Photo from indycar.com
Alexander Rossi forced the rest of the field to ride bitch Sunday at Long Beach, winning his second consecutive grand prix by over ten seconds from pole. It was one of those sleep inducing street course races that we’re constantly railing against, one that would’ve been totally forgettable but for a bit of late race controversy over the low step on the podium between Scott “Forrest” Dixon and Ragin’ Graham Rahal. But in the end, even that was less than dramatic.
Rossi featured mightily on the pre-race show but hell, if you’d have read our predictions you could have saved yourself some time and already known all that. Sorry to Alex – and almost everyone else – but the GP is NOT a close second to the Indy 500. It’s only about a third as old, much less prestigious and it’s a frickin’ street course, to boot. A couple of positives from the pre-race pageantry were F-18s doing a flyover and the hottie Mickey Guyton singing the national anthem. Candidly, we were surprised the kooky Californios let her sing it at all. Additionally, there was a second consecutive audio connection with the two seater passenger – some gal from The Bachelor who, not surprisingly, could hardly contain her enthusiasm.
At Long Beach there are a whopping two passing zones, according to Townsend Bell and – whoopie! – it showed. The start saw Dixon immediately dart behind Rossi, with the only change being Ryan Hunter-Reay (with the hyphen here to stay) bumping and then getting around Frenchman Simon Pagenaud for fifth. Turn two saw Brit backmarker Jack Harvey off course, up in the garden by the fountain after getting hit from behind by Swede Marcus Ericsson, with Spencer Pigot also impacted. A full course caution resulted, but unfortunately it’d be the last one of the race. Pigot required a front wing change and remained a non-factor, as did the Swede and his British victim. Ericsson received a drive through penalty for avoidable contact on Harvey in what was an oddly active day in race control.
The lap five restart saw Dixon challenging Rossi, but Rossi prevailed as they pulled away from the field. The rest quickly strung out behind them, foreshadowing a deadly boring street circuit parade on a notoriously hard to pass course. Colton “Joaquin” Herta ran side by side with Patricio “Pato” O’Ward through several turns, able to get him before Swede Felix Rosenqvist, Marco, Sebastien Bourdais and several others followed during the Mexican’s fade. O’Ward wound up laps down in twelfth, and the rapidity of his fall made us momentarily wonder if he’s related to Democrat politician Beto O’Rourke.
Photo from dailytelegraph.com.au
Rossi sped out to a six second lead over Dixon, Whinin’ Will Power, Newkid and Rahal during the first stint as pit stops began in earnest around lap twenty five. The leader pitted on lap twenty seven, as did Dixon, with Alex easily beating Dixie out of the pits. Suddenly Santino Ferrucci stopped on track and stalled just as Power pitted. In yet another outrageous application of the “Power play,” only a local yellow resulted. Whinin’ Will then flew around Dixon coming out of pits for second, before his teammate Josef Newgarden came out ahead of them in second as Ferucci refired and rolled off, two laps down.
By this point Rossi was cruising, up five seconds over his competition with Honda’s Japanese president honorably in attendance. On lap thirty four Power encountered a problem with what was alternately called an “engine misfire” according to his team and then an “overboost issue” by the booth as he was exiting the hairpin. Sour grapes Power drove off track into a run off area and was forced to spin around before rejoining the fray as Dixon and others flew past him. Happily, it ruined his day. Soon after Herta suffered a slow stop with left front tire trouble and an air hose carelessly left in his way precipitating a stall, dropping the rookie phenom out of top ten. It wouldn’t be the last of his troubles on the day.
By the midway point Rossi led Newkid, Dixon, Rahal and RHR by over ten seconds. Soon after Herta lost it and slammed the left side of his car into the wall, sustaining left front wing and suspension damage. After a tough couple weeks, the Phoenix lookalike became first out of the race, just as predicted. The leader pitted on lap fifty six, getting out in 8.3 seconds, followed by Dixon who suffered a fuel probe problem and a molasses like stop of over 18 seconds, effectively ending any shot he had at winning.
Too few cautions were in evidence – as we were afraid of – as Rossi wiped the streets with the competition for the second year in a row, up nine seconds with twenty six laps to go over Newkid, Rahal, RHR and Dixon. Dixon leapfrogged the latter two though, first when RHR inexplicably went into fuel saving mode with only three to go and then, battling for third, when Rahal blatantly blocked him. Although NBCSN’s PT and Bell both disagreed, for once race control made the correct call in moving Rahal back and awarding Dixie the position. Graham didn’t even protest too vociferously in the post race interview, citing “absolutely shot tires” and matter of factly asking, “Did I block, yes I blocked. It’s allowed.”
Photo from twitter.com
When one of the highlights of the race is an earlier picture of Chip riding bitch on Roger Penske’s scooter from Twitter, you know it’s a boring race. Truth be told, both Ganassi and Penske rode bitch to Andretti all weekend long for the Autosport’s 200th win. Newkid, Dixon, Rahal and RHR rounded out the top five. After Rahal was called for blocking Dixon at the conclusion of the race, PT said frankly, “the interview with Graham Rahal’s probably gonna be the most exciting thing of the race.” The chunky Canuck wasn’t wrong.