After Alex Rossi’s great Pole win, the iconic Long Beach GP got underway with the Andretti driver holding the lead. Immediately behind him, Graham Rahal hit Simon Pagenaud from behind. The Frenchman spun and hit the wall, the first caution flag waved, and the Penske driver retired. Rossi was leading, closely followed by Will Power, Rahal and Scott Dixon.
The race got re-started on lap 5 with no major changes, but Rahal was given a drive-through penalty for the start incident. Dixon inherited third place, ahead of Josef Newgarden and Sébastien Bourdais. It was lap 14 and some drivers were already pitting, being Newgarden the driver on the highest place to try this strategy.
Robert Wickens started to lose power on lap 27 on what seemed to be a gearbox failure. He managed to make it to the pits. When the rest of the leaders stopped, Dixon beat Power and moved up to second position, Newgarden was very close to them and passed the Aussie too. Rossi’s gap to Dixon was already around ten seconds.
On lap 42, Kyle Kaiser’s Juncos stopped on track and forced the second yellow of the day. The reigning Indy Lights champion managed, however, to stay on the race. The green flag waved already on the second half of the race and Rossi did another perfect restart. There were some lapped cars in front of Dixon, so he couldn’t even try to attack. On the next lap, he lost second place to Bourdais, who did the greatest overtake of the day. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jordan King made contact and the 2012 series champion had to pit to fix a puncture. Bourdais was forced to return the place to Dixon as he had crossed the pit lane line. The Frenchman gave him the place but overtook the New Zealander again quickly.
Rossi pitted again on lap 57. Dixon and Bourdais did so on lap 60, just at the same moment that Zach Claman DeMelo crashed and caused another Caution. Dixon was given a drive-through penalty for pitting with the pit lane closed.
The race restarted, and Rossi held the lead one more time with no problems, but the green lasted short as King tried to pass Bourdais and made him spin. Hunter-Reay and Wickens also got involved.
The race was going to be decided on a 9-lap sprint. The race order at the restart was Rossi, Power, Ed Jones, Zach Veach and Rahal. The green flag waved again and Rossi avoided any attempt to attack.
Nothing changed on this final laps and Rossi won his third race on the series. The Andretti nº. 27 driver has completed a flawless weekend and has clearly been the best driver today. Power gets a great second place after driving very competitively and with no incidents or mistakes. On third place, Jones equals his best finish on the series. Veach has finished on an unexpected and amazing fourth position. Rahal, Marco Andretti, Newgarden, Tony Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball complete the top 10.
These results make Rossi become the championship leader for the first time on his life. He has a 22-point gap to Newgarden, who is followed by Rahal, 33 points behind Rossi. The next race will be held next Sunday in another great track, Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.