After a scintillating qualifying session on Saturday, Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s rookie, Colton Herta, would start Sunday’s race from pole position. He would have a challenge ahead of him at the start of the race, however, as he would be starting on used alternate tyres compared to the fresh alternate tyres of those directly behind him.
At the drop of the green flag, Herta would briefly pull ahead of Rossi, with Alexander ducking into the slipstream of Herta before popping back out to try and overtake Herta around the outside of turn one. The pair went wheel-to-wheel through the turn and down the short chute into turn two, with Rossi just about managing to pull ahead of Herta on the exit of turn two and down the long run to turn three.
Credit: John Cote / Courtesy of IndyCar
The lap one exchange with Herta was the last time that Rossi would have to fight for position for the remainder of the fifty-five lap race. After the first ten laps of the race, Rossi had extended his lead to over four seconds, as Herta began to suffer from his worn tyres after they reached the drop-off point.
Herta’s bid for a podium finish took a major dive during his first of three pit-stops during the race. He suffered a lengthy delay due to a faulty fuel hose, similar to the issue that cost Rossi time during last month’s Indianapolis 500. He would rejoin further down in the top ten and would have a hard race ahead of him to try and work his way back into the top five.
Herta’s woes would hand second and third to the Penske duo of Josef Newgarden and Will Power, with Josef capitalising on an early pit-stop to use his faster tyres to vault his way into second-place after having started fourth. However, neither driver was able to bridge the gap to the race leader. In fact, Rossi’s lead would only continue to grow.
The race would run completely uninterrupted, which allowed Rossi to stretch his legs in the lead of the race. He and his Andretti Autosport team would execute the remainder of the race with no issues. Alexander’s three pit-stops would go flawlessly, with the team opting to pit Rossi slightly early for his final stop just to ensure that they would not be caught out by a potential caution.
No such curveballs were thrown Rossi’s way, however, with Alexander cruising home to take the chequered flag on lap fifty-five with a scarcely believable advantage of 28.4391-seconds. The win was arguably one of the most dominant performances by a driver in the modern era of the NTT IndyCar Series.
Furthermore, the win would be Rossi’s seventh-career win and his fifth victory that came in a dominant fashion. His previous two victories at Long Beach, as well as his wins at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio, all came after a dominating drive; with Rossi beginning to make a name for himself as an unstoppable force once he gets into the lead of a race.
Penske team-mates, Will Power and Josef Newgarden, would complete the remaining two spots on the podium. The pair briefly battled over the runner-up position, with Power ultimately coming out on top to take second-place; his best finish of the season so far.
Newgarden tried to hang onto the coat-tails of his team-mate, but he began to fall into the clutches of the remaining drivers in the top five as the race wore on and his tyres wore out. Josef would hold on to finish in third place, securing his sixth podium finish out of the ten races in 2019 so far. With Rossi winning the race, Newgarden’s championship advantage has been trimmed down to seven points, with the title fight seemingly shaping up to be an all-American affair between Josef and Alexander.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Graham Rahal pressured Newgarden during the final few laps of the race. He would take fourth place in the end, finishing just under two seconds off of Newgarden at the finish.
Rossi may steal the headlines after his dominating race win, but another driver in the field put on an incredible display too. After an engine failure during qualifying relegated him to only twelfth place on the grid, reigning champion Scott Dixon was inadvertently tipped into a spin by Ryan Hunter-Reay on lap one that saw him drop down to twenty-third and last place. What’s more, Scott was not awarded the opportunity of being bunched back up with the field, as the race ran caution-free.
Despite the major setback, Dixon’s experience and coolheadedness prevailed as he slowly but surely fought his way back through the order. Benefitting by some issues for those who had been in the top ten, Dixon soon found himself back inside the top six. A late-race battle royale between himself, Herta, James Hinchcliffe and others would see Dixon come out on top; with the Chip Ganassi Racing driver taking the chequered flag in a superb fifth-place.
It was an incredible recovery from the New Zealander, who had one of the strongest cars in the field. Nevertheless, he will be rueing what could have been an even stronger finish had he not been spun on lap one.
Dixon’s team-mate, Felix Rosenqvist would take a superb sixth-place finish despite having started down in eighteenth. With fellow rookie Santino Ferrucci finishing down in nineteenth, Rosenqvist is now the highest-placed rookie in the championship standings; currently sitting in tenth place with a five-point buffer to Ferrucci.
James Hinchcliffe would cap off an unspectacular weekend to take seventh place; a decent result but far from where he would want to be finishing. The Canadian, like Rosenqvist and Dixon ahead of him, benefitted in the final ten laps after the pole-sitter, Colton Herta, began to lose all grip in his tyres.
Herta’s final stint of the race saw his team fit brand new alternate tyres to his #88 Honda. However, the tyres started to lose grip as the race entered it’s final few laps, with Herta slowly beginning to tumble as the laps ticked away. Herta looked to have next to no grip on the final lap, with Colton understeering off of the track at the high-speed kink.
Herta managed to keep his car off of the wall, but Hinchcliffe passed him in the process to demote the teenager to eighth place. Colton would cross the line in eighth place with no further scares; a hugely disappointing result for Herta after his superb qualifying session yesterday. Colton’s race strategy seemed to put him at risk right from the word go, so the team will be hoping to iron out the mistakes heading into the next race in Toronto.
During the mid-stages of the race, Colton came to blows with Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud. The pair went wheel-to-wheel into turn three, with Colton appearing to squeeze Pagenaud a little too much to the apex of the corner. Both drivers subsequently made contact and made a trip through the outside run-off area, which allowed Rosenqvist and Dixon to breeze by the pair. Pagenaud would go on to follow Herta home to take ninth place at the finish.
The top ten would be completed by Takuma Sato, who was on the attack in the early stages of the race after qualifying in fifth place. However, a duel with James Hinchcliffe would see Sato pushed into the grass on the exit of turn two, with Takuma plummeting into the midfield where he would remain for the rest of the race.
Ryan Hunter-Reay survived his contact with Scott Dixon on lap one to take eleventh place. He and his #28 Andretti crew will have been left scratching their heads following the lacklustre performance; especially given the strong pace that they seemed to show throughout practice on Friday and Saturday.
Further back, Marcus Ericsson had a near-miss early in the race when he locked up in the braking zone for turn three and subsequently made a trip through the gravel. The Arrow Schmidt Peterson driver narrowly avoided hitting the tyre barriers on the outside of the corner and would rebound to finish in twelfth place.
British drivers, Jack Harvey and Max Chilton, would be the final two drivers to finish on the lead lap of the race, with Harvey finishing fifteenth and Chilton finishing sixteenth. Carlin‘s Patricio O’Ward was the first driver to finish one lap down, with Zach Veach, Santino Ferrucci, Matheus Leist, Tony Kanaan and Ed Jones all also finishing a lap down on the dominant Alexander Rossi.
Only one driver would finish the race. After having shown better speed than usual during practice and qualifying, any hopes of a strong finish for Marco Andretti went up in smoke when his #98 Andretti Honda developed a technical gremlin. The American was confined to the pit-lane as the team attempted to fix his car, but ultimately he was forced to retire after completing only eighteen laps.
As previously mentioned, the championship fight is currently a two-horse race between Josef Newgarden and Alexander Rossi; with the pair separated by seven points. Third-placed Simon Pagenaud sits much further back with a sixty-one point deficit to Newgarden.
The next race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series will see the teams and drivers leave the United States for the only time this season. The 2019 Honda Indy Toronto on the streets of Toronto, Canada, will take place on Sunday, July 14.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – REV Group Grand Prix – Race results: