LONG BEACH — It’s been a decade since the Long Beach Grand Prix has had a repeat winner, and 2009 champion Sebastien Bourdais actually won three in a row.
Alexander Rossi is confident he’ll change that today. He’s already a back-to-back pole winner.
After struggling to find pace in Friday practice, Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda team found enough speed to edge Scott Dixon for the pole for today’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
In his five career NTT Data IndyCar Series victories, the Nevada City racer has started from the pole three times.
A year ago, Rossi led 69-of-85 laps in a dominating victory.
“The NAPA team boys are incredible,” Rossi said. “They worked all night and changed a lot of things, with a completely different result from Friday. We take a lot of confidence into Sunday.”
Team Penske, shut out of Fast Six final qualifying at Barber Motorsports Park last week for the first time in five years, regrouped to take four of the top six starting positions. Will Power and series points leader Josef Newgarden comprise Row 2, with Simon Pagenaud joining Graham Rahal on Row 3.
Former Long Beach winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takum Sato make up Row 4.
Rookies Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta roll off ninth and 10th. Both drivers are 19 years old and last year they competed as Andretti Autosport teammates for the Indy Lights championship.
“This track is incredibly difficult, and here’s Pato with a top 10 qualification the very first time he runs here,” Herta said. “That tells you how incredibly talented he is.”
Herta continued to impress. He tapped the wall in the second round of qualifying, and it actually made his King Taco Honda go even faster.
“This street course is so demanding, just to get a podium here would be amazing,” Herta said.
Herta will have former champions filling his rear view mirrors
Bourdais rolls off 14th, alongside James Hinchcliffe, who starts 15th. Tony Kanaan’s crash in practice relegated him to a 21st position start.
Mustang Sampling Wins Second Straight Bubba Burger Grand Prix
With some clever and daring pit strategy, the Action Express team of Filipe Albuerque and Jaoa Barbosa managed to hold off Acura Team Penske’s Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves to win Saturday’s Bubba Burger Grand Prix in the IMSA Weather Tech SportsCar Championship.
It was the No. 5 Mustang Sampling team’s second straight win at Long Beach.
The Action Express strategists bought Albuquerque in to pit off-sequence, five minutes ahead of the field.
He had just enough rear tires to hold off Taylor, a former three-time Long Beach winner himself, who finished .74 seconds behind Alburqerque.
Several times Taylor got under the Mustang Sampling team’s rear wing, but not enough to make the pass.