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2019 IndyCar Series: Long Beach talking points

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Roar Guru
16th April, 2019
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A week after racing on the natural elevation road course in Birmingham, Alabama, the IndyCar Series moved to the sunny streets of Long Beach in Southern California for the second-most prestigious race on the calendar.

Here’s all you need to know from the 45th running of the Grand Prix of Long Beach:

Rossi dominates and wins
When Alexander Rossi wins an IndyCar Series race, he tends to go big. The California native won his second consecutive race on the streets of Long Beach in astoundingly dominating fashion. Starting from the pole, he obliterated the field, basically camped out from from the green flag to the checkered flag, leading for 80 of the 85 laps run.

He came home a whopping 20.2 seconds clear of second-placed Josef Newgarden and dedicated the thumping win to the memory of his grandfather, who had died earlier in the weekend.

This is Rossi’s seventh career IndyCar Series win, his second at Long Beach and arguably more dominant than even the 2017 spanking of the field that the former F1 pilot dished out at Watkins Glen. It also happens to be the largest margin of victory at Long Beach since Al Unser Jr – also known as “the King of The Beach” – beat Scott Pruett home by 23 seconds way back in the heyday of CART in 1995.

An impressive win, no doubt, but Rossi really did stink up the show at the prestigious race. It was fairly processional behind, until very late. Newgarden in his Team Penske Chevrolet beat Scott Dixon’s Ganassi Honda home for a 1-3 finish for Honda runners in an event that is sponsored by Acura, the Japanese brand’s luxury car arm in North America home for beat Scott Dixon home to round out the podium.

Andretti has 200
As good an IndyCar driver as Michael Andretti was with 42 wins and 32 poles to go along with a 1991 series championship, Mario’s son might be an ever better team owner. Coming into the then-Indy Racing League as co-owner of Andretti Green Racing in 2003, Andretti has since taken over full control of the team now known as Andretti Autosport and Sunday represented the team’s 200th win, a number that includes three of the last five Indianapolis 500 wins.

When you think of titans of IndyCar ownership, names like Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi spring readily to mind, and now you can add Michael Andretti to that list. He’s built an impressive operation and figures, with the likes of Alexander Rossi on the team, he’s going to be at or near the top of the IndyCar pile for a lot of years to come.

An opening lap accident
There was just the one caution flag thrown and it came during the opening corners of the race, with Marcus Ericsson, Jack Harvey, Spencer Pigot and Zach Veach involved in incidents near the track’s iconic fountain turn. The Meyer Shank Racing car driven by Harvey had to be extricated from the flower beds on the wrong side of the ripple strips, and Ericsson was handed a drive-through penalty for what was deemed to be avoidable contact.

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Top ten for Will Power
The Queenslander led for one lap in the middle of the race and came home with a seventh-place finish – trailing his teammates Newgarden in second and Simon Pagenaud in sixth – on a good day for Roger Penske.

IndyCar

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The championship race
Josef Newgarden leads the IndyCar Series championship from Alexander Rossi with Scott Dixon in third, Takuma Sato in fourth and Ryan Hunter-Reay fifth. Australia’s Power sits one further spot back in sixth. The double-points Indianapolis 500 is really going to tell us more about where this championship fight is going. It’s crucial to get a good finish there.

A great crowd
Blue skies, sunshine, warm weather, and a talented field of drivers is pretty much an unbeatable combination. And so it was on Sunday. For the forty-fifth time, the crowd at Long Beach was bursting at the seams.

With a packed on-track schedule that includes IMSA sports cars running on Saturday and, of course, idyllic Southern California weather, the Long Beach GP has become a huge event in the Los Angeles area and with the recent resurgence of the IndyCar Series, the race is seeing an uptick in crowds.

The grandstands were packed for the green flag today, and it reminded me of the halcyon days of CART/IndyCar racing in the mid to late 2000s. Long may this iconic event continue.

Onto Indianapolis
A few weeks break, during which time there will be an open test at Indianapolis that is scheduled to feature two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso and his McLaren team, and then on to the greatest racing month of the year that culminates with the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race.

Prior to that, there’s the IndyCar Grand Prix on the infield road course and what’s sure to be a tense qualifying weekend with potentially as many as 38 cars going for 33 starting positions.

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Of note for local audiences, Australia’s James Davison will attempt to make the race in a Dale Coyne Honda. He figures to be in the thick of the qualifying action over two days on the weekend before the race.

I’ll be on the ground in Indianapolis in the week leading up to the big race, reporting back on all the happenings, including, notably, the last ever running of the historic Hoosier Hundred USAC dirt sprint car race at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on the Thursday night before the 500.

I can’t wait to bring you all the action from the greatest week in racing.