After leading two of the three practice sessions that led up to knockout qualifying, Alexander Rossi lapped the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit in Long Beach faster than any of the 23 other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers to earn the best possible starting position for Sunday’s 85-lap race.
Round 1 Group 1
Round 1 began with 10 of the 12 cars shod with primary Firestone tires. Bucking the trend, both Carlin drivers opted to start the 10-minute session with red-sidewalled alternate tires.
Ryan Hunter-Reay was strong on both compounds, topping the timesheet with four minutes to go before changing to alternate rubber.
Hunter-Reay’s 1:07.7058 topped the group and ensured his advancement to Round 2. Joining the Andretti Autosport driver in moving out of Round 1 were Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, Robert Wickens, Graham Rahal and Jordan King.
Ed Jones, Max Chilton, Jack Harvey, Gabby Chaves, Zachary Claman DeMelo and Charlie Kimball failed to advance.
Round 1 Group 2
Alexander Rossi proved to be the driver to beat in Group 2. With primary tires, Rossi dropped below the 68-second mark to top the group at the halfway point with a 1:07.8282.
Once all cars switched to alternate tires, Rossi still dominated and bettered his earlier time by 0.6564 seconds. His speed allowed him to advance out of Group 2 along with Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais, Will Power, James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan.
Matheus Leist was knocked out of advancing after the checkered flag and became the first of the six drivers not to make the cutoff. Also failing to advance were Zach Veach, Spencer Pigot, Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and Kyle Kaiser.
Two penalties were issued in Group 2. Kaiser brought his No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet to the pits with damage and was judged by INDYCAR to have impeded qualifying and was subsequently penalized his two fastest laps. Andretti brought out a local yellow and was stripped of his fastest lap.
Bringing together the best of Round 1, Round 2 was led by Rossi at the halfway point. Misfortune nearly struck when the stewards reviewed his initial release from the pits but they elected to not take action.
Hunter-Reay, also strong in Round 1, was fifth fastest with five minutes to go but was subsequently assessed a drive-through penalty for an improper pit exit — the same penalty Hunter-Reay’s teammate Rossi avoided. The penalty plus a botched attempt at a flyer late in the session ensured that Hunter-Reay failed to advance out of Round 2.
Power’s 1:06.5709, while short of the track record, was good enough to top the round and propel him into the Firestone Fast 6. Joining Power were Rossi, Dixon, Newgarden, Pagenaud and Rahal with Chevrolet and Honda splitting the group evenly.
Hunter-Reay will start from the inside of Row 4 alongside Hinchcliffe. Bourdais and Wickens will share Row 5 while Kanaan and King will start from 11th and 12th on the grid, respectively.
Firestone Fast 6
Six drivers representing four teams fought for the Long Beach pole in the Firestone Fast 6 with three Team Penske representatives and one each from Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Four minutes into the six-minute session, Power looked strong with a lap quicker than 67 seconds. His teammate Newgarden hoped to put himself on top but slapped the wall during his flyer and caused enough damage to the No. 1 Chevrolet to finish sixth out of six.
Rossi’s second lap bested Power’s time by a remarkable three-tenths of a second and gave the California native his second career pole. His previous pole-winning performance came at Watkins Glen International in 2017.
Despite the blistering pace, Rossi’s pole run fell 0.3274 seconds short of the circuit record, set by Long Beach qualifying expert Helio Castroneves a year ago.
Power’s time held on for second, placing the No. 12 Chevrolet on the outside of the front row. Pagenaud and Dixon will start from Row 2 while Rahal and Newgarden will roll off from the third row.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is scheduled to go green on Sunday at 1:42 p.m. PDT with live television coverage beginning on NBCSN at 4 p.m. EDT.