INDYCAR: Alexander Rossi roars to pole for Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

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Alexander Rossi was a man on a mission, wasting little time to capture the pole for Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach during Saturday’s qualifying on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street course on the streets of Long Beach.

But then again, there wasn’t really a lot of time left to waste for Rossi and his Honda to record the top elapsed time of the field (1:06.5528).

While other drivers went out on-track earlier in the Firestone Fast Six session, Rossi waited until less than two minutes to go to take to the track for his pole attempt, hoping to capitalize on the track cooling off in the later stages of the afternoon – and that strategy worked.

It was Rossi’s second career IndyCar pole position. In his previous pole (at Watkins Glen last year), he went on to win the race. Will history repeat itself on Sunday?

“The team’s just doing a great job,” the Andretti Autosport driver told NBCSN. “Hats off to all of them, to Honda, to everyone who’s put in so much effort. The big job is tomorrow, so we have to execute that. We feel like we’ve given up two potential wins (in the first two races of the season), so let’s not to try and do that tomorrow.”

Will Power qualified P2 (1:06.9054), followed by teammate Simon Pagenaud (1:06.9107), Scott Dixon (1.07.0483), Graham Rahal (1:07.1275) and Josef Newgarden (1:07.1922).

“I’m happy to be on the front row,” Power said. “You almost have to scrape the wall on every exit to get the most out of the car. It’s a lot of fun, the car’s moving around, who needs downforce (he said with a chuckle).”

Added Pagenaud, “That’s the first time I’ve had the car I want it to be (in the first three races). We’re creeping up and slowly learning the limits. I think there’s a little bit more lap time in there. We’re right there. If we take care of the tires in race time, I think it’ll be an exciting race.”

Dixon said, “It’s been a tough weekend for us. We started really well and then had a few issues through the other sessions and made some pretty big wholesale changes to the car. … I think we were looking good for second, maybe shooting for the pole, but locked up going into (Turn) eight and lost all the time and had to abort the lap. I’m looking for a good result tomorrow.”

Rahal had a much better qualifying effort than his last-place start in the season-opening race at St. Petersburg last month. His effort Saturday gave him his best qualifying start at Long Beach since his first-ever race there back in 2007, when he also started fifth.

“Yeah, it’s been a while,” Rahal told NBCSN. “We obviously were awful at St. Pete. If that’s your last baseline on a street course, you never know what you’re going to get when you come into a weekend like this. We didn’t have the ultimate pace like others did, but we have tires for days tomorrow.

“Strategy-wise, I think the race will be a lot more fun for fans to watch. This isn’t going to just be a fuel mileage race as it historically has been. This new car is so much more fuel efficient, you’re going to be able to do this thing on two stops. So I think it’s going to be a lot more fun and we’ll be able to go to battle right away.”

Late in the final Fast Six session, Newgarden hit the wall ahead of Rossi, bending his suspension, but wisely moved out of the way to allow Rossi to go by.

“I just ran out of talent momentarily,” Newgarden told NBCSN. “I was trying to maximize that first lap, even though I knew the second lap was really the lap we needed to hit. I got a bit of a slide in the entry and tried to stay in it, which was a mistake, and then I clipped the left rear. The toe was bent and we had to pit.

“It’s tough making mistakes. We just have to try and work a little bit harder tomorrow. I made it a little bit tougher for where we have to start. … As long as we’re smart at the start and execute our pit stops, I think we’ll be fine.”

Also during the qualifying rounds:

* Rookie Robert Wickens fell short of making the final six for the Firestone Fast Six after grazing the wall. “I just pushed a little too hard and pressed the wall at the exit of Turn 4 and bent the rear toe-link, so we had to bring it back in,” Wickens told NBCSN. “It’s a shame but when you’re pushing on the limit trying to get into the Fast Six, you risk everything. We went a little bit too far on that one.”

* During qualifying for the Firestone Fast Six, veteran driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has had one of the quickest cars of the weekend, received a penalty for failure to go over a transponder for the timing loop while exiting pit lane.

* During Group 2 qualifying, rookie Kyle Kaiser hit the Turn 9 wall and caused significant damage to his suspension, including leaving debris on-track.

* At the end of Turn 1 during his qualifying turn, Marco Andretti spun with less than a minute to go and failed to make the 12-car field to run for the Firestone Fast Six. Former Andretti Autosport teammate Takuma Sato was not happy with Andretti, blaming him for Sato being unable to make the 12-driver field for the Firestone Fast Six qualifying.

* During the start of qualifying for the Firestone Fast Six, Will Power was not happy at how Rossi appeared to jump the crowd to get out on-track. Power and Team Penske reportedly called for a penalty, but none was issued.

The 44th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach takes place Sunday. The final driver warmup occurs at 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT.

The green flag for the event is expected to drop around 4:40 p.m. ET/1:40 p.m. PT.

Catch all the action on NBCSN, starting with the pre-race show at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top


As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage