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04/16 2018

ALEXANDER ROSSI CAPS OFF PERFECT INDYCAR WEEKEND WITH WIN IN LONG BEACH

 

Driver never turned a wheel wrong all weekend with a commanding performance

BY:  AUTOWEEK

 

Alexander Rossi came as close to driving a perfect race as any driver can expect in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Andretti Autosport driver started on the pole, drove away from the field and won Sunday’s 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to score his third career victory.

“You always look back on things, on what could have been better, but we nailed the setup really every session, which is very hard to do in this championship with the changing conditions and the different rubber that gets laid down,” Rossi explained. “My engineer, Jeremy Milless, and the entire engineering department led by Eric Bretzman was really on top of their game this weekend.

“I think we had two cars to win for sure, and I feel very sad about stuff that happened to Ryan kind of from yesterday afternoon, but Zach Veach and Marco Andretti showed the strength of the cars in race condition, as well, today, and it would have been pretty cool for Zach to be able to get his first podium.

“He was really close.”

Veach finished 4th, Andretti 6th.

The driver from Auburn, California has established himself as the favorite to win the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series championship among his peers, including Team Penske driver Will Power who finished second Sunday.

“When you look at what Rossi did this weekend, man, really, really, really strong,” Power said. “I think he’s going to be tough to beat in the championship. He’s definitely what I’d call a ‘stand-out of the field’ right now in every respect. Even when we saw him at Phoenix on the oval, as well.

“You’ll have to beat him for the championship.”

The victory puts Rossi into the lead of the standings with 126 points. That is 22 points ahead of defending champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske, who finished seventh.

Rossi led 71 laps in the 85-lap race. The only times he yielded the lead came when he made his two pit stops – the first on Lap 25 and the second on Lap 56.

Once he was back in the lead, he easily held off Power to win the race by 1.2413 seconds, despite the fact Power had more time left on his “Push to Pass” allotment.

“We had a bit in reserve, no doubt about it,” Rossi said of overtake assist allotment. “I was happy with the gap with second. I knew where and how much ‘Push-to-Pass’ Will was using. He definitely started those nine laps with more than we did, and I let him burn it out a bit.

“But we had enough pace in reserve if we absolutely had to use it.”

Rossi drove away from the field at the start of the race before Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud got punted in Turn 1 by Graham Rahal. Pagenaud was out of the race because IndyCar Series officials could not tow his car back to the pit area before of the location of the track where it was stopped.

Any car between Turns 1 to 5 on the 1.968-mile street course have to stay in that area until after the race.

Rahal was given a drive-through penalty that put him in 23rd position but he was able to race his way back to a fifth-place finish.

Prime contenders Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon were both caught in the pits for their final stop just when a yellow flag waved when rookie driver Zachary Claman De Melo had hit the Turn 10 wall.

Dixon’s crew completed the pit stop while Bourdais drove through the pits and returned once the pits were open. By then, he had dropped from the lead further back in the pack and finished 13th. Dixon was assessed a drive through penalty and finished 11th.

That left Power as the only driver who might have had a chance to challenge Rossi.

He couldn’t, and Rossi scored his third career win. His first two victories were the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and at the most famous road course in America, Watkins Glen International in 2017.

His third victory came Sunday at the greatest street course race in North America, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“Those are three good ones, huh?” Rossi responded. “I realized that when I was told on the podium that that was the case, and that’s pretty spectacular.

“I certainly hope I haven’t peaked too early with those three. No doubt about it, if you’re going to hit the wish list, those are the three. I don’t really have anything more to say than it’s kind of hard to believe and hard to understand, and it’s something that will definitely take a lot of time to appreciate, but we don’t have that much time to appreciate it because this series just likes to keep us going.

“We’re on track here in another four or five days at Barber Motorsports Park, and you’re only as good as your last time on track, so we’ll have to go re-prove ourselves again on Friday.”

There was little left for Rossi to prove on Sunday after a weekend that came close to perfection.

Alexander Rossi now leads the championship point standings.PHOTO BY LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race results

1. (1) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running

2. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running

3. (13) Ed Jones, Honda, 85, Running

4. (16) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running

5. (5) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running

6. (20) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running

7. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running

8. (11) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running

9. (8) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running

10. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running

11. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running

12. (17) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running

13. (9) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running

14. (14) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running

15. (18) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running

16. (24) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 84, Running

17. (15) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 84, Running

18. (12) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 84, Running

19. (19) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 83, Running

20. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 81, Running

21. (22) Takuma Sato, Honda, 74, Running

22. (10) Robert Wickens, Honda, 73, Running

23. (21) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 58, Contact

24. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 0, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 88.622 mph
Time of Race: 1:53:15.2434
Margin of victory: 1.2413 seconds
Cautions: 4 for 17 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Rossi 1-24
Power 25-30
Hunter-Reay 31
Rossi 32-55
Bourdais 56-59
Newgarden 60-62
Rossi 63-85

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Rossi 126, Newgarden 104, Rahal 93, Bourdais 88, Hinchcliffe 83, Dixon 79, Hunter-Reay 73, Power 72, Jones 69, Andretti 68.