
While most consider it difficult to pass on the 1.968-mile street circuit, Rossi scoffed at that remark saying that he doesn’t have any troubles in doing it. While 10 of the last 12 races now in Long Beach have been won a top four starter, Rossi said that a feat like that shouldn’t matter.
Sunday’s race proved otherwise.
But, when Rossi also wins the pole, he’s untouchable. Three of the previous four times that he won an Indy Car pole, he won the race outright too.
For a driver that doesn’t have problems passing anyone, and on Sunday, he didn’t need to, with the fastest car in the field leading the pack as well, it was virtually game over from the start.
Despite that, what he actually did on Sunday though was nothing short of remarkable. Because of all the reasons above, I don’t think anyone was really shocked that Rossi’s No. 27 Honda went to victory lane. He’s the new king of Long Beach. But, in how he did so, well that was eye opening.
It’s no secret, the NTT IndyCar Series is bar none the best racing on the planet. The parity has never been higher and with a universal aerokit, the cars are similar. So, for a driver to beat the field by 20+ seconds and lead 80 of the 85 laps, well that’s remarkable.
The margin of victory was the biggest in nearly a quarter century. He’s the first repeat winner in a decade. With four different drivers from four different teams winning the first four races to the season, it’s glaring to see someone whip the field like Rossi did on Sunday.
Just listen to what his peers had to say about the state of the series on Saturday.
“I personally think that it’s so competitive, and I don’t think you guys understand how — sorry, no offense,” Simon Pagenaud said in the Fast Six press conference. “I don’t think anyone outside the race car can understand how competitive this is right now, so it’s very rewarding when you have a good day, and I think it’s — as a driver you feel fully content when you’ve had a good day and you’re happy. It’s that simple.
Sixth place starter Graham Rahal agreed.
“The tightness and parity of the field is greater than ever before. I mean we’ve seen three different race winners this season alone by three different organizations. Here in Long Beach, we’ve had six straight years of different winners from different teams. That’s why just getting in the top five these days is such a huge accomplishment.
“The competitive nature of this, like, it drives us all, but you know if you can — it’s not even the top six anymore,” said Rahal. “You feel like if you’re in the top 10, you’ve been solid. Didn’t used to be that way, but obviously, we’d all like to be on pole. It would be even better. But I think you really have to feel a sense of like accomplishment as a team. You can see it across all our mechanics, too; everybody is happy. You make it to the Fast Six, you’ve really done something.
“Probably in Will and my first years in this, if you made it to the Fast Six then you were like decent, but you probably should have been better. And nowadays it’s just like the gap — like this morning 1.1 seconds across from 1st to 25th over a street course this long with all the bumps and curves and this and that. Nowhere else in the world, nowhere else in the world will you find racing that competitive, period. So I think it’s just — you should feel proud if you had a good day.”
When the drivers all say this and you have a driver dominate a race like Rossi did, it just goes to show you the sheer talent he has.