IndyCar: Rossi dominates Long Beach, takes championship lead

Alexander Rossi took a dominant victory in the Grand Prix of Long Beach, after surviving late pressure from a charging Will Power and several caution periods to take his third career IndyCar victory and with it the championship lead as several big names including Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled

Rossi had started from pole after dominating qualifying on Saturday and made a fantastic start to the race as Graham Rahal caused mayhem and spun Simon Pagenaud into the wall before they even reached turn one, after hitting the Penske driver in the rear as they braked into the first turn. Rossi slowly eked out a gap of around four seconds with Power in second and Scott Dixon up to third, as Rahal served a drive through for his contact with Pagenaud.

Rossi was one of the first drivers to pit of those on a two stop strategy, and blistering in and out laps saw him hold a lead of almost ten seconds in the second stint. In contrast, teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay was having to fight through the field. He had moved up to sixth at the beginning of the race, but slight contact with the back of Dixon meant he had to pit for a nose change which left him near the rear of the field following the Pagenaud incident. He steadily worked his way up the order with scintillating pace, ending up a net seventh after his first green flag stop.

As the race entered its final quarter Rossi was made to work harder thanks to traffic, and an incredible charge by Sebastien Bourdais. The St Pete winner made a stunning double move on Scott Dixon and the lapped Mathieus Leist to vault into second at turn one and begin a chase of Rossi. His race though was about to unfold dramatically. Rossi made his final stop, but a few laps later Zachary Claman DeMelo hit the wall hard and brought out a caution. Rossi was in the clear, having already made his stop but Bourdais and Dixon were due to stop at the end of the lap as DeMelo struck the wall. They both tried to make it to pit road before the caution but just missed out. Bourdais took a drive through the pits and avoided servicing the car under caution, but Dixon did get serviced and therefore had to serve a drive-through penalty as the race went green again, dropping him from second place. Bourdais was serviced once the pitlane was open again, but things got worse.

Rossi lead from Power at the start of the race, and held off the Australian at the end.
Credit: Verizon IndyCar Series

Less than twenty laps from the end, Bourdais was spun by rookie Jordan King which blocked off Hunter-Reay, who himself was fighting back after contact with Takuma Sato gave him a puncture. Bourdais had put himself back into the top ten prior to the contact, but his chances of decent points were now gone. Robert Wickens also got caught up in the King/Bourdais/Hunter-Reay mess, his own race ruined earlier on thanks to gearbox issues, ending a phenomenal start to the year for the rookie.

This all left Rossi and Power to fight it out for the win, the pair engaging in a tense and thrilling duel that went all the way to the checkered flag. Power closed to within a second at one point but Rossi held firm and capped an immensely impressive weekends performance, leading all but 14 laps and taking the championship lead, and his third podium in a row after his third place finishes in St Pete and Phoenix. Ed Jones rounded off the podium, good, clean driving and great strategy from Chip Ganassi elevating him up to third as he held off rookie Zach Veach who had an equally impressive run for Andretti. Rahal completed the top five with a fine recovery from his penalty. Marco Andretti followed with a strong race in sixth ahead of Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball who took Carlin’s best result of the season so far with 10th place.

Feature Image Credit: Verizon IndyCar Series

Credit: Verizon IndyCar Series

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