Alexander Rossi’s trajectory in Long Beach put him on the path to victory lane, which he executed with aplomb, winning his third career Verizon IndyCar Series race and assuming the series points lead.
- RESULTS: 2018 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Rossi and the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda started from pole position after dominating the second and third practices as well as qualifying and morning warm-up before the race. Despite several cautions slowing the field, including one on the first lap, Rossi’s dominance of the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit was clear.
A mid-race caution set up a battle for second between Sebastien Bourdais and Dixon while Rossi continued to lead. A later caution involving multiple cars at the hairpin further jumbled the order behind the race leader but did not impact his race.
Rossi led a career-high 71 laps en route to beating Power to the checkered flag by 1.2413 seconds. His previous best was 42 laps led at Pocono Raceway last year.
The street course victory completed Rossi’s IndyCar education; the California native has also earned wins on a superspeedway and a natural terrain road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Watkins Glen International, respectively.
Power’s finish of second marks the first podium finish of 2018 for the former series champion and the 63rd of his career. Power judiciously used his 200 available push-to-pass seconds throughout the 85-lap race but was unable to utilize them in the final laps to overtake Rossi.
Ed Jones brought Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 Honda home in the third position, matching his career best finish. His only other podium finish came at the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 last year.
Zach Veach finished fourth, making himself the highest-placed rookie. The effort also marked a career best for the Andretti driver. His previous best was 16th — his finishing position at both St. Petersburg and ISM Raceway, the only two other races completed thus far in 2018.
Graham Rahal finished fifth in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, giving the Japanese manufacturer four cars in the top five. Notably, Rahal rebounded from a drive-through penalty issued to him on Lap 5 following avoidable contact with Simon Pagenaud in Turn 1 on Lap 1. The incident brought out the first caution and knocked the Penske driver out of the race.
Marco Andretti, Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball completed the top 10.
Dixon, a contender early in the race, took service in a closed pit when he entered pit lane for a scheduled stop just after a caution flag was thrown. He was issued a drive-through penalty and ended the race in the 11th position.
A similar fate befell Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg victor Bourdais who led Dixon into the closed pit lane. Bourdais ultimately finished 13th after showing impressive speed and completing a remarkable pass on three cars — including Dixon — into Turn 1.
Besides Veach, rookies placed near the rear of the 24-car field. Jack Harvey, celebrating his birthday, ended the race in the 12th position while Matheus Leist, Kyle Kaiser and Jordan King finished in 14th, 16th and 18th, respectively. Gearbox problems for Robert Wickens kept him on pit lane early in the race, leading to a finish 12 laps behind Rossi. Zachary Claman De Melo didn’t finish the race following contact with the Turn 10 wall that brought out the race’s third caution.
The series heads to Barber Motorsports Park next for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the fourth round of the year, on April 22nd.