Alexander Rossi returned to his home state of California this weekend for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach with Andretti Autosport and Verizon IndyCar Series. The weekend would be the first time the 24 year old driver would race on his home turf in his professional career; something he was very much looking forward to. Alexander was able to bounce back from challenging practice sessions with very strong qualifying and race pace, however despite the positive performance the end result on the California street circuit was ultimately compromised following a challenging race.
The weekend started Friday with Alexander and the team working hard to find the optimum base line set up over the three 45 minute practice sessions. From the outset they struggled to find overall pace however in Qualifying the performance was much better. Alexander pushed the Curb Honda to the sharp end of the grid, maximising the car’s performance and just missing out on the top 12 shoot-out by only a couple hundredths of a second. Alexander therefore lined up 16th on the grid ahead of Sunday’s 42nd running of the Long Beach Grand Prix.
The whole Andretti team and Alexander worked extremely hard through Saturday evening and into Sunday morning’s final practice session. They were able to validate the overnight work with positive feedback coming from Alexander and the #98 crew in the short morning session, finishing the final practice run in 10th and with the best result of the weekend so far.
Sunday’s race was met with picture perfect Californian weather conditions. Alexander made a good start and was running well, carving his way through the field and running as high as 9th as the race unfolded. During the first pitstop an issue with the front tire caused a longer hold, dropping Alexander to the back in the pack. However, he continued to push and show consistent, competitive pace on both the black and red Firestone tires. More misfortune struck during the second and final pit stop of the race, as the #98 would not engage in neutral, causing a stall and another long stop.
The team and Alexander struggled to restart the car, placing them one lap down once released. Despite the misfortune, Alexander showed strong pace in the race for the Castrol Edge, HONDA powered #98. With the time lost towards the end of the race, Alexander recorded a 20th place finish, unable to fight his way back up the field with the limited laps remaining. Alexander will now look ahead to next week and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, in Birmingham, Alabama. The 2.38 mile permanent road course, featuring 17 flowing turns will take place from the 22nd - 24th April, 2016.
Bryan Herta: "Alexander did a good job hanging in there this weekend, it was a very difficult race. Overall we didn't meet expectations on a number of fronts. We need to go back and work hard in order to rebound and come back stronger at Barber Motorsports Park."
Alexander Rossi: "The weekend was a very frustrating one for me and the whole Andretti team. However, there were many positive takeaways; we learned about our street course set-ups, and towards the end of the weekend we were definitely more competitive than we were in St. Pete. We’ll all be pouring through the information this week to prepare for Barber and understand what happened this past weekend. I’m looking forward to the next race in Barber. We were very strong in the test and I’m confident the Andretti stable will be on top of it.”