By: Justin Reschke
April 13, 2019 | 1:00 PM
The 23-car grid for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was set after Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session. Group qualifying would whittle the field down from 23 drivers to 12. Session 2 would see the top 6 drivers advance to the Firestone Fast Six and once the checkered flag flew on the final qualifying session, 2018 Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi emerged as the pole sitter for tomorrow’s race.
Group one featured Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Felix Rosenqvist, Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, Marcus Ericsson, Takuma Sato, Ed Jones, Santino Ferrucci, and Tony Kanaan.
The first group’s running would be cut short as Tony Kanaan made hard contact with the tire barrier at Turn 8 with under three minutes remaining in the session. The incident red flagged the session, ultimately brining it to an end.
This meant that the banker lap that each driver set on the Firestone black side-walled tires would stand as their fast laps. For causing the red flag, Tony Kanaan’s fastest lap time – set on the Firestone black tires – was wiped out meaning that Felix Rosenqvist was elevated to the top 6 and advanced.
Advancing to Round 2 from Group 1 were Takuma Sato with a lap of 1:07.72, Ryan Hunter-Reay with a 1:07.73, Josef Newgarden with a 1:07.78, Graham Rahal with a 1:07.81, Will Power with a 1:08.01, and Felix Rosenqvist with a 1:08.08.
Group two would feature Alexander Rossi, Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Colton Herta, Patricio O’Ward, Sebastien Bourdais, Zach Veach, Jack Harvey, Marco Andretti, Spencer Pigot, Max Chilton, and Matheus Leist.
Group 2 saw incident free running for their 10 minute session. Advancing to round 2 would be Alexander Rossi with a time of 1:06.86, Scott Dixon with a time of 1:07.00, Simon Pagenaud with a time of 1:07.14, Marco Andretti with a time of 1:07.20, rookie Colton Herta with a time of 1:07.22 and fellow rookie Patricio O’Ward with a time of 1:07.26. All fast times from Group 2 were set on the Firestone red tires.
Round 2 saw the red flag fly once again as Felix Rosenqvist locked up his Firestone reds and overcooked the entry to Turn 9, making hard contact with the tire barrier. This meant that his fastest time was dropped and Josef Newgarden was elevated to the Firestone Fast Six.
Scott Dixon paced the field with a 1:06.65, Alexander Rossi turned in a 1:06.76, Simon Pagenaud crossed the line with a 1:06.93, Will Power achieved a 1:06.96, Graham Rahal put in a lap of 1:07.04, and Newgarden was promoted with a time of 1:07.07. With Round 2 completed, the stage was set for an exciting Firestone Fast Six.
Once time expired and the final checkered flag of the day was displayed, Alexander Rossi saw the NTT Data P1 award firmly affixed to his #27 Andretti Autosport machine. Rossi set his quickest time of 1:06.48 to win the pole for tomorrow’s race. Scott Dixon would finish just behind Rossi with a time of 1:06.74.
Will Power will start on the second row in his Team Penske #12 machine with a time of 1:06.87. Next to him starting fourth will be Josef Newgarden with a time of 1:06.90. Row three will be comprised of Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal with times of 1:07.18 and 1:07.30 respectively. The results mark Alexander Rossi’s 4th pole in the NTT Data IndyCar Series.
The final starting grid is a slight departure from early indications that Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay would be duking it out for pole. Ultimately, the adjustments made after Saturday’s running for Alexander Rossi, Team Penske, and Graham Rahal paid off as all six drivers featured in the Firestone Fast Six, save for Scott Dixon, were maybe not pole contenders at various points of the weekend.
Rossi will look to win from pole and repeat his 2018 success in Long Beach to take his first win in 2019.
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 1:30 PM Pacific time, with a warm up in the morning at 9:00 AM. Pre-race coverage begins on NBCSN at 1:00 PM with race coverage following. Stay tuned to Open-Wheels.com for continuing coverage.
Photo courtesy of Chris Owens/INDYCAR Media.