Alexander Rossi has claimed pole position for tomorrow’s 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver claimed his second consecutive pole position for his home race, setting a blistering lap-time that was three tenths clear of his nearest rivals.
Heading into Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, Rossi had the momentum having topped the final practice session with the best time of the weekend up to that point; a 1:07.0588.
As has been the ongoing theme of IndyCar qualifying sessions so far this year, red flag interruptions played a massive part in shaping the grid order. The first of two red flags occurred in the dying moments of group one in round one, with A.J. Foyt Enterprises‘ Tony Kanaan nosing the tyre wall. The red flag once again caught out the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team-mates, James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson, but Kanaan was potentially the worst off, as he was set to advance into the next round but lost his best lap after causing the red flag.
The second group in round one went, thankfully, uninterrupted, allowing for the tense final moments to play out as drivers tried to secure a last-minute spot in the next round. As the chequered flag came out, Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais was on the bubble to advance in sixth place, but a last-gasp effort from Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta saw the Teenager transfer into Q2.
Bourdais was therefore eliminated in round one, which at the very least, allowed him a few more minutes of preparation before jumping into the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race that he would be taking part in just moments after the conclusion of IndyCar qualifying.
The second red flag of Qualifying came towards the end of the second round, right as drivers were putting together their laps to get into the shoot-out for pole position. Throughout the weekend so far, Chip Ganassi Racing has looked to be in great form with both Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist. The pair had just taken the top two positions on the leaderboard as the session drew to a close, but Rosenqvist elected to go for another lap to try and improve even further. This proved to be his undoing.
Rosenqvist locked up in the braking zone for turn nine and went careering into the tyres on the outside of the corner. The red flag would soon follow, ending the session prematurely. What was worse was that Rosenqvist would lose his best lap, which surely would have seen him through into the final round. He was demoted, allowing championship-leader Josef Newgarden a lifeline to transfer into the shoot-out for pole.
In the last round, everything looked to be going the way of Scott Dixon. The New Zealander had a slightly different approach in session, electing to make his only run of the session whilst the other drivers were in the pits changing tyres. Dixon promptly jumped up to the top of the time-sheets with a 1:06.7479. He would stay out on the track to try and find time on a second lap, which looked to be going well when he was tracking to improve by two tenths. However, in the final sector, Dixon felt like he made a mistake and therefore backed out of the lap.
Ultimately, this would open the door for Alexander Rossi. On the Californian’s final lap right at the end of the session, he was matching Dixon’s potential pole lap and then found even more time during the final sector. He would cross the line to set a lap-time of 1:06.4811, which was just two-tenths of a second slower than Helio Castroneves‘ lap record from 2017. The brilliant lap would secure himself pole position for the Grand Prix of Long Beach for the second-straight season; with the result being even sweeter as Long Beach is Rossi’s home race.
Last year, Rossi started from pole position and put in a dominating drive to secure his first victory of the season. Rossi will be very much hoping that history repeats itself this time around, so he can put himself higher up the championship tables with a victory.
After his mistake on his second flying lap, Dixon would have to settle for second place on the grid. Nevertheless, it is a great starting position for the reigning champion, who will also be looking to take his first win of 2019.
For the first time this season, all three Team Penske drivers made it into the final round of qualifying. Will Power led the trio, taking third on the grid, with Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud lining up just behind in fourth and fifth respectively. For Pagenaud, the result was somewhat of a weight off his shoulders after a string of disappointing fortunes in recent qualifying sessions.
Graham Rahal was the last driver to make it into the final round of qualifying. The American will be delighted with his second strong grid position in a row but will be hoping to convert his strong spot into a strong race result, unlike last week’s race at Barber Motorsports Park where he retired after starting in second place.
On the outside looking in after being eliminated in round two were seventh-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay and eighth-placed Takuma Sato. The pair were two of the unlucky drivers who had the speed to make it into the final round but were unable to set their best laps after Rosenqvist’s crash brought out the red flag. Both will want to use the speed in their cars to move up the order tomorrow.
Starting in ninth and tenth on the grid will be a brace of rookies. Carlin‘s Patricio O’Ward and Harding’s Colton Herta will start side-by-side after having their sessions curtailed by Rosenqvist. Marco Andretti will line-up in eleventh after making his first Q2 appearance of the season, with Rosenqvist starting just behind in twelfth place after being demoted from the top six for causing the red flag.
Dale Coyne Racing’s duo were the two drivers to just miss out on advancing out of the first round of qualifying. Rookie Santino Ferrucci will start in thirteenth ahead of team-mate Sebastien Bourdais in fourteenth.
It was an unfortunate session also for the Arrow Schmidt Peterson duo, with James Hinchcliffe starting down in fifteenth ahead of Marcus Ericsson in nineteenth after both were caught out by the red flag following Tony Kanaan’s crash in round one. Kanaan, himself, will start just behind his team-mate, Matheus Leist, down in twenty-first place, with Kanaan’s best-recorded lap of qualifying being a sensational 3:22.3800 after losing his best laps due to his red flag-inducing crash.
Propping up the grid will be Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach in twenty-second and Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Spencer Pigot in twenty-third and last place. The two drivers threw caution to the wind in their group of qualifying by going out early in the hopes of a red flag interrupting the session. Sadly for them, that never came, with the rest of the drivers in the group all running faster laps later in the session.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Long Beach – Qualifying results:
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