Alexander Rossi has taken victory in round four of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, the Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver put on an absolute clinic, leading eighty of the eighty-five laps on the way to take his second consecutive win at the famous street circuit.
Last week at Barber Motorsports Park, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Takuma Sato wrote the definition of the word ‘domination’ after winning the Grand Prix of Alabama from pole position. This week, Alexander Rossi scribbled out the old definition and wrote his own.
After taking a sensational pole position on Saturday, Rossi put his strong grid position to great use on the long run down into turn one, just holding off the challenging Scott Dixon. Just moments later, the sole caution period of the race took place after a pile-up at the famous fountain section, with Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey ending up beached in the flower bed after being hit from behind by Marcus Ericsson. Spencer Pigot, Matheus Leist and Zach Veach were also involved, but all were able to continue in the race.
On the race restart, Rossi was on the defensive again. Dixon had a great restart and stuck to the gearbox of Rossi. In a carbon copy of lap one, Dixon pulled out to make a move on the outside of turn one, but Rossi again put on the anchors later to hold the position.
For the opening stages of the race, the gap between Rossi and Dixon grew relatively slowly. However, the gap would continue to grow lap after lap. After the first twenty laps, Rossi held a five-second lead over Dixon. Soon after, the first pit-stop phase of the race took place, with Dixon ultimately losing second place to Josef Newgarden after Team Penske left the American out on the race track to try and over-cut the New Zealander; which was a success.
Newgarden soon built a gap to the pack battling for the podium spots, but he was simultaneously losing time to the race-leader Rossi. By the half-way point of the race, the gap between Rossi and Newgarden was up to eleven seconds, which only came back down below ten seconds whilst Rossi negotiated lapped traffic in the closing stages of the race.
After the early caution, the rest of the race would be run caution-free. This allowed Rossi to stretch his legs even further as the race wound down. The Californian showed zero signs of slowing down the entire race, only coming slightly unstuck whilst trying to lap Marcus Ericsson on the front-stretch.
With zero hurdles after that, Alexander would cross the line on lap eighty-five to take a simply dominant victory in the Grand Prix of Long Beach, leading all but five laps of the race. The win would be his first of the 2019 season and his second consecutive win on the famous street circuit. Additionally, the win means that Rossi has become just the eighth driver to have taken multiple wins at Long Beach, joining the likes of Mario Andretti, Alex Zanardi and others.
The winning margin for Rossi was an astonishing twenty seconds, with Penske’s Josef Newgarden taking second-place. The result means that Newgarden has finished on the podium in three of the four races held so far this year, meaning that he will hold onto his championship-lead heading into the all-important month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He now holds a lead of twenty-eight points over the now second-place sitter, Rossi.
Perhaps the most controversial moment of the race took place on the last lap in the fight for the final spot on the podium. During his second pit-stop, Dixon would suffer a slow pit-stop after the fuel hose would not engage properly. This would drop Scott down to fifth place and would force him to fight his way back to the podium.
In the final five laps, Dixon made a move on Ryan Hunter-Reay to take fourth place and soon set about chasing down third-placed Graham Rahal. At the start of the final lap, Dixon was within half a second of Rahal, who had no push-to-pass boost left in his #15 Honda. Heading on to the back-straight out of turn eight, Rahal moved over to the right side of the circuit to block a run from Dixon on the inside. This killed Scott’s momentum heading down the straight and ultimately meant that Rahal would hold on to his position by less than a tenth of a second at the finish line.
Immediately after crossing the line, Dixon would show his displeasure at the blocking move made by Rahal, asking the IndyCar officials to review the incident. Soon after, the stewards announced that Rahal would be penalised for the incident, with Dixon being promoted onto the podium and Rahal being dropped back down to fourth place. The call was judged to be very marginal by many, including Rahal, who stated that he would be seeking clarification on the rules later on.
Taking fifth place would be Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was forced to majorly back off the pace to save fuel in the last few laps, costing him a position to Dixon with five laps to go.
Sixth place would be a relieved Simon Pagenaud, who finally ended his run of bad luck by having a strong weekend. The Frenchman will be hoping that his turn of good fortune continues into the next race at Indianapolis in just under a month’s time. On the flip-side, Pagenaud’s Penske team-mate Will Power finished the race weekend disappointed for the third race in a row.
The Australian had one of the fastest cars in the field and had been running in third-place when Scott Dixon came up to challenge him into turn one on lap thirty-four. However, Power would go way too deep into the corner and would be forced to take to the run-off. The incident would push Power down to eighth place, with Will eventually gaining just one position in the remainder of the race to take the chequered flag in seventh place. For the second year in a row, Power will be hoping for a spectacular month of May in Indianapolis to put himself back in the championship fight.
Last week’s race-winner, Takuma Sato, took an eighth-place finish; capping off what had been a decent race weekend for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team that looks to be on a run of good form at the moment. Ninth place would go the way of Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s James Hinchcliffe, with Ganassi’s rookie Felix Rosenqvist rounding out the top ten. With the race running almost entirely caution-free, Rosenqvist will have been left rueing his mistake in qualifying on Saturday, after a crash in the second round cost him an almost certain spot in the top six on the grid.
Finishing just outside the top ten was Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais, who was the last driver to finish the race on the lead lap. It was a busy weekend for Bourdais after the Frenchman also took part in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race on Saturday in Ganassi’s #66 Ford GT alongside Dirk Muller.
Carlin‘s Patricio O’Ward finished the race one lap down in twelfth place. The Mexican had qualified inside the top ten but fell down to fifteenth in the early stages of the race. The team stated that there had been no problem with O’Ward’s #31 Chevrolet at the time and that they had simply been following a specific strategy. O’Ward’s team-mate, Max Chilton, would follow further behind in fourteenth place.
Further back, Tony Kanaan had a long and difficult race. The Brazilian was complaining of back-pain prior to the race, following his heavy crash in qualifying on Saturday. He would fight through the pain to start his 304th consecutive IndyCar race, but he would finish two laps down in nineteenth place.
Rookies Marcus Ericsson and Santino Ferrucci would also finish two laps off of the leaders. Ericsson fell down the order after being involved in the lap one pile-up at the fountain. He required an early pit-stop for a new front-wing and soon came back down the pit-lane after being awarded a drive-through penalty for having avoidable contact with Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey. Ericsson would finish the race in twentieth place.
Ferrucci also had an ill-fated race. The American almost caused the second caution of the race after finding himself stalled in the run-off area at turn one. Thankfully, he was able to get his #19 Honda fired-up and back into the race without any interruption to the race. He fell a lap down in the process, however, and would go on to be lapped again later in the race before finishing in twenty-first place.
The last driver on the race-track at the end of the race was Meyer Shank’s Jack Harvey, who lost several laps whilst his team replaced his rear-wing following the contact from Marcus Ericsson. He would finish three-laps down in twenty-second place.
Only one driver failed to finish the race. Unfortunately, for the second week in a row, Colton Herta‘s race would end prematurely. The American had been on course for a top ten finish when on lap fifty, he would lose control of his #88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda on the exit of turn nine.
Herta would hit the outside wall and damage both his front-wing and the left-rear suspension, with the damage ultimately proving too much to repair. After becoming IndyCar’s youngest-ever race winner two races ago at the Circuit of the Americas, the teenager has had a torrid time. He will be hoping to get his season back on track next time out.
Just under four weeks separate the teams and drivers from the fifth round of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series. The 2019 Grand Prix of Indianapolis will take place on Saturday, May 11. With four different winners from four different teams in the first four races, will the streak continue heading into IndyCar’s biggest month of the year?
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Long Beach – Race results:
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