Alexander Rossi Wins at Long Beach

Alexander Rossi’s first two Long Beach races ended with a 20th and 19th place finish. The third time was definitely a charm for the Californian, as he captured his 3rd career win on Sunday. Rossi dominated the race, leading 71 of the 85 laps, and essentially dominated the entire weekend from start to finish.

Rossi is the first driver to win from pole position at Long Beach since 2007. His three wins in the Verizon IndyCar Series have come at some of the most historic venues – Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, and Long Beach. In fact, he is just the 10th driver ever to have won at both Long Beach and Indy. The win also gives him his sixth podium finish in the last nine races, and the overall lead in the championship standings after three races.

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Box Score

It was an Andretti, Penske, Ganassi podium, as Will Power and Ed Jones finished 2nd and 3rd. This is the first actual podium celebration for Jones, as his other came last year with his memorable third place finish in the Indianapolis 500. Rookie Zach Veach and Graham Rahal rounded out the top five on Sunday. Marco Andretti had a fantastic 6th place finish, giving Andretti Autosport three cars in the top six, including the all-important victory.

Josef Newgarden had a relatively quiet day, and finished 7th for Team Penske. Tony Kanaan had a solid outing for AJ Foyt Racing, coming home with an 8th place finish. Defending race winner James Hinchcliffe held on to finish 9th for SPM, and Charlie Kimball rounded out the top ten, giving Carling Racing their best IndyCar finish so far.

Scott Dixon battled at the front for most of the day, but suffered an ill-timed penalty when he entered pit lane after the yellow came out for a full-course caution. He managed to bring the Ganassi machine home in 11th.

It was a rough Sunday for 2016 Long Beach winner Simon Pagenaud. After starting in third position, he was taken out in Turn 1 on the opening lap by a hard-charging Graham Rahal. His day was done, and Rahal was given a drive through penalty. Entering today’s race, Pagenaud had finished in the top five in five of the last six Long Beach events.

While he finished 14th, Bourdais had another monster drive on Sunday. The Frenchman worked his way up from Row 5 at the start, and had one of the more memorable passes in years going into Turn 1. The bold move was breathtaking, but officials ruled that he was over the blue line for pit road exit, and was forced to give up the position. He was caught out on a late-race caution, and had a drive through penalty, and then was spun exiting the hairpin by Jordan King in the closing laps. It was a rough day for the three-time Long Beach winner who finished runner up here last year.

Power has now completed 1,062 of 1,065 laps in his 13 starts at Long Beach. He has seven podium finishes to go along with his three poles and two race wins. This was just the 2nd top five finish at Long Beach for Rahal in his 12 starts.

Ryan Hunter-Reay’s bad luck continued on Sunday. After a penalty in qualifying, Hunter-Reay suffered damage after contact on the first lap. He fought his way back to the front, only to have another incident. He battled back once again, and got stuck behind Bourdais after he spun. He made contact once more in the closing laps. His rough season continues, and his last six finishes at Long Beach are 24th, 20th, 13th, 18th, 17th, and 20th.

The next race on the schedule is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on April 22. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 3 PM ET on Sunday. This is the final event before the Month of May kicks off at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Josef Newgarden: “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 Leist: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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.”

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