Alexander Rossi’s formula for victory goes like this:
Win the pole, then win the race.
Those are the ingredients for three of his five career NTT IndyCar Series wins. Rossi has reached back into his playbook by winning another pole; this one on Saturday for Sunday’s 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. It was his second consecutive pole at Long Beach. He led from pole last year and won his first of three races in 2018.
The Andretti Autosport driver, who scored his first career victory in the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016, knocked five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon off the pole at the checkered flag of the session.
Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Honda grabbed the pole with a fast lap at 1:06.4811 for a speed of 106.569 miles per hour around the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course. Dixon’s Honda had turned a lap at 1:06.7479 (106.143 mph).
The streets of Long Beach are considered a tough place to pass, but Rossi doesn’t think so.
“I don’t think it’s that hard to pass,” Rossi said. “Starting on the pole is very important because it opens up strategies and clean air makes a very big difference. We have to get to turn one first, and that is a challenge."
“It’s going to be a hard day for sure because there are 23 other fast cars here.”
Rossi won from the pole at Watkins Glen in 2017, Long Beach and Mid-Ohio in 2018.
Dixon will line up on the outside of row one and expects quite a battle on the track.
“The pole is a good place to start, that’s for sure,” Dixon said. “Strategy is always pretty interesting here. There are many things that can change. He (Rossi) is fast, the team is fast, and he is going to be tough to beat.”
Where is the best place to pass at Long Beach?
“The pits,” Dixon said. “That’s the best place. It’s the easiest place for the driver.”
Team Penske’s Will Power was third at 1:06.8748 (105.941 mph) in a Chevrolet followed by both of his teammates. Josef Newgarden was fourth at 1:06.9096 (105.886 mph) and Simon Pagenaud fifth at 1:07.1877 (105.448 mph). All were in Chevrolets.
Graham Rahal’s Honda rounded out the Firestone “Fast Six” at 1:07.3052 (105.264 mph).
Among the drivers that missed the final round of qualifications was 2010 Long Beach winner Ryan Hunter-Reay in seventh and last week’s winner, Takuma Sato, who was eighth.
Swedish rookie Felix Rosenqvist was the second fastest driver in the group that would have advanced into the “Fast Six” but lost his fast time of that session when he locked up the brakes and slid into the tire barrier in Turn 9. By bringing out the red flag, Rosenqvist lost his two fastest laps.
He will start 12th.
Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is the final race before the Month of May at the Indianapolis 500. Rossi was asked the importance of winning at Long Beach before heading to Indianapolis.
“The season starts twice, right,” Rossi said. “St. Pete and the Month of May at Indy. It’s a good one to win and a California race, being from here, it adds that extra.
“It’s a special day when things go your way.”
Qualifying Saturday for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach NTT IndyCar Series event on the 1.968-mile streets of Long Beach, with qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine, time and speed in parentheses:
1. (27) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 1:06.4811 (106.569 mph)
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:06.7479 (106.143)
3. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:06.8748 (105.941)
4. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:06.9096 (105.886)
5. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 1:07.1877 (105.448)
6. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:07.3052 (105.264)
7. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 1:07.1520 (105.504)
8. (30) Takuma Sato, Honda, 1:07.2626 (105.330)
9. (31) Patricio O'Ward, Chevrolet, 1:07.2764 (105.309)
10. (88) Colton Herta, Honda, 1:07.7721 (104.539)
11. (98) Marco Andretti, Honda, 1:08.3746 (103.617)
12. (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 1:08.4410 (103.517)
13. (19) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 1:08.1008 (104.034)
14. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 1:07.3135 (105.251)
15. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 1:08.1811 (103.911)
16. (59) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 1:07.4577 (105.026)
17. (20) Ed Jones, Chevrolet, 1:08.7711 (103.020)
18. (60) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:07.5287 (104.915)
19. (7) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 1:08.9516 (102.750)
20. (4) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 1:07.7317 (104.601)
21. (14) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 03:22.3800 (35.007)
22. (26) Zach Veach, Honda, 1:07.7822 (104.523)
23. (21) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 1:07.8763 (104.378)
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