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Alexander Rossi

Source: Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski / other

LONG BEACH, Calif. — IndyCar drivers consider this week the first true street course race of the season as the series prepares for the Grand Prix of Long Beach. That’s even though drivers have already tackled the streets of St. Petersburg back in early March to kick off the 2023 campaign.

“They are different. I think St. Pete’s borderline getting to the point where it’s almost a road course, it’s so smooth and the grip level is what it is,” said Arrow McLaren driver Alexander Rossi. “I think you definitely take a little bit of a different approach there than you do other street courses.”

Josef Newgarden won at Long Beach a year ago. He also won at Texas two weeks ago in the series’ first oval race. Oddly enough that’s what happened last year as well. Newgarden won Texas and then followed it up with a win at Long Beach.

Rossi, who one at Long Beach in consecutive seasons in 2018 and 2019, is with Arrow McLaren SP this time around after getting his two victories with Andretti Autosport. That means Rossi will tackle Long Beach for the first time in a Chevy engine.

“Obviously I didn’t drive the car last year, but I think the team has taken a step forward in terms of the street course program,” Rossi said. “I think Chevrolet has made monumental steps, especially coming from 2021, their evolution of ’22, then again a step this year.”

“We feel very confident in what we have, what we can do there,” he added. “It was a missed opportunity for two of the cars in Texas with very fast race cars not ending up getting a result.”

Rossi was forced out of the XPEL 375 at Texas after a pit lane collision with Kyle Kirkwood, a collision in which Rossi was penalized for an unsafe release from his pit.

Long Beach will mark the last street course race before heading to Barber in Alabama and then Indianapolis for the month of May.

Next week, drivers will descend on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for an Indy 500 open testing session for drivers to shake down their cars and for rookies and any veterans to get their rookie orientation and veteran’s refreshers out of the way.

“That’s a really good time to really understand (what you have),” said Rossi. “Everyone has been working on their speedway cars probably since June 1st of last year. It’s such small details that add up to make a really big difference at Indy.”

Cars will be turning laps on both Thursday and Friday next week April 20-21.