Alexander Rossi sought redemption for the one he felt got away a year ago at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver made up for it in dominant fashion, completing a nearly flawless weekend with a flawless drive to win today's race.
Driving the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, Rossi led all but 14 of the 85 laps on the renowned 1.986-mile, 11-turn temporary street course that's hosted Indy car races for the last 35 years. The 26-year-old Californian crossed the finish line 1.2413 seconds ahead of Will Power at Rossi's "second home race," grabbing the championship lead in the process.
TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH: Official results
It was the third Verizon IndyCar Series win for Rossi, in his third season, and win No. 58 in the Indy car history of Andretti Autosport. Rossi is the third different driver to win in as many races this season and felt it made amends for last year, when he was running strong in the top three until a mechanical issue ended his race early.
"I can't really put into words how good the car was all weekend," Rossi said. "I think we proved that and I'm just so glad we were able to capitalize and nothing crazy happened.
"This one I'll definitely remember for a very long time for a lot of different reasons."
Rossi led three of the four practice sessions over the weekend and claimed the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying on Saturday. In the race, he zoomed to a lead of more than nine seconds by Lap 34 and only surrendered first place during cycles of pit stops as he stuck to a two-stop strategy. Rossi became the first pole sitter to win at Long Beach since Sebastien Bourdais in 2007.
Rossi has totaled 126 points in the first three races, 22 more than second-place Josef Newgarden, the reigning series champion who won the April 7 race at ISM Raceway and finished seventh today in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
"This one, even though it's not my true home race, it really feels like one," said Rossi, whose Nevada City, California, home is closer to Sonoma Raceway, site of the season finale. "The crowds here and just the whole atmosphere is so welcoming and inviting that it's no surprise that this race has been on the calendar for so long. It's a pleasure to be able to come here and race, first of all, and to be able to win here is pretty special."
Power started and finished second in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, leading six laps. It was the 63rd career podium finish for the 37-year-old Australian, ranking him 16th on the all-time Indy car list.
"That was absolutely driving just as hard as I could go," Power said, "and I am sure he was driving as hard as he could go. I am sure he was using push-to-pass and the Hondas are just a little bit better out of the hairpin. On the restarts, I couldn't get close. I think we had better top-end (speed) but their drive out of the hairpins was really good."
Ed Jones of Chip Ganassi Racing finished a solid third in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda, tying the career best that the second-year driver from Dubai accomplished at last year's Indianapolis 500.
"It was tough out there today," Jones said. "We had been struggling with the NTT DATA car on cold tires. Once we got heat in the tires, it was better. I'm really pleased with the result, though. It's just my third race with the team and I was able to equal my best result in the Verizon IndyCar Series."
Rookie Zach Veach placed a career-best fourth in the No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda. Coupled with Rossi's win and Marco Andretti's charge from 20th on the starting grid to place sixth, it gave Andretti Autosport three of the first six finishers.
Graham Rahal, in the No. 15 Total Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, overcame a drive-through penalty for running into the back of Simon Pagenaud in Turn 1 on the opening lap to place fifth. Rahal sits third in the championship, 33 points behind Rossi, making for an all-American top three in the standings.
The race in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd in the Southern California port city was slowed by four full-course cautions. The last came on Lap 72 when Ed Carpenter Racing rookie Jordan King ran into the back of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan's Bourdais, winner of the season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, in the Turn 11 hairpin.
Following a restart, Rossi kept Power at bay over the final 10 laps despite being at a disadvantage in push-to-pass time, which allows drivers to activate a boost of turbocharger pressure for additional horsepower.
"I needed to get close enough to him to make him use his," Power said, "but I just stayed at that one-second gap, just kind of couldn't make time on him enough to use (Rossi's push-to-pass) up. But yeah, it was like qualifying every lap for both of us there at the end. At the end of the day, Rossi was just too fast all day."
The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to action Sunday, April 22 with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the scenic Barber Motorsports Park road course in Birmingham, Alabama. The race airs live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Driver Quotes:
JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Well, I think we had a good day working. Certainly at least a podium, but we kept getting bit by yellows a couple times today and had to fight our way back from them. It didn't work in our favor. It is disappointing I think when you look at the speed of our car. I think we had a capable performance of challenging for a podium, but it didn't work out. Thanks to Verizon and Team Chevy for making some of this happen and all of our other partners. We will just go to Barber and try and have a smooth weekend and try to get back to the top step of the podium."
