IndyCar — Rossi wins a tumultuous Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

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Alexander Rossi negotiating the Fountain Turn at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. -- Photo by Scott James, @sjamesphoto
Alexander Rossi negotiating the Fountain Turn at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. -- Photo by Scott James, @sjamesphoto

Rossi started from lead and kept that lead all afternoon long demonstrating masterful racecraft. As good as his racing was, his victory wouldn’t have been possible without his engineers and crew who gave him perhaps the best prepared hot rod on the grid. Lastly, his race strategist made the calls and the right times to avoid getting caught out by a late-race full-course caution. Motor car racing is a team effort and the team behind the No. 27 Andretti Autosport car came together to give a top-notch, race-winning performance at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“I think the Watkins Glen car was pretty close to the car we had today, but man this Andretti Autosport team and the NAPA Know How crew. It’s unbelievable to win at Long Beach. I can’t really put into words how good the car was all weekend. I think we proved that and I’m just so glad we were able to capitalize and nothing crazy happened. It’s been a great weekend all around — we announced Crown Royal and the Wall of Gratitude, and then we put the NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda in victory lane, getting the win that I think the Military To Motorsports car should have had last weekend in Phoenix. On top of it all, I got to win in my home state of California in front of all my family and friends. It’s a good feeling right now.” — Alexander Rossi, No. 27 Andretti Autosport

We’ll have a full review of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach later this week on TPF indi. For now, I want to highlight some of the champs and some of the chumps from this afternoon’s race.

Champs

Ed Jones

Ed Jones quietly advanced his way from 13th to claim his first podium as a Ganassi Racing driver. -- Photo by Scott James, @sjamesphoto
Ed Jones quietly advanced his way from 13th to claim his first podium as a Ganassi Racing driver. — Photo by Scott James, @sjamesphoto
Jones demonstrated last year that he can certainly handle the pressure of IndyCar racing, and of being in a team leader position. The quiet confidence and confidence he brought to Dale Coyne Racing last year followed him to his current ride with Ganassi Racing. While Jones didn’t have the best qualifying effort, his race pace was as good as anyone’s. Starting in 13th, he quickly began overtaking one driver after another. Good strategy choices, and solid driving earned Jones his first podium finish of the year. I doubt it will be his last.

Zach Veach

Zach Veach showed that he deserves his No. 26 Andretti Autosport ride with his first Top 5 finish. -- Photo by Scott James, @sjamesphoto
Zach Veach showed that he deserves his No. 26 Andretti Autosport ride with his first Top 5 finish. — Photo by Scott James, @sjamesphoto

Zach Veach comes to the Andretti Autosport IndyCar program after a long career in the Mazda Road to Indy. He turned in solid results in the various ladder series, but never contested for a championship. After turning in a couple of 16th place finishes at St. Pete and Phoenix, many wondered if he would be able to measure up to his illustrious Andretti Autosport teammates. His performance at Long Beach should settle that question once and for all. Zach did everything he needed to during the race to make up for a bobble in qualifying and secure his first Top 5 IndyCar finish. As he continues to develop, I’m sure we’ll see more strong performances from Veach throughout the season.

“[Fourth] feels like a win, to be honest. The crew was pushing me pretty hard at the end to try to get on the podium but… after St. Pete, after Phoenix , we’ve just been chipping away on it and we took a big swing at it today. I’ve got to thank my Group One Thousand One guys, honestly. I kind of made a mishap in qualifying to put us 16th. Today we had great strategy, great stops. They got me to where I could capitalize on it so this is more for them than me.” — Zach Veach, No. 26 Andretti Autosport

Chumps

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay has a rough afternoon on the streets of Long Beach. -- Photo by Scott James, @sjamesphoto
Ryan Hunter-Reay has a rough afternoon on the streets of Long Beach. — Photo by Scott James, @sjamesphoto

Of all the drivers on the grid, Ryan Hunter-Reay had the best car and the best chance to chase down his teammate, Alexander Rossi. Unfortunately, a series of driving errors pushed Hunter-Reay steadily backwards. Even before the race began, Hunter-Reay incurred a penalty during qualifying for turning too soon from pit exit onto the racing surface.

During the race, the troubles continued. In Turn 1 on Lap 1, he tried to get his nose under Scott Dixon, but wasn’t able to get fully along side and got his front wing clipped. This forced him into the pits early, placing him off strategy. On the Lap 47 restart, he comes around the hairpin with a puncture and again returns to pits for unscheduled service. Normally a master of the restarts, Ryan broke another front wing by understeering into a wall during the last restart of the race. Many of these setbacks, although not all, were his own doing and avoidable.

“For us on the 28, it was a complete nightmare of a day. We had a damaged front wing on the start, came in for a wing change, went to the back and made our way up to fifth place. Then, I think Sato hit my right rear with his wing, we got a puncture and had to come in, and we went to the back. We came back through, again, to 11th and then Bourdais got spun around in the hairpin. I got stuck in that… and, again, to the back. On the last restart, I was just aggressive and put the power down. The back end stepped out and smacked the wall; we broke the left rear suspension.

It was a weekend to forget. The potential was there for the DHL Honda and that makes it sting even more. Great job to my crew, they did everything they needed to. We’ll focus on Barber from here.” — Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 28 Andretti Autosport

The Rulebook

IndyCar Race Control’s fair and consistent rulings these last couple of seasons demonstrate a significant improvement over past years. Today, while the officials did their usual great job being impartial and predictable, they are bound to the letter of the rulebook rather than to common sense.

On Lap 48, Sebastian Bourdais made the best pass in IndyCar since Zanardi overtaking Little Al in the Corkscrew. Bourdais gained a good tow coming into Turn 1 by drafting Scott Dixon and Spencer Pigot who were side-by-side. Bourdais moved around the outside of both of them under braking and then darted to the inside around Leist. He took three cars in a single corner! It was a brilliant move. Unfortunately, Dixon assumed a defensive posture that forced Bourdais to put his right tires over the line marking the pit exit lane. Per the rulebook, this mandated a penalty forcing Bourdais to yield the position back to Dixon.

“I got Dixon on the restart and Race Control deemed that a violation. I thought that was interesting because I am not quite sure what I was supposed to do. I was committed. There was room and he didn’t see me, so he came down on me and pushed me into the pit lane. If you get forced into the pit lane, I am not sure it is your responsibility. So, I got rather upset, so I passed him right back. I was pretty happy about that.” — Sebastian Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing


Scott James Photo

Scott James is a motorsport and surf photographer living in beautiful San Diego, CA. We are very grateful for his willingness to share his talent with us, and we’re looking forward to having him provide more IndyCar content and images for us later this season as well. To see more of his work from the beach and the track, give him a follow on his various social media accounts.

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You can add NBCSN to the Chumps list: their ill-timed commercial breaks, missing key racing action while following other cars on track. I can only hope the coverage gets better when the network has the series full time next year.