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Andretti Autosport’s Rossi Grabs Hold Of 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Season In P3, P3, & P1 For Season Points Lead

Alexander Rossi attacks Turn 6 on his way to nailing down his third Podium finish in as many races in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season with his first win at the 44th Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach - starting from the pole position. This win became his third in three years, along side his winning finishes at the 2016 INDY500 and 2017 IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen - also, from the pole position. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Andretti Autosport's Rossi Grabs Hold Of 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Season In P3, P3, & P1 For Season Points Lead

Nevada City, California's own Alexander Rossi, after beginning the year as a member of the #TeamIndyCar promotion of Season 30's The Amazing Race paired with the future INDY500 driver for Dale Coyne Racing/Thom Burns Racing Air Force sponsored No. 17, Conor Daly, Alex has been on a strong and steady march to the front.

In the Amazing Race, teams work through challenges, in much the same manner as a "Scavenger Hunt", going from location to location to perform tasks and challenges ... throughout the world. The biggest #TeamIndyCar challenge imagined that would be encountered in this set up, because even though they are a part of a team, what they do on the track is ultimately in their control, is being a performance team sharing the performance through their shared functioning against each task against other paired teams in this reality TV series race.

Team IndyCar did very well completing many of the stages at P1, finished P4 behind the Professional Skiers #TeamExtreme at P3 - Kristi Leskinen and Jen Hudak, Dating Debaters #TeamYale at P2 - Henry Zhang and Evan Lynyak, and the $1,000,000 winning team #TeamBigBrother of houseguest showmance couple Jessica Graf and Cody Nickson.

Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly (L) have a chat with NBC Sports IndyCar race analyst Townsend Bell in front of Rock & Reilly's Sunset Strip, location of The Amazing Race Season 30 Episode 1 viewing party. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Many would say that this is a great start to 2018, but Alexander Rossi was just beginning to make improvements. The impression one gets is that this is a driver who has taken what he has learned in his Freshman and Sophomore years in the IndyCar Series as a matter of team building, and with the freeing up of the racing platform, is staged to make a kind of racing history and domination during his Junior year that hasn't been seen since the ChampCar World Series racing days of Sebastien Bourdais and Newman-Haas.

After chasing and moving aside race leader, Schmidt Peterson's Rookie driver, Robert Wickens, on the final restart at Saint Petersburg, to hold on and finish P3 ...

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Rookie and Canadian driver, Robert Wickens (L) shares a kidding moment with Alexander Rossi during the Phoenix Grand Prix post race press conference. Wickens celebrated that he finished P2 with Rossi who finished in P3. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

... then chasing the brightest beginning for a Rookie joining the Verizon IndyCar Series by qualifying strong and leading the most laps through two races - yes, Robert Wickens again -  to finish a consecutive P3 at the first oval race of the season, the  Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway, Alexander Rossi rolled into Long Beach loaded for bear.

The weather was perfect for the now Forty-Four year year old rites-of-spring event and the team of the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda Dallara was well oiled by placing the car in the top classification throughout the three practices and nabbing the Verizon P1 Pole Award at the end of the three round Knock-Out Qualifications process ending with the Firestone Fast Six.

Before driver introductions and the command for "Drivers! Start your engines!", Alexander Rossi walks along pitlane and other teams pit boxes to get ready to race after qualifying at position one yesterday, along side of Team Penske's two-time TGPLB winner (2008, 2012) Will Power. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

In the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach, Alexander Rossi and his support team, headed by the engineer who has been with Alexander for the two previous years, Jeremy Milless, were rarely ever challenged, even when the field was tightened up on restarts after four Full Course Yellow Flag caution periods for problems on the track. Alexander's car and his situational race awareness had him out front quickly and plenty of space by the time Turn 1 came upon the field. Alexander and the No. 27 led every lap, save for the times he relinquished the lead on pitstop rotations - he led 71 laps of the 85 lap race.

Q. You didn't turn a wheel wrong all weekend, and to have a weekend like that, is that as close to perfection as you can ever hope to have? --- ALEXANDER ROSSI: I suppose so. You know, you always look back on things, on what could have been better, but yeah, I think that the car was (pause) we nailed the setup really every session, which is very hard to do in this championship with the changing conditions and the different rubber that gets laid down.

