Verizon IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Honda pulled yet another fast lap out of his pocket on the last lap of the Firestone Fast Six Qualifying Saturday afternoon at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.He turned a 1:06.5528/106.454 mph. This was his second career pole, the first one being at Watkins Glen last year. He said every pole is precious. They’re hard to come by. It is the Andretti team’s 35th pole position. Last year Rossi started fifth, and he’s looking for redemption after last year’s 19th place finish.
He waited in the pits until late in the session. “We had been pretty good on the first laps on tires, so I just didn’t want to carry around the fuel, and we just thought that we could get it done. The team put me in a gap, and it was just about finding the space on track and making sure the tires were up, and just kind of going for it.”yy
PHOTOS BY PABLO MATAMOROS.
The current qualifying track record of 1:066.2254/106.980 mph was set last year by Helio Castroneves … and still holds.
During Qualifying, it was 80 degrees F, with 11 mph winds and zero humidity.
Rossi pipped Will Power/No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet at the end of the ten-minute Firestone Fast Six qualifying session. Qualifying third was another Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud/No.22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet. Fourth and fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda and Graham Rahal/No.15 Total Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. The 2017 IndyCar Champion, Joseph Newgarden/No.1 Verizon Team Penske was a disappointing sixth after he brushed the concrete wall on the front straight.
Left to Right: Alexander Rossi/No.27 Honda; Will Power/No.12 Chevrolet; Simon Pagenaud/No.22 Chevrolet; Scott Dixon/No.9 Honda; Graham Rahal/No.15 Honda; and Joseph Newgarden/No.1 Chevrolet. All photos by Pablo Matamoros.
Robert Wickins/No.6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda was the top Rookie, qualifying tenth.
There are seven Rookies in this weekend’s race: Jordan King/No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet will start twelth; Matheus Leist/No.4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet starts fourteenth; Zach Veach/No.26 Group One Thousand One Andretti Autosport Honda starts sixteenth; Jack Harvey/No.60 Auto Nation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM Honda starts seventeenth; Zachary Claman De Melo/No.19 The Paysafe Car Dale Coyne Racing Honda starts twenty-first, and Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet starts last with no time after hitting the wall.
In the second group of Round One Qualifying, qualifying penalties were assessed. Kyle Kaiser/No.32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet hit the wall, causing following cars to slow, assessing him the loss of his two fastest qualifying laps. Marco Andretti/No.98 US Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda spun, causing a local yellow and subsequent slowing for following cars, assessing him the loss of his fastest qualifying lap. Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda received a drive-thru penalty for “improper pit exit.”
Two reviews saw Stewards take no action against Rossi or Wickins.
ALEXANDER ROSSI – Starting on pole. “Hoping for some redemption here. So to get it (pole) here was good, good start for tomorrow, but this sport has a way of humbling you pretty quick, so we have to execute against tomorrow, and hopefully we can get that redemption we’re talking about.” And for about $500, he emailed his setup sheet to Will Power. Regarding tire wear, “Definitely, I think they’ll definitely go off.That’s going to be something that we have to think about, no doubt about it. It’s just kind of — you can have an aggressive car that’s fast and uses tires, or you can kind of go the other way, so it’s finding that line because obviously you don’t want to protect them too much that you don’t get the performance out of them. It’s something that we’ll all have to figure out overnight and kind of try a few things in the warmup and then see what works and what doesn’t. The fans will be on for an amazing show.
WILL POWER – Starting second. Won three times at Long Beach. “I felt like we had a really good car. Got to the Fast Six like we needed to, and yeah, just were not fast enough basically to be on pole, but very happy to be on the front row. You know, we’ve kind of crept up all weekend and definitely made the car better and in a good window now. Yeah, that was a lot of fun.”
SIMON PAGENAUD – Starting third. Won here in 2016 and matches his best start here. “It’s a really good result, all three of us (Penske drivers) in the Fast Six. It’s not easy these days. I have to say, I just want to pull my hat off to Team Penske for obviously understanding the street course setup. It’s been difficult just because of the success we’ve had with the previous aero kits. We’ve had to rethink a little bit, and three races we’ve been able to do it. Quite impressive I have to say. I’m quite excited to see that we could get the car in such a good place, and myself, I just have to extract a little bit more out of it, but obviously it was a fun and great qualifying.”
SCOTT DIXON – Starting fourth. Won Long Beach in 2015. We had a lot of traffic. We made some pretty big fundamental changes for qualifying. Almost spun going in to (Turn) Eight, lost all that time, and that was it. Pole sitter hasn’t won here since the mid 2000’s or something crazy.Yeah, if you can start near the front, that’s going to give you the best opportunity, best opportunity to have clear pit stops, clear start, stay out of trouble, et cetera. But I think ideally the car has got some good speed. I think we can shoot on it. I think we’re in a good starting spot there with fourth, and hopefully we can make up three spots.”
GRAHAM RAHAL – Starting fifth, matching his best start here. “I didn’t have speed to be anywhere near Alex.But you know, overall, that first session I was just happy to advance. It was unbelievably slippery and pretty ugly in Group One. It’s a fine line out there. Yeah, I think you’re using — I mean, as you see, particularly in the back section, Turn 9, 10, you get off line three inches, you’re going to hit the fence, but you know, trust me, in Q3 there was several times I thought I was going to hit the fence. There’s no doubt. As Will said, you’re giving it absolutely everything you have. You’re hanging on for dear life, and obviously around here there’s not a whole lot of space, right. But risk versus reward, you give it all you’ve got, and you hope that it sticks, and tomorrow you just pull it back just a little bit.”
JOSEPH NEWGARDEN – Starting sixth. I certainly messed it up for us, on our best tires. I probably got too greedy, hit the wall in Turn Eight and bent the toe, so I had to come in. I was trying to stay out of Rossi’s way, actually, so I didn’t interfere. It’s insane, though, when it happens, you’re going down the straightaway like this, so you know that’s the end of your qualifying session. The bent toe is a simple fix. We’ll change it most likely, get our setting back and be good to go. Nothing to be concerned about. The Track temp was dropping. It was slick, especially in the first session.”
INDYCAR QUALIFYING RESULTS
1. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:06.5528 (106.454)
2. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:06.9054 (105.893)
3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:06.9107 (105.884)
4. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:07.0483 (105.667)
5. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:07.1275 (105.542)
6. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:07.1922 (105.441)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:07.1415 (105.520)
8. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:07.1899 (105.444)
9. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 1:07.1943 (105.438)
10. (6) Robert Wickens, Honda, 1:07.2289 (105.383)
11. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 1:07.3478 (105.197)
12. (20) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 1:07.6427 (104.739)
13. (10) Ed Jones, Honda, 1:08.3844 (103.603)
14. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 1:08.1622 (103.940)
15. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:08.7167 (103.102)
16. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:08.1763 (103.919)
17. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:08.8207 (102.946)
18. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 1:08.2739 (103.770)
19. (88) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 1:08.8623 (102.884)
20. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:08.5294 (103.383)
21. (19) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 1:09.1429 (102.466)
22. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:08.6340 (103.226)
23. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 1:09.7481 (101.577)
24. (32) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)
PHOTOS BY PABLO MATAMOROS