Pole Sitter Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda put on a clinic today for the NTT IndyCar Series at Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach by winning by the largest margin (20.2359 seconds) since 1995 when Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Pruett by 20.3. Rossi led 80 of the 85 laps, only relinquishing the lead during pit stop rotations. This is Rossi’s second straight LB victory, and makes him the first back-to-back victor since Sebastien Bourdais won three in a row 2005-2007. Four of Rossi’s six IndyCar victories have come from the pole position. For Andretti Autosport, it was win number 63. Rossi dedicated the victory to his late grandfather, Donald Russell, who died Saturday.
Rossi’s victory makes him the fourth different winner in as many races, and all four have been from different teams.
Rossi’s words “As I said yesterday, winning the pole is huge come Sunday because it allows you to hopefully be in front leaving turn one and really just control the race from there. You can run your own strategy, your own pace, really dictate what the rest of the field does.
“We were able to do that. Obviously can’t do it without a fantastic crew, car, no mistakes, great strategy all day from Rob. Yeah, it’s awesome to be able to really I think kickstart our year. We’ve had good pace, but just haven’t the results. This is what we’ve been looking for.
“I love today. I definitely won’t get used to it, though. It’s certainly not something that is going to happen week in, week out.”
Team Owner, Michael Andretti explained the difference in winning as a driver (his first and last victories were at Long Beach) and as an owner: “They’re different. I think when you win as an owner, it’s like a real shared win. You’re just happy not really just for yourself but everybody in the team. Yeah, whereas as a driver, it more feels like a self-accomplishment.
“It is different. They’re both great in a different way.”
Joseph Newgarden//No.2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet was runner-up and maintains his points lead. Rossi moved up to second place in the standings. Newgarden said “We’ve had certainly a lot of good fortune this year compared to last year. We haven’t had any yellows go away from us. Today was really a nice race, really well-executed by the boys. They did a good job. We’ll take a P2. Alex was too quick. Him and Andretti did a great job. Congrats to them for the win.”
Taking the Checkered Flag third through fifth were Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda. However, the last lap maneuvering of Rahal on Dixon went under Stewards Review, who determined it was blocking and reversed the official finishing position – putting Dixon on the podium and putting him third in the standings.
Dixon said “”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.
Yeah, you’re not meant to react. That’s exactly what he did. It forced me not to hit him, I had to brake, get off the throttle. I think when you’re having to avoid somebody, when they’ve done a reaction.
“I think had he not defended or reacted the way he had done, we would have got the pass easily done. I think it is what it is. We’re going to be okay with it. They’re not going to be happy with it. That’s the way it is. I think Graham has definitely been racing on the edge. Definitely at Barber, some pretty risky kind of situations, too.
“It is what it is. We’ll just have to move on. Good friends with Graham. There’s no hard feelings there. But you still have to give everybody some space.”
Rahal’s take on the matter: “It’s not that tough (of a pill) to swallow; we were going to lose the spot anyway. 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.”
RHR turned the fastest race lap of 1:08.0153/104.165 mph on Lap 27.
The top Rookie was Felix Rosenqvist/No.10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in tenth place.
Jim Michaelian, President of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, released attendance figures stating 187,000 for this year, up one percent from last year’s figures of 185,300. This coincided with estimates from various drivers that there was a good crowd. Newgarden told Rossi on the podium that “We must have been good. They haven’t left.”
As IndyCar races go, this one was relatively bland – the description applied by Dixon. The only dramas came at the start and finish. An accident at the start brought out the first and only caution. It involved Marcus Ericsson/No.7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Jack Harvey/No.60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Meyer Shank Racing with Arrow SPM Honda, and Spencer Pigot/No.21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet. It was an apparent rear-ender accordion at the back of the pack. Ericsson was assessed a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact. All three cars were able to eventually continue, with Harvey pitting for body parts replacements and adjustments. Pigot finished eighteenth with 84 laps, Ericsson finished twentieth, two laps down, and Harvey in 22nd, three laps down.
On the white flag lap, Dixon was racing Rahal, and it was a matter of opinion, depending on whom was asked, whether it was defensive driving, blocking or just racing. The Stewards reviewed the situation and determined it was blocking by Rahal on Dixon, and he had to yield his third place finish.
Close to the halfway mark, Dixon was chasing Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske, and Power had to choose between risking a wall hit or driving down the Turn One runoff, and he chose the latter. He executed a graceful, wide F1 U-Turn and continued on course, falling behind. Power never quite recovered, finishing seventh. Dixon said it had been “a pretty good race with Will.”
Another mistake was made by Rookie Santino Ferrucci, who was running ninth when he hit the wall after exiting from the pits with full tanks. The car bottomed and he ended up in the the same Turn One Runoff area. After the AMR Safety team restarted him, Ferrucci continued on course, two laps down. He finished 21st.
Eleven drivers finished on the lead lap. James Hinchcliffe/No.5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda gained the most race positions, gridding fifteenth and finishing ninth. He is now seventh in the standings.
The only DNF was Rookie Colton Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda, after he got caught out in some of built-up rubber left by the Formula Drift cars and hit the wall with his right front. He limped to the pits and retired after the team wasn’t able to repair the car in time to return to racing. He said “I’m super bummed for everyone on the No.88 King Taco team and everyone who came out to show support and cheer me on. I’m really appreciative because I had a lot of family, friends and fans here with it being a hometown crowd. Everyone was awesome. We can take positives from here because we were so damn fast all weekend and I was really happy with the car. The guys did an incredible job, everyone has done so well working together. We’ll move forward. We have some testing planned later this week and we have the Month of May coming up, which will be awesome.”
There is an IndyCar test on 24 April at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then begins the Merry Month of May.
1. (1) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
2. (4) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
3. (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
4. (6) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
5. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 85, Running
6. (5) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 85, Running
7. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
8. (8) Takuma Sato, Honda, 85, Running
9. (15) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
10. (12) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 85, Running
11. (14) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
12. (9) Patricio O’Ward, Chevrolet, 84, Running
13. (11) Marco Andretti, Honda, 84, Running
14. (16) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 84, Running
15. (20) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 84, Running
16. (17) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 84, Running
17. (22) Zach Veach, Honda, 84, Running
18. (23) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running
19. (21) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 83, Running
20. (19) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 83, Running
21. (13) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 83, Running
22. (18) Jack Harvey, Honda, 82, Running
23. (10) Colton Herta, Honda, 50, Contact