By: Spencer Neff
April 14, 2019 | 12:20 PM
Happy race day, everyone. Today, the NTT IndyCar Series will take to the streets of Long Beach for the 36th time.
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be the fourth of 17 races this year and the second on a temporary street course. This race will see 23 drivers run a scheduled 85 laps around the 1.968-mile, 11-turn course.
Now, here’s a recap of the headlines from Friday and Saturday at Long Beach.
Pre-Race Weekend Recap: Rossi extends Long Beach dominance
On Saturday, Alexander Rossi backed up his quickest time in final practice by taking the pole for today. The 2018 Long Beach polesitter and race winner earned his first NTT P1 Award of 2019 with a lap of 1m06.4811, besting Scott Dixon by .2688 seconds.
It is Rossi’s fifth career pole and first since Mid-Ohio last year. The Californian also gave his Andretti Autosport team their first pole since the 2018 finale at Sonoma Raceway (Ryan Hunter-Reay).
Last week at Barber Motorsports Park, the four-car team failed to make the Fast Six. It marked the first time since the Indianapolis Grand Prix last year that an Andretti driver did not make the Fast Six. As for today, Rossi can make some history.
With a win today, Rossi would become the first driver to score consecutive wins at Long Beach since Sebastien Bourdais (2005-07). There is one stat that plays into Rossi’s favor, though. In three of the previous four races Rossi started from the pole, he went on to win.
If he were to pull it off, Rossi would also be the first California-born driver to win multiple times at Long Beach. Last year, the Auburn native joined 1996 winner Jimmy Vasser (Canoga Park) as the only drivers from the state to win the prestigious race.
Seeing Red (Flags)
Yesterday, two separate qualifying rounds ended prematurely due to a red flag. In Group 1 qualifying, A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan slid into the Turn 6 tire barrier.
As a result, Kanaan lost his two quickest laps from the session. Today, the 1999 Long Beach polesitter will start 21st. Despite knee and back soreness, Kanaan will extend his record to 303 consecutive starts. Kanaan has 363 total starts and is third all-time behind Mario Andretti (at 407 starts) and A.J. Foyt (with 369 starts).
In Round 2, Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Felix Rosenqvist slid off the track and into the Turn 9 tire barriers. Like Kanaan, the incident prompted a red flag.
Despite running second at the time, Rosenqvist lost his two fastest laps of the session and will start 12th. Points leader Josef Newgarden of Team Penske moved on to the Fast Six after the penalty.
The Fast Six was run without incident, as Rossi and 2015 Long Beach winner Scott Dixon continued their quick pace from the weekend, giving Honda a front row lockout for the second straight race. In 2019, Dixon (who led Practice 2 on Friday) is the only driver to make the Fast Six in each race.
Other Drivers to Watch
Starting third, 2008 and 2012 race winner Will Power was quickest of the Chevrolet-powered cars in qualifying.
Among the fast six, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was the only driver to make his first 2019 appearance in the run for the pole. A Long Beach winner in 2016, Pagenaud made his first Fast Six appearance since Toronto last year. Today, he will start fifth.
Yesterday, Team Penske saw all three drivers in the Fast Six a week after none of them made it at Barber.
One of the weekend’s major contenders was caught out by the red flag. Following a promising start to the weekend, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay will start seventh. On Friday, the 2010 race winner ran Top 2 in both sessions, including being the fastest in Practice 1.
Early on this season, this year’s rookie class has seen impressive runs from several drivers, including Rosenqvist. Yesterday, things changed a bit during qualifying. For the second straight race, no first-year driver made the Fast Six.
Leading the way for this year’s rookie class will be Carlin Racing’s Pato O’Ward and Harding Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Heta. Herta led the morning warmup. After finishing 1-2 in the 2018 Indy Lights standings as Andretti teammates, the drivers will share the fifth row (9th and 10th).
Barely missing out on the Top 12 was Dale Coyne Racing rookie Santino Ferrucci, who will start 13th. Lastly, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ first-year driver Marcus Ericsson will start 19th.
Race Day Info
This afternoon, The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race broadcast will begin with pre-race coverage at 4:00 PM Eastern on NBCSN. At 4:35, Anthony Lynn (Head Coach of the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers) will give the command to start engines.
Six-time Long Beach winner and Harding Steinbrenner Executive Consultant Al Unser Jr. will wave the green flag at 4:42 PM Eastern.
Timing and scoring, as well as commentary from the IndyCar Radio Network, can be found by visiting RaceControl.IndyCar.com. As always, this will be available for both the warm-up and race on Sunday. Additionally, look for information on tire strategies here.
During today’s on-track action, join us on Twitter as well. We will be online during the day with insight on all the latest developments.
Header image by Stephen King/INDYCAR