Last lap drama in Long Beach

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was the fourth round of NTT Indycar Series, and it was run under a typical Californian sunshine.

Local here, and last year’s winner, Alexander Rossi had taken Pole Position, ahead of the reigning champion Scott Dixon, while Rossi’s Team Penske teammates Will Power and championship leader Josef Newgarden were on the second row. Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal would start P5 and P6 respectively.

Felix Rosenqvist had been quick for the whole weekend, but he would only start 12th, due to a run-off on his flying lap in qualifying.

While the start was fine in front, there was an incident between Spencer Pigot, Jack Harvey and Marcus Ericsson. The field went still around the fountain, and it caused a pile-up. The Safety Car was deployed, which luckily only took four laps before the race got restarted.

Long Beach 2019, start
Photo: /John Cote

The stewards decided that Ericsson was the one responsible for the contact and gave him a drive-through.

Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta drove side by side through Turn 1 and past the fountain, before Herta was back behind O’Ward again. O’Ward appeared to have problems with the car and dropped through the field like a stone. The team, however, sounded calm over the radio and said that he was doing well. He just needed to watch the fuel consumption.

Tony Kanaan was the first person to pit, in what looked like an alternative strategy. But he didn’t have an easy day at the office, since he had a huge run-off on Saturday that caused him a swollen knee and some pain on the hips. He got checked by the doctors before the race and everything was okay. He wouldn’t want to give up his impressive record of 304 races in a row – and 364 races in Indycar/Champ Car in total.

Tony Kanaan
Photo: / Stephen King

The race went well until lap 29, where Santino Ferrucci spun in Turn 1. Luckily it could be cleared with a local yellow.

Will Power overtook Scott Dixon on the back straight, after a quick pistsop by the Penske mechanics closed the earlier gap between Power and Dixon. Newgarden then went past both of them after his pitstop, so Team Penske’s strategy seemed to work.

One and a half laps later, Power made a mistake around the hairpin. It gave Dixon a run down to Turn 1 and forced Power to fumble and outbrake himself, and in all losing five positions before he could get the car back to the track.

Harding-Steinbrenner Racing team made a mistake during Colton Herta’s pitstop, where the mechanics on the left front tire forgot to throw the wheel gun over the wall, and it caused the car to stall so that he lost valuable seconds. From being in top eight before the pitstops, he was now down in 12th position.

Jack Harvey & Tony Kanaan
Photo: / Joe Skibinski

51 laps into the race, Colton Herta hit the curb on the inside of Turn 9 and drove to the wall on the outside. It damaged his front wing and bent the front suspension, and ended his day.

Dixon had problems with his last pitstop, where the team couldn’t get the fuel to flow. It costed him ten extra seconds in the pits and sent him back down the field.

After the last pitstop round of the day, the race went nice and easy. Dixon closed up to Ryan Hunter-Reay in P4, but the speed of both cars were so identical that he couldn’t get past easily.

Graham Rahal
Photo: /John Cote

The New Zealander kept trying to push until the end of the race, and it paid off four laps before the finish, where he went past Ryan Hunter-Reay on the back straight. After that he set his sight on Graham Rahal in P3.

The two were extremely close on the last lap, and Rahal made a little mistake in Turn 8. Dixon was right behind Rahal and actually brushing his rear tires when Rahal pulled away a little bit. Rahal crossed the finish line first between the two, but a few minutes later he got a penalty for blocking Dixon.

In an exceptional Long Beach race, with just a single Safety Car period right after the start, Alexander Rossi won in a dominant style with 20 seconds down to Josef Newgarden in P2, and Scott Dixon in third.

Newgarden extends his lead in the championship, while Alexander Rossi jumps up to second place, right ahead of Scott Dixon, who has a nice gap to Takuma Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power.

The next race will come back in a month time, on 11 May, where Indycar Grand Prix will be run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the conventional track inside the oval, before the oval race starts one week later.

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