My engineer Jeremy Milless and the entire engineering department led by Eric Bretzman was really on top of their game this weekend. I think we had two cars to win for sure, and I feel very sad about stuff that happened to Ryan (Hunter-Reay) kind of from yesterday afternoon, but Zach and Marco showed the strength of the cars in race condition, as well, today, and it would have been pretty cool for Zach to be able to get his first podium. He was really close (at P4).

This image was captured from the photographer's riser about the same time Alexander Rossi's attorney, Michael Maroney shot his Instagram image & message (look above & closely). Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Q. Last year Andretti Autosport came here, all ran strong, all four retired with mechanical or electrical gremlins, and this year you all had incredible pace again, three of you ended up in the top 10, you won. That's got to be a little bit of extra sense of satisfaction to kind of get one back after last year. --- ALEXANDER ROSSI: Hugely. This was one that was circled on the calendar for us for a while, and last year was heartbreaking. I mean, if I wasn't -- didn't have the opportunity to win, Ryan had the opportunity to win. And to have all four drop out with mechanical issues, that's the way of the sport sometimes, and I'm glad that the balance of luck, if you will, kind of came back to us a little bit this year.

Yeah, I mean, there's a huge sense of satisfaction that we were able to still have the strength that we had last year, especially when we look back three years or two and a half years to 2016, when street courses were kind of the bane of our existence. To make that kind of strides forward that we've made in the past two years is pretty special, and very cool to be a part of on the inside, and as a driver to go from pretty much coming here and it being an undrivable situation to coming here and Friday through Sunday you have an awesome race car under you is a very special feeling.

Team Selfie - Alexander Rossi joins the crew of his NAPA Auto Parts No. 27 Honda Dallara in a new media Victory Lane celebration using the camera from a phone set out for all to see. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2018)

Q. So you won at Indy - and Watkins Glen - and Long Beach --- ALEXANDER ROSSI: Those are three good ones, huh? Is that your question? (Laughter)

Q. That was pretty much the question, yeah. What does it mean to you? --- ALEXANDER ROSSI: I realized that when I was told on the podium that that was the case, and that's pretty spectacular. I certainly hope I haven't peaked too early with those three. But yeah, no doubt about it, I mean, if you're going to hit the wish list, those are the three. And yeah, I don't really have anything more to say than it's kind of hard to believe and hard to understand, and it's something that will definitely take a lot of time to appreciate, but we don't have that much time to appreciate it because this series just likes to keep us going, so we're on track here in another four or five days, and you're only as good as your last time on track, so we'll have to go re-prove ourselves again on Friday (next race at Honda Indy Grand Prix Of Alabama).

Top six in the season points standings after St. Petersburg and the Southwest Spring Swing (Phoenix Grand Prix & Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach). Image Credit: INDYCAR

As the points race begins to shape up early in this new age of the Universal Aero Kit with less downforce, there are only a few other teams and drivers that seem poised to be able to challenge the strength of the Andretti Autospot team of Alexander Rossi - assuming full race runs.

In the top six in the 2018 season points standings, one finds a broad diversity of outright challenges from three past IndyCar Series champions representing 9 season titles in P2 Penske Racing's Josef Newgarden (2017), P4 Dale Coyne Vasser Sullivan Racing's Sebastien Bourdais (2004-2007 in ChampCar), and P6 Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (2003, 2008, 2013, 2015 in IRL & IndyCar).

Add to this mix, veteran drivers from advancing teams as P3 Rahal Letterman Lanigan's Graham Rahal who finished a season high 4th in the points in 2015, and P5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe who has had one of his most steady season starts and seems poised to make a statement while being pushed by his longtime friend and current teammate Canadian Rookie Robert Wickens.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: @IndyCar Verizon IndyCar Series, Andretti Autosports, Alexander Rossi, NAPA Auto Parts, #TGPLB, #TGPLB44, Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach, Honda, @hondaracing_hpd, @TheEDJE


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