Sunday, April 15, 2018

Morning Warm-Up: Long Beach 2018

Alexander Rossi has been the man of the weekend through the first two days at Long Beach
Alexander Rossi picked up his second career pole position with a lap at 66.5528 seconds in the final round of qualifying yesterday for the 44th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It is Rossi's second pole position in the last four races and it is his first pole position on a street circuit. He won from pole position at Watkins Glen last season. This is the first time a California-born driver has started on pole position at Long Beach since Jimmy Vasser did it in 2002. This is only the fourth time since 1996 that an American has started on pole position at Long Beach with Bryan Herta in 1998, Vasser in 2002 and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014 being the prior three occurrences. Honda has won the first three pole positions this season with three different drivers from three different teams. This is the first time Team Penske has been shut out in pole positions in the first three races since 2005 when Panther Racing's Tomas Scheckter and Andretti Green Racing's Bryan Herta split the pole positions with one to Scheckter and two to Herta.

Rossi won pole position by 0.3526 seconds over Will Power, who joins Rossi on the front row. This is the first time Power has started on the front row at Long Beach since 2011. Power has finished outside the top ten in three of six Long Beach races during the DW12-era but he also has a victory and a runner-up finish in that span.

Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon will start on row two. Pagenaud won from third on the grid at Long Beach in 2016. He has finished in the top ten in six consecutive Long Beach races, including four consecutive top five finishes in this race with his worst finish since 2012 being eighth. This is Dixon's ninth top ten start in the last ten Long Beach races. Dixon has three consecutive top five finishes in this race. Graham Rahal and Josef Newgarden will start on row three. This is Rahal's best career Long Beach start since he started fourth in his first Long Beach appearance in 2007. Rahal has only three top ten finishes in 11 Long Beach appearances with a fourth in 2007, second in 2013 and tenth last year. Newgarden was on a pole position-caliber lap before he brushed the wall exiting turn eight. This is Newgarden's sixth top ten start in seven Long Beach appearance and Newgarden has three consecutive top ten finishes in this race.

Ryan Hunter-Reay missed out on the final round of qualifying by 0.0512 seconds and he will start seventh. This is his fifth consecutive top ten start and none of those have been inside the top five.  James Hinchcliffe starts beside his former teammate on row four. This is the ninth time Hinchcliffe has started eighth in his career and in his previous eight starts he has finished on the podium twice and he has five top ten finishes. S├ębastien Bourdais will start ninth. Bourdais has finished in the top ten the last three years at Long Beach. Robert Wickens will start tenth, the worst starting position in his career. Tony Kanaan will start 11th and Kanaan's previous three starts were 12th, tenth and ninth. Jordan King joins Kanaan on row six. King had another incident with a tire barrier in the third practice session but still advanced to the second round of qualifying.

Ed Jones missed out on the second round of qualifying by 0.0911 seconds in the first group in round one and he will start 13th. This is the ninth consecutive race Jones has started outside the top ten but this is the first time he has started on row seven in that span. Matheus Leist starts 14th for his second career start on a street course. Leist is looking for this first career lead lap finish. Max Chilton will have his career-best starting position at Long Beach from 15th on the grid and it is the best starting position for Carlin in its short time in IndyCar. Chilton has finished 14th in his first two Long Beach appearances. He has finished off the lead lap in four of the last six races. Zach Veach joins Chilton on row eight. Veach has finished 16th in the last two races. The worst starting position for a Grand Prix of Long Beac winner in the IndyCar-era is 17th by Paul Tracy in 2000 and Mike Conway in 2014. John Watson won the final Formula One race at Long Beach in 1983 from 22nd on the grid.

Jack Harvey will be on the inside of row nine. Harvey turns 24 years old today and he could become the tenth driver to win a IndyCar race on his birthday. The most recent driver with a birthday victory was Dan Wheldon on June 22, 2008 at Iowa. A third of the birthday winners were British drivers with Dario Resta being the first to have accomplished doing it on August 19, 1916 at Speedway Park in Chicago and Nigel Mansell won on his 40th birthday, August 8th, 1993 at Loudon. Spencer Pigot will start 18th and he is still looking for his first appearance in the second round of IndyCar road/street course qualifying. Gabby Chaves starts 19th for the second consecutive week with Marco Andretti joining him on row ten in 20th position for the second consecutive week. Andretti had an off in turn on his final qualifying line end his chances of advancing to round two. The incident cost Andretti his fastest lap.

Zachary Claman De Melo starts 21st, a position better than he did at the season opener in St. Petersburg. Claman De Melo has finished 17th in the first two starts of his career. Takuma Sato will start on the outside of row 11, matching his worst career start at Long Beach. This is Sato's worst start on a street circuit since he started 22nd at Toronto in 2014 but he finished fifth in that race. Charlie Kimball will start 23rd. In the last two races Kimball has started one position worst than the prior race this season. Kimball has finished outside the top twenty in four of seven Long Beach starts. Kyle Kasier rounds out the grid from 24th position in what will be his IndyCar street course debut. Kaiser made contact with the barrier exiting turn nine during the first round of qualifying and it ended his session prematurely. To add insult to injury, Kaiser was penalized for interference, lost his two fastest laps and was barred from advancing from round two anyway.

NBCSN's coverage of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 4:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 85 laps.