IndyCar Long Beach Report: Rossi delivers Andretti’s 200th win

Alexander Rossi dominated the race at Long Beach for a second year running, making him the first driver to win back to back races at the track since Sebastien Bourdais’ run of three wins from 2005 to 2007. Rossi’s win also marks the 200th race win for his Andretti Autosport team, prompting huge celebrations.

Rossi’s performance was even more dominant than it was last year, leading from the start and forming a five-second lead before the first stops. His lead only increased after that, hitting ten seconds after forty laps and then staying at around that mark for the rest of the race.

The only time Rossi’s win looked anything but certain was when he was having to deal with traffic after the second stops and got a bit too close for comfort to Marcus Ericsson. This proved to not be an issue and Rossi took his first win of the season, putting him into second in the championship, 28 points behind leader Josef Newgarden.

Newgarden extended his championship lead by one point after finishing in a comfortable second place. The #2 Penske’s race was made by the first stops where they took the risk of staying out later than all the other leaders, putting Newgarden at real risk of getting caught out by a caution.

This nearly came to fruition when Santino Ferrucci spun at Turn 1, but a caution was avoided and Newgarden dived into the pits the following lap, jumping Will Power and Scott Dixon in the process. After that, his second place was unchallenged and Newgarden took his third podium of the year.

Dixon finished in an unexpected third after Graham Rahal was penalised for a marginal block on the final lap. It looked like a third Long Beach podium would be out of reach for Dixon after he had a fuel probe issue during his second stop which meant he was stationary for nearly twenty seconds. After this, Dixon fought back and caught up to fourth-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay with ten laps to go, passing him with just a handful of laps left. He then set about Rahal and probably would’ve passed him without the block from the RLL driver anyway.

Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

For Rahal’s part, the block was on the edge; he moved across to the right just as Dixon did. Race direction called him out for blocking, meaning he lost his third-place finish. Rahal had only got into a podium position through Dixon’s pit stop mishap, so fourth-place wasn’t too much of a disappointment for him – though he did want to make up for his lost podium at Barber.

Simon Pagenaud ran a fairly quiet race with the only minor incident in his race being a slight touch with Hunter-Reay on the first lap. Both drivers got away with it and Pagenaud went onto have a clean race, delivering his best result of the season so far in sixth. The other Penske of Power had a less clean race, spinning at Turn 1 while trying to fend off an overtake from Dixon. This dropped him down to eighth, and over the rest of the race, he only managed to gain one place, finishing seventh.

Last week’s race winner Takuma Sato didn’t have the best of races, finishing eighth after a fairly uneventful race buried in the midfield. COTA race winner Colton Herta had an even worse race; the #88 Harding driver got sideways at Turn 9 and hit the wall, breaking his front left suspension and front wing, putting him out of the race.

Credit: John Cote/IndyCar

Herta was the only non-finisher, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t drama elsewhere. Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach got together on the first lap, as did Jack Harvey and Ericsson. All drivers were restarted under the caution and continued in the race with Harvey losing three laps and Pigot and Ericsson losing one – though Ericsson also encountered a drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact. There were no clear replays of what happened, but Harvey ended up in the hedge below the iconic Long Beach fountain!

Next up on the IndyCar schedule is the IndyCar Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11, which kicks off the Month of May for the series.

Full Race Results:

  1. Alexander Rossi
  2. Josef Newgarden
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Graham Rahal
  5. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  6. Simon Pagenaud
  7. Will Power
  8. Takuma Sato
  9. James Hinchcliffe
  10. Felix Rosenqvist (R)
  11. Sebastien Bourdais
  12. Patricio O’Ward (R)
  13. Marco Andretti
  14. Max Chilton
  15. Matheus Leist
  16. Ed Jones
  17. Zach Veach
  18. Spencer Pigot
  19. Tony Kanaan
  20. Marcus Ericsson (R)
  21. Santino Ferrucci (R)
  22. Jack Harvey

DNF – Colton Herta (crash)

Championship Top 5:

  1. Josef Newgarden
  2. Alexander Rossi
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Takuma Sato
  5. Ryan Hunter-Reay

Featured Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher/IndyCar

IndyCar Long Beach Preview

Next up on the IndyCar calendar is the scenic street track of Long Beach, California, a track which no one has managed to dominate over the last few years. With just under 2 miles of streets and 12 turns, Long Beach has lots of overtaking opportunities, making the races here very interesting and often chaotic.

