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RACING: Rossi returns to defend Long Beach crown
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Twenty-seven-year-old Alexander Rossi is back in California looking to repeat his top finish from a year ago at Long Beach. - photo by Photo by Dale Bosowski

LONG BEACH — In only the start of his fourth year as an IndyCar driver, Alexander Rossi, age 27 of Nevada City, has already risen to the top echelon of his profession.
After moving to Europe as a teenager, Rossi quickly moved up the ranks in variety of series before finally realizing his ultimate goal of driving in Formula One for the Marussia F1 Team in five races in 2015.
After failing to secure a F1 contract in 2016 Rossi returned to the states after signing a contract to drive in the IndyCar Series for Michael Andretti Autosports.
His career path changed forever when he pulled off an improbable victory in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie.
“That race has a special place for all of us racers, but even more so for the guys that have won it because they get a taste of what it is like,” said Rossi. “It is obviously the biggest race in the world, right?”
Last season, Rossi sat on the pole and then converted it for the win at Long Beach, giving him victories in two of IndyCar’s most prestigious events.
“It’s a legacy race. There are very few races on the calendar that have that sort of history,” stated Rossi, who has a total of five wins in his brief IndyCar career. “Long Beach is going on the 45th year and it is much more than just a car race.”
With his success in IndyCar the question comes up if Rossi have any desire to return to F1?
“Absolutely not. I have been there, done that. It is too political and I am pretty happy right where I am at.”
In Friday’s two practice sessions Rossi posted the sixth quickest time overall, trailing Scott Dixon’s fastest time set in session two by just over two tenths of a second.
The battle for Sunday’s pole around the 1.97 mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit can be seen live today starting 11:30 a.m. on NBCSN    
Earlier this week Sebastien Bourdais, of France, and Will Power, of Australia, were inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Hall of Fame, becoming the first active IndyCar drivers to be so honored.
Bourdais, who currently races for Dale Coyne Racing, won on the streets of Long Beach over three consecutive years in the Champ Car series from 2005-07. He is also the last driver to repeat, a feat 2018 race champion Alexander Rossi is hoping to duplicate on Sunday.
“It was weird when they told me I was being inducted,” said the Bourdais, age 40, with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Man, are you trying to send me a message?’ Because it usually comes after you retire.”
Power, age 38, is a two-time winner of the Grand Prix of Long Beach with victories in 2008 and 2012.
The 2008 victory bittersweet for Power since it was the final race under the Champ Car banner.
“It was a fantastic day, a fantastic win,” Power recalls. “It was kind of sad as well since it was last race for Champ Car, but it was also really exciting that the two open-wheel series – IndyCar and Champ Car – merged back together.”
While both drivers claim retirement is a long way off, Power, who has driven for Team Penske since 2009, reflected on his journey to this point in his career.
When I think about my first race here in Long Beach in 2006, it was a dream come true to be racing in the iconic Long Beach Grand Prix. I never would have dreamed I would have my name enshrined along with Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney and Jimmy Vasser.”
The NTT IndyCar Series is proving once again to be one of the most competitive series in the world of motorsport. There have already been three different winners in the first three races of the 2019 season and the top seven drivers in the point standings represent seven different teams.
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series 45th Annual Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be televised live on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. on NBCSN.