Long Beach polesitter Alexander Rossi believes that his 0.35s pole margin owed more to good timing than to any significant car advantage.
The gap stood out in a field where positions were determined in some cases by thousandths of a second, and was larger than the margin covering positions two to sixth on the grid. But the Andretti Autosport driver suspected that it was mostly representative of him nailing a particularly narrow performance window.
“I don’t really look at a gap,” Rossi said. “That’s sort of irrelevant to us. We’re just looking to be in the front, and whether that’s by a hundredth or three-tenths, it doesn’t really matter. There’s no doubt we have been strong.
“Ryan [Hunter-Reay] has been right there with me, and Josef [Newgarden] at times and Will [Power] at times, so it’s just about who gets it right on that lap, and I think that’s where you see the big deltas come from. It’s not that we’re just that much quicker than anyone else, it’s just such a fine window to get the perfect lap, and it’s just as fine of a window to fall out of the setup a little bit. And there’s a big time penalty for that, because as we go back to the lesser downforce, you’re sliding a little bit more, so if you’re a little bit off, it compounds through the corner.”
Rossi had earlier referred to Sunday’s race as an opportunity to seek redemption after last year, when his day was cut short by an engine failure. While acknowledging that pole is a good step toward that, he remained mindful of Long Beach’s low pole-to-win conversion rate.
“We saw last year that you can have a fast race car and be in the position, but it doesn’t quite work out,” he said. “To get pole here was good, good start for tomorrow, but this sport has a way of humbling you pretty quick, so we have to execute again tomorrow, and hopefully we can get that redemption we’re talking about.”