Alexander Rossi sails into the Turn 11 Hairpin during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach — IndyCar Image by Chris Owens

LONG BEACH, California (Sunday, April 15, 2018) – 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.

It was his 3rd IndyCar Series win, in his 3rd season, and win No. 58 in the Indy car history of Andretti Autosport. Rossi is the 3rd 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 3 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, really feels like one,” said Rossi, whose Nevada City, California, home is closer to Sonoma Raceway, site of the season finale. “The crowds here, 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 able to win here is pretty special.”

Alexander Rossi celebrates with his Andretti Autosport team in Victory Circle after winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach — IndyCar Image by Joe Skibinsk

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 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.

Image  —  Posted: April 18, 2018 in Uncategorized

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The All-Hoosier Pole Winning Team

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Josef Newgarden on course during the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway — IndyCar Image by Chris Jones

AVONDALE, Arizona (Saturday, April 7, 2018) – Armed with a fresh set of tires, Josef Newgarden charged from fourth place in the last seven laps to win the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix going away.

The defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion beat rookie Robert Wickens by 2.9946 seconds on the ISM Raceway 1.022-mile oval to collect his eighth career victory. Newgarden, in the No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, was among eight lead-lap drivers who made a pit stop for a new set of Firestone tires during the race’s second caution period when Ed Jones hit the Turn 4 SAFER Barrier on Lap 229 of 250.

Wickens, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate James Hinchcliffe and Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi elected not to pit and led the field on the Lap 243 restart. Taking the restart in fourth place, Newgarden immediately roared past Rossi and Hinchcliffe on the outside through Turns 1 and 2 before setting his sights on race leader Wickens.

On Lap 247, Newgarden again took the high line into Turn 1 and maneuvered past Wickens, driver of the No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda. Rossi, in the No. 27 MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, finished third.

The podium of Josef Newgarden, Robert Wickens, and Alexander Rossi hoist their trophies following the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway — IndyCar Image by Joe Skibinski

“The team did such a good job,” Newgarden said. “The car was good, the strategy was better, the pit stops were the best. I’m really proud of them and what they did. I think they deserved the win tonight.”

With the win, Newgarden also took the championship lead after two of 17 races. The seventh-year INDYCAR driver has 77 points, five more than Rossi and seven ahead of Sebastien Bourdais, winner of the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The victory was the 198th for Team Penske, the most of any team in Indy car history. Appropriately with tires playing a pivotal role, it was also win No. 500 for Bridgestone Americas since its 1995 return to Indy car racing with its Firestone and Bridgestone brands.

“I think we were a top-five car tonight, for sure,” Newgarden said. “But I struggled a little bit with the balance, so it was difficult for me to force the issue until we got to the end when I had a tire advantage.

“I knew I could force the issue. I kind of bided my time for that. I was trying to be calm and make it to the finish.”

Newgarden’s winning speed of 147.395 mph set a record for a race at ISM Raceway, as well as the number of lead changes (12) and drivers who led (nine). The race was slowed by just two caution periods, for single-car incidents involving rookie Pietro Fittipaldi (Lap 41) and Jones (Lap 229). Neither driver was injured.

Bourdais, who started from the pole after winning the Verizon P1 Award in qualifying on Friday, and Rossi were penalized for hitting crew members on their first pit stops. The ensuing drive-through penalties put each driver a lap down. Bourdais finished 13th but Rossi, who made an incredible 53 on-track passes (19 percent of all passes made in the race), charged back to reach the podium.

“The only reason I was able to do that was because the team gave me an unbelievable car,” Rossi said. “As I said, we spent so much of our time and brain effort and research in the time between the (February) open test and (race weekend) focusing on tire life. Hopefully, it’s something that we can keep an advantage on people going forward for the next short ovals.

“You’ve got to take the podiums when you can get them. Unfortunately, we probably gave away a win today, but that’s the way it goes.”

The next Verizon IndyCar Series race is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 15. It airs live at 4pm ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

 

Data and Images Courtesy of IndyCar