Takuma Sato and Rahal Letterman Lanigan will be heading into this weekend on a high after their win at Barber Motorsports Park. RLL will want a good result all round at Long Beach, rather than just on one side of the garage, as was the case last weekend. Graham Rahal suffered an issue with his Honda engine that left him stranded on the track. This amounted to the sixth Honda-related failure in just three races, compared to just one Chevrolet issue, meaning Honda has still got some reliability issues to see to.

Despite this, Honda has won two of the three races so far this season with Sato and Colton Herta both taking victories. Chevrolet holds the championship lead, though, with Josef Newgarden sitting 27 points clear at the top of the standings, having won at St Petersburg and finished second and fifth in the following rounds. Scott Dixon is second in the championship and Sato’s victory at Barber has elevated him to third, while COTA-winner Herta has dropped to fifth after suffering from reliability issues at Barber.

Barber itself was almost entirely dominated by Sato, who led for 74 of the 90 laps. He made a mistake towards the end of the race and ran off track, giving Dixon a chance at the win but the reigning champion could not capitalise on the mistake, settling for second for the sixth time at Barber.

2019 Barber podium (L-R) Scott Dixon, Takuma Sato, Sebastien Bourdais. Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar

This means Dixon is yet to win a race in 2019 but this is hardly anything to worry about given he didn’t take his first win in 2018 until the seventh race, and that didn’t exactly stop him going onto win the championship!

Unlike other tracks, Long Beach has not had any single driver or team dominating in recent years. Alexander Rossi won last year’s race from pole – the first driver to do so since 2007. The race was incident-filled with four caution periods, but Rossi held firm throughout the 85 laps and to take one of his most convincing wins to date.

The last four races at Long Beach have been split between Honda and Chevrolet, with neither manufacturer having a clear advantage – adding to the excitement of this track. This is the second street race of the season and will follow the same weekend format as all the races so far with the two-group qualifying eventually ending in the Fast Six.

The grid is back down to 23-cars for Round 4 as Ben Hanley and DragonSpeed are not competing again until the Indy 500. Other than that, everything is the same as it was at Barber.

As Long Beach is back-to-back with Barber, it’s unlikely that Honda has found many solutions to the problems experienced last weekend, meaning Honda unreliability could again be a factor this weekend. Dixon, Rossi and Will Power are all after their first wins of the season, with Rossi coming in as the defending Long Beach champion. Rossi is, in fact, looking for his first podium of the season as the highest placed driver in the championship without one, something that he will want to set straight in the next few races, especially with the Indy 500 on the horizon.

2018 Long Beach podium, (L-R) Will Power, Alexander Rossi, Ed Jones. Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

None of the Road to Indy programme are at Long Beach, as was the case in Barber, so it is just IndyCar again, though this time IMSA are also in town with a 100-minute shootout, taking place after IndyCar’s qualifying. The clash means none of the IndyCar drivers that normally compete in IMSA will be doing so this weekend, with each team made up of only two drivers, compared to the usual three or four. The timings for this weekend are as follows:

April 12

Practice 1 – 10:00am (PDT) / 6:00pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 2:00pm / 10:00pm

April 13

Practice 3 – 9:00am / 5:00pm
Qualifying – 12:10pm / 8:10pm
IMSA Race – 2:00pm / 10:00pm

April 14

Race – 1:30pm / 9:30pm

Entry List:

# Driver Team
2 Josef Newgarden Team Penske
4 Matheus Leist AJ Foyt Racing
5 James Hinchcliffe Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
7 Marcus Ericsson (R) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
9 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing
10 Felix Rosenqvist (R) Chip Ganassi Racing
12 Will Power Team Penske
14 Tony Kanaan AJ Foyt Racing
15 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan
18 Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne Racing
19 Santino Ferrucci (R) Dale Coyne Racing
20 Ed Jones Ed Carpenter Racing
21 Spencer Pigot Ed Carpenter Racing
22 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske
26 Zach Veach Andretti Autosport
27 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport
28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
30 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan
31 Patricio O’Ward (R) Carlin
59 Max Chilton Carlin
60 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
88 Colton Herta (R) Harding Steinbrenner
98 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport

Featured Image Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar