By Larry Mason
Copyright © 2019
April 14, 2019
Long Beach, CA – Low clouds and fog lifted just after the NTT IndyCar Series cars started their morning warm-up. The sun shone brightly after and picture perfect weather for Sunday greeted the throngs of fans for another version of the World’s Fastest Beach Party.
In the morning warm-up, Colton Herta set the pace in his King Taco Harding Steinbrenner entry ahead of Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter Reay, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato. Just behind them were Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi.
Pirelli GT4 America
Spencer Pumpelly put on a driving clinic from the start and continued with great re-starts after numerous caution periods early on. Ian James in the Panoz was second and Michael Cooper in a McLaren 570S GT4 completed the podium. All three were classified as Pro drivers. Next up was the first am driver, Matt Keegan, in the sister Panoz followed by Shane Lewis and James Sofronas (both pros). Second in Am was Jarrett Andretti and Drew Staveley who started from the back of the grid (due to a technical infraction) in 19th place and raced his way up to 10th at the checker.
Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
That wasn’t even close! For the second year straight, Alexander Rossi dominated the rest of the NTT IndyCar Series teams by a long shot. At the finish he had about a 20 second lead. From a race that lacked in action at the front there was still plenty of action throughout. Early on it was Dixon in second and losing ground but putting a bit of a gap to Will Power in third and Josef Newgarden in fourth. Newgarden had a great first pit stop and got by both his teammate Power and Dixon. Later, Power out braked himself and Dixon had a slow second stop that put him behind Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay. With RHR running low on fuel and Rahal running low on grip, Dixon was able to pass RHR on the track and Rahal off the track – via a blocking penalty handed down to Rahal (for the last lap offense where he moved over coming out of Turn 8) by the officials at the conclusion. The only caution period came after a shunt in the fountain area on the opening lap when Marcus Ericsson had (avoidable) contact with Jack Harvey which put him in the plants. Spencer Pigot also punted Zach Veach. Ericsson was handed down a drive-through penalty for the infraction.
This marked the 200th win for Andretti Autosport and team owner Michael Andretti was impressed with the performance. Considering how competitive the series is, Michael said “Wow, that was a big lap” (referring to Rossi’s qualifying performance). “I think we saw in him from the moment he sat in one of our cars, we knew we had someone special here. He’s been great to have as a part of the team. He drove flawlessly all weekend.” For his part Rossi downplayed that it was an easy race. “It’s never easy.” He spoke of how there’s a lot of fast drivers in the field and he just had to have 100% focus to bring it home. He also dedicated his victory in memory of his grandfather who passed away yesterday.
SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks Competition #2
With the field inverted from yesterday it was another action packed race. After a few laps of high flying excitement Matt Brabham and Sheldon Creed got together. Creed explained it like this, “We were running one and two, back and forth, and there was contact. One of those deals racing hard. I think he just go loose underneath me.” Creed is currently running full time in the NASCAR truck series and was the ARCA champion last year. Brabham explained, “It was my fault. It happened pretty much as he described it. I’m sure he’ll get me back.” Both drivers commented on getting hit in the helmet by all of the rubber marbles from the Acura Grand Prix.
Robby Gordon who crashed hard yesterday, won today, followed by Brabham and Gavin Harlien. The overall combined results for the weekend put Matt Brabham in first, Creed in second and Harlien in third.
That wraps another perfect weekend of racing at Long Beach. A huge crowd estimated at 187,000 for the three days was up about one percent over last year. Up next for the NTT IndyCar Series is the month of May with the IndyCar Grand Prix on the Speedway road course May 11th, followed by the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26th.
Photos by Larry Mason