Alexander Rossi wins pole for Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

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Alexander Rossi will start tomorrow’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in P1 for the second consecutive year, as the California native looks to make it back-to-back victories from the pole on the famed street circuit.

The 2018 race winner set the fastest time in the Firestone Fast 6, with a time of 1 minute, 6.4811 seconds coming in his final lap of the session.

“I’m a little bit at loss for words, to be honest,” Rossi said following his pole run. “That was way harder than last year.  These NAPA Andretti Honda boys did such a good job. We had a tough Friday, and then the work we did overnight was awesome. To lead P3 and to go and do this against the most competitive field we’ve ever had is a huge testament to the team. This one’s big. I wasn’t expecting it to be honest”.

“I think we’ve had a good car, but we haven’t had the best car yet this year, so we knew coming here we had to execute. Josef [Newgarden] has a pretty big lead on us in the championship and he’s done an awesome job, so we needed to do a good job, so this is step one. We know how to win from pole here, so hopefully we can do so tomorrow”.

Watch the race on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN or at NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app

Scott Dixon will start the race on the front row alongside Rossi, qualifying second with a time of 1 minute, 6.7479 seconds.

Team Penske drivers Will Power and Josef Newgarden will share the second row, qualifying third and fourth, respectively, with teammate Simon Pagenaud right behind them in the fifth position.

The exciting qualifying session had several on-track incidents as well. Group 1 qualifying ended under the red flag after Tony Kanaan ran into the tire barrier in turn 6. Kanaan will start tomorrow’s race from 21st.

James Hinchcliffe was unable to advance to the second round of qualifying as the red flag came out while he was on his fast lap. Hinchcliffe will start tomorrow’s race in 15th.

“It’s such a kick in the nuts,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN. “That has such a huge affect on the championship”.

In round two of qualifying, Felix Rosenqvist was set to move into the Firestone Fast 6, but the rookie driver locked up the brakes and went straight into the tire barriers in turn 9 with seconds remaining.

The incident triggered a red flag, costing Rosenqvist his two fastest laps and sending him to a 12th-place starting position.

“That was a shame,” Rosenqvist told NBCSN. “I think we had a really good speed on the [Firestone] reds”.

Coverage of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 4 p.m. E.T. Sunday on NBCSN.

Full qualifying results

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New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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