MATHEUS "MATT" LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Tough race. In the beginning, I thought we didn't have the pace, I was struggling a little bit but they played the strategy well and we managed to pass some cars [in the hairpin accident]. We restarted in P12, but my tires were gone and the guys behind me were on new reds so it was tough. Anyway, it was the first race we finished on the lead lap so that is good. There are some areas where we need to improve a little bit to be competitive but we're going to get there. I'm happy for the team and onto the next one. We'll see how Barber goes."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda, 2017 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner): "We had everything under the sun thrown at us today, and to come out of it in the top 10, it's not the result we wanted, but given the circumstances, we can be pretty happy with that. It was a no-give up kind of day. We had a decent start, stayed out of trouble and picked up a couple spots when other guys had some problems, and just out of nowhere, the car went from comfortable understeer to undriveable oversteer. We just started falling through the field like a rock... we're still not entirely sure what happened. We came in, got some new tires on and went for broke and had a good second stint, made up a bunch of time. Then we were kind of waiting for everyone on the two-stop strategy to cycle through and get some clean track, make up time. After all the two-stoppers pitted, the yellow came out almost right away and we were hosed... we still had to pit for our last stop. From there, we were able to pick up a couple spots again, but for all the things that were thrown at us, we just didn't stop fighting. The Arrow Electronics guys were great in the pits. We did a great job trying to change strategy on the fly, and overall we're happy with our top 10. This is the kind of day that keeps you alive in the championship: when it's very much not your day, but you can still come away with a solid points finish."
ROBERT WICKENS (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): "Pretty tough day. I think that our Lucas Oil car was really quick. We had a pretty good start, capitalized on other people's mistakes, and I think we were in podium contention until we had a mechanical issue. I'm not entirely sure, but I'm hearing the GCU (gearbox control unit) failed. I got stuck in fifth gear, we couldn't fix it and obviously trying to fix it under green flag was a nightmare because you just lose so many laps. It's a shame. The car was really quick on both tires.The car was actually pretty phenomenal on blacks (primary Firestone tires). It's just unfortunate - two street courses in a row where we should have scored really great points and we leave with basically nothing."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "There's not much to say really. We got a penalty for entering the pits when it went yellow. It's really tough to recover from that so late in the race, and when it drops you so far down the order. We had a really strong PNC Bank car today and it's a shame we didn't finish off what was looking to be a very strong day."
ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "Well, Long Beach has been a great track for me in the past. Great fans, great atmosphere...and second to only to the Indy 500 in terms of support in my opinion. It was tough though out there today. We had been struggling with the NTT DATA car on cold tires. Once we got heat in the tires it was better. I'm really pleased with the result though. It's just my third race with the team and I was able to equal my best result in the Verizon IndyCar Series. I think this gives me and the team a lot of confidence heading into Barber next week and I can't wait to get started there and see what the weekend holds."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Man, that was just absolutely driving as hard as I could go. On the restarts, I couldn't get close. I think the Verizon Team Penske car had better top end, but their drive out of the hairpins was really good. I thought I might have a chance, but the thing is with this push-to-pass system is you can use two or three seconds and really look after it out of each corner and you get almost the same benefit. I think they should go back to 10 hits only and then you would see some passing."
TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Another top 10 - that's what we wanted. The boys have been getting better on the stops and the car was pretty decent all day. We passed a lot of cars. We got caught on that yellow but unfortunately, that's just the way it is. Some days it works in your favor, other days it doesn't. But I'm pleased. We're building something really cool here and I'm not talking just about results, I'm talking about through all the struggles we've been having, it's making us as people a lot tighter. Everybody is going to want to come drive for A.J. (Foyt) eventually not just because of the results, but because of the people that we have."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Total Honda): "I'm sorry about what happened to Simon (Pagenaud). That's not how I like to do things. It's just like St. Pete, the rears (tires) locked up and I barely made the corner. I think (Scott) Dixon bailed out because he thought I wasn't going to make it. It hurt my race, too, obviously, with getting the penalty, having to go to the back and battle our way through. I think we had a car that could have had a shot at (Alexander) Rossi today. We made some changes for the race and the Total car was fantastic. I'm really disappointed in myself and disappointed in the way that it all began, but I'm proud of the Total team for the way that it finished. We made a lot of passes today. I passed more cars here today that I have passed in a long time. We had a lot of fun, but we want to win. Yes, it's a good start to the year and with our United Rentals Turns for Troops program, we raised a lot more money. To be third and finish all the laps so far and finish in the top-five a couple of times and get a podium so far is good, but this was our best weekend yet. We deserved to be there this weekend and that's why it's a little bittersweet."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda): "It was such a frustrating day. Full attack, really good car, the SealMaster Honda No. 18 was really hooked up. I had a pretty good feeling in the warm up and the conditions stayed the same for the race. It was a tough call to start on Firestone blacks (primary tire), but I was confident it was the right thing to do as long as I could hold my position at the start and that is exactly what happened. Thankfully, the start was stretched, so I wasn't under attack until I was up to speed. Then I really started to push hard because I could tell the guys on red tires (alternative tires) were in conservation mode. So, I started to think this could be a pretty good day. I passed a bunch of cars, and when I got to (Scott) Dixon that is when I held station. He was driving really well. He had the pace because he had saved his tires. We got to the first pit sequence and Dixon, I am sure, short filled and jumped (Will) Power. We stayed on schedule and put on red tires, and at that point, it looked like the race was coming our way. Clearly, (Alexander) Rossi was on a different planet, but other than him we were right there. I got Dixon on the restart and Race Control deemed that a violation. I thought that was interesting because I am not quite sure what I was supposed to do. I was committed. There was room and he didn't see me, so he came down on me and pushed me into the pit lane. If you get forced into the pit lane, I am not sure it is your responsibility. So, I got rather upset, so I passed him right back. I was pretty happy about that. Then we were just cruising. Unfortunately, as a group, we took a chance to stay out too long and then it went yellow. Race Control could have waited a couple seconds before closing the pits, but they didn't and we went to the back where we had to race idiots. I was racing (Charlie) Kimball side-by-side and he gives me no room, and he bent both of my toe links on the right side. It was pretty much game over from there. I made a mistake because of it trying to pass him again later into Turn 9. The car wouldn't turn anymore. Then, in the next corner, Jordan King felt like a hero and took us out. After that, I had to deal with another idiot, Matheus Leist, who tried to crash both of us a couple of times. There really wasn't much to salvage after that. It's really disappointing. The car was good. I drove the wheels off it. Passed a bunch of guys and we have nothing to show for it."
ZACHARY CLAMAN DE MELO (No. 19 The Paysafe Car Honda): (What happened): "I was trying to fuel save, I braked a little bit too late and I overcooked the corner and hit the Turn 9 wall. It's unfortunate because I think we had a good strategy and I think we would have moved up a bit at the end. The start of the race wasn't too bad, it wasn't great, but I just tried to stay out of trouble. I needed to stop a little early because I flat-spotted my front tires on the first lap so the Paysafe Car kind of difficult to drive until we had our first stop, but after that, it was going well, up until I hit the wall."
JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "I'm obviously really gutted. You can see where we were racing, we were definitely on for a podium. We can't control a mechanical failure like we had, so it was out of our hands I suppose. It is just annoying that we could have been on the podium and got nothing from today."
SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Preferred Freezer Service Chevrolet): "That was a disappointing race. Pretty much from the first stint, we were having gearbox issues. It got a lot worse at certain points of the race which ruined our day. We never really got a shot to fight for any positions or move up through the field. The Preferred Freezer Services guys worked hard this weekend and we made some good improvements over the three days, but we came away with not much to show for it. Disappointing, but hopefully we can turn it around at Barber."
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): "Terrible day. We didn't even make one corner. We had a really good start, blocked the run, I went to the outside and we had a good braking point. We were going to be three-wide and I was three-wide on the outside. It's not like I went on the brake early, and (Graham) Rahal forgot to brake. It was a shame, we had such a competitive car and a fast car all weekend. I feel bad for the DXC Technology people here. The biggest shame is that we can repair the car and go back to earn valuable points for my championship, but the decision from INDYCAR on the stand is very costly for me today."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): "I've always said there's no quit in this team. We just keep making progress and it's nice to finally be able to have a result to show for it. It was awesome to see how hard the team worked to put together a good race car and I can honestly say that the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet was the best car I'd had around here. We got a little lucky with yellows, but we'll take some luck with a new team building our foundation in INDYCAR. A lot of credit to the guys though - they've worked so hard since October to make this happen. A top-10 finish is a start and hopefully moving forward we can qualify better so we don't have to work so hard to get back into the top 10 moving forward."
ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group One Thousand One Honda): "(Fourth) feels like a win, to be honest. The crew was pushing me pretty hard at the end to try to get on the podium but... after St. Pete, after Phoenix, we've just been chipping away on it and we took a big swing at it today. I've got to thank my Group One Thousand One guys, honestly. I kind of made a mishap in qualifying to put us 16th. Today we had great strategy, great stops. They got me to where I could capitalize on it so this is more for them than me."
ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda, 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner and series points leader): "I think the Watkins Glen car was pretty close to the car we had today, but man this Andretti Autosport team and the NAPA Know How crew. It's unbelievable to win at Long Beach. I can't really put into words how good the car was all weekend. I think we proved that and I'm just so glad we were able to capitalize and nothing crazy happened. It's been a great weekend all around, we announced Crown Royal as a partner, and then we put the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda in victory lane, getting the win that I think the Military To Motorsports car should have had last weekend in Phoenix. On top of it all, I got to win in my home state of California in front of all my family and friends. It's a good feeling right now."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "First off, congratulations to Alex (Rossi), he was on rails all weekend. For us on the No. 28, it was a complete nightmare of a day. We had a damaged front wing on the start, came in for a wing change, went to the back and made our way up to fifth place. Then, I think (Takuma) Sato hit my right rear with his wing, we got a puncture and had to come in, and we went to the back. We came back through, again, to 11th and then (Sebastien) Bourdais got spun around in the hairpin. I got stuck in that... and, again, to the back. On the last restart, I was just aggressive and put the power down. The back end stepped out and smacked the wall; we broke the left rear suspension. It was a weekend to forget. The potential was there for the DHL Honda and that makes it sting even more. Great job to my crew, they did everything they needed to. We'll focus on Barber from here."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): "It was a tough race, but it was an exciting one. After the warm up, we made the decision that strategy is one thing, but you have to overtake a lot, so we changed the setup and it worked really well. I was able to overtake one by one. It was a strong car. In the end, we came back and got to sixth just by fighting without anybody's help, so that was a strong result for us. Unfortunately, after the restart (Ryan) Hunter-Reay got a huge slide in Turn 5 and got grip back and came back towards me and I tried to avoid him. It was really light contact, but unfortunately, that damaged our suspension so we had to pit to replace it. It's a big shame. It could have been a podium finish with the position we were in but we take some positives away."
KYLE KAISER (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): "Overall, I am happy with where we ended up in the race. There were a couple of mistakes on my part. I had a problem coming out of the pits and had to serve a drive-through (penalty). Then I locked it up going into Turn 1 halfway through the race and we lost a lap doing that. We still managed to finish 16th and move up eight spots. We had really good pace through the race and I know we had a really good race car. I can't thank the team enough and I cannot thank the guys enough for all of their hard work after qualifying and putting together a good race car. I am really excited for the next race because I know we have a great thing going here and we are just getting better and better every time we get back in the car. Hats off to the team, I'm having a lot of fun racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series."
MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): "Unfortunately, the strategy just didn't work out in our favor today. We qualified well and the team gave me a good race car in the No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet, but we just went the wrong way on a few strategy elements. Even though this isn't where we wanted to be results-wise after our qualifying and warm-up efforts yesterday and today, I'm still proud of how much we were able to progress throughout the weekend. Now that we have another race weekend under our belts, we'll be working hard to use what we learned and put everything together heading into Barber."
JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM MSR w/SPM): "We moved forward and that was the goal for the weekend. We ran well all day and were in seventh when that yellow came out at the absolute wrong time. But you can't predict those kinds of things happening. We had a good race and we showed what we can do and that we deserve to be here. It's also a great result for the team and my birthday today. Obviously, it's Jim's (Meyer) first race as an official team owner this weekend and I'm really excited for everyone at Meyer Shank Racing. It's not too often that you can really show your true potential and I think this weekend was a good step in that direction."
GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): "It was a tough day and a tough weekend for us. I think that we did not have the pace to be a top-five car, but we did have the right strategy to be a top-five finisher. It is just unfortunate that the guys we were racing around that were on the same strategy got into those top-five positions. We had a fueling issue in the pits again and lost three or four laps. Now we regroup and figure out how to avoid those mistakes from now on and go from there."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): "We had to just be persistent today. Me and the guys, we just stayed in it and didn't make mistakes. This race just comes down to attrition sometimes. There are so many corners where you can get taken out if you go too deep - that's what took me out of qualifying yesterday. I keep saying that as soon as we qualify in the top 10, we're going to win a race. Congrats to Alex (Rossi) on his win and great job to all my U.S. Concrete guys."
Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race results:
1. (1) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 85, Running
2. (2) Will Power, Chevrolet, 85, Running
3. (13) Ed Jones, Honda, 85, Running
4. (16) Zach Veach, Honda, 85, Running
5. (5) Graham Rahal, Honda, 85, Running
6. (20) Marco Andretti, Honda, 85, Running
7. (6) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 85, Running
8. (11) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 85, Running
9. (8) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 85, Running
10. (23) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 85, Running
11. (4) Scott Dixon, Honda, 85, Running
12. (17) Jack Harvey, Honda, 85, Running
13. (9) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 85, Running
14. (14) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 85, Running
15. (18) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 84, Running
16. (24) Kyle Kaiser, Chevrolet, 84, Running
17. (15) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 84, Running
18. (12) Jordan King, Chevrolet, 84, Running
19. (19) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 83, Running
20. (7) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 81, Running
21. (22) Takuma Sato, Honda, 74, Running
22. (10) Robert Wickens, Honda, 73, Running
23. (21) Zachary Claman De Melo, Honda, 58, Contact
24. (3) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 0, Contact
Winner's average speed: 88.622 mph
Time of Race: 1:53:15.2434
Margin of victory: 1.2413 seconds
Cautions: 4 for 17 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 5 drivers
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Rossi 126, Newgarden 104, Rahal 93, Bourdais 88, Hinchcliffe 83, Dixon 79, Hunter-Reay 73, Power 72, Jones 69, Andretti 68.