LONG BEACH, Calif – After the pomp and circumstance that comes with the weekend festivities at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, race day arrived and provided an exciting afternoon of NTT Data IndyCar Series action. The front row saw last year’s Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi lined up alongside the defending series champion Scott Dixon. Then came the Penske attack from Will Power, Josef Newgarden, and Simon Pagenaud followed by the surging Graham Rahal in 6th. However, none of the front runners had an answer all afternoon for Alexander Rossi and his #27 Honda powered Andretti Autosport machine. Rossi held the lead over the course of the first lap and withstood pressure from Scott Dixon following a caution on that first lap to win from pole in Long Beach. The win is the second in Long Beach for Rossi following his 2018 victory. It’s his first of the 2019 season and fourth win in the NTT Data IndyCar series.
When asked about what led to his dominant victory, Rossi stated “I don’t think we found anything specific. It was a good Friday night for us to find what we needed. Winning the pole is huge come Sunday. It allows you to be in front heading in to turn one and run your own race from there. It’s awesome to be able to kickstart our year.”
“I loved today,” he added.
The podium was capped off by Josef Newgarden who finished 20.236 seconds behind Rossi, and Scott Dixon, who was elevated to third place after Graham Rahal was penalized for blocking the Kiwi down the back stretch. Second place represents Newgarden’s best result around the Streets of Long Beach in eight attempts. For Rahal, the podium would have marked his best finish since finishing third at Mid-Ohio in 2017. Instead, Scott Dixon achieves his third podium of the season and his fourth in Long Beach. Rossi’s margin of victory, 20.236 seconds, is the largest in Long Beach since Al Unser Jr.’s win in 1995. The victory is the 200th across all forms of motorsport for team owner Michael Andretti and Andretti Autosport.
Scott Dixon, who had been quick all weekend in his #9 Honda powered machine for Chip Ganassi Racing, found himself in fourth place as the checkered flag flew before being elevated to third due to Rahal’s penalty. After running second leading up to the first round of pit stops, Dixon was caught out after the two Penske cars behind him, Newgarden and Power waited an additional lap, until lap 28 to pit and jumped Dixon with the overcut. Power rejoined just ahead of Dixon in fourth place before running long into the run off area at Turn 1. Power kept the car running and was able to flick-spin his #12 before rejoining, but the mistake dropped the Indy 500 winner to seventh overall.
Now comfortably in second place, Newgarden looked to focus on running down Rossi. His plans were dashed however as he spent much of the middle part of the race stuck behind Ed Jones in the #20 after a pit stop cycle. It took Newgarden until lap 54 to finally clear the lapped car. At this point, the gap to Rossi had already been stretched to over 12 seconds. The writing was on the wall for Newgarden and Team Penske. Still, the championship leader was happy with the result today as he looks to focus on consistent results throughout 2019.
“It’s been very solid, the car’s been good, we’ve been chipping away at things. I think the guys are doing a great job. We’ll take a P2,” said Newgarden.
The fastest runner toward the end of the race was Scott Dixon, who passed Ryan Hunter-Reay to move into fourth position on the penultimate lap of the race. Dixon then set his sights on Graham Rahal, whose rear tires looked to be struggling for grip late in the race, forcing the issue from turn 8, all the way down the back stretch, and into the final sector. Dixon tried an inside move as the pair entered on to the back straight. It was at this moment, that Graham Rahal flicked his #15 Honda to the inside, effectively blocking Dixon and maintaining his advantage through the remaining three corners. Race control deemed Rahal’s maneuver to be reactionary and penalized the Ohio-born driver, giving the position to Dixon.
“I think if he had not reacted we would have gotten the pass done. It is what it is,” added Dixon when discussing the incident.
The race was mostly incident free. There was an early caution period when Marcus Ericsson, Spencer Pigot, and Jack Harvey came together in the fountain section of the course. Pigot and Harvey both stalled while Ericsson continued on to pit lane. In addition, Colton Herta contacted the wall at the exit of Turn 9, damaging the front end of his #88 entry and ending his afternoon after nursing his ride back to pit lane. Finally, Ryan Hunter-Reay made mention of a mechanical issue that occurred toward the end of the race that the team was still diagnosing.
After round four of the NTT Data IndyCar Series, Josef Newgarden’s consistency sees him on top with 166 points. Alexander Rossi finds himself in second place with 138 points while Scott Dixon’s Long Beach podium elevates him to third with 133 points.
Now begins the mythical month of May for the NTT Data IndyCar Series. The IndyCar Grand Prix is live from the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11th followed by preparations, practices, and qualifications for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500. The Indy 500 will take place on its traditional last Sunday in May, the 26th.
Open-Wheels.com will continue its IndyCar coverage with breaking news and sessions results as well as content examining the vast history of the Indy 500 as we count down the days to the 103rd running.
Photo credit IndyCar Media