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Alexander Rossi grabs his first victory of the season at Long Beach Grand Prix

Alexander Rossi grabs his first victory of the season at Long Beach Grand Prix
Alexander Rossi, left, celebrates with his team after winning the 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

California native Alexander Rossi came up big at the 44th running of the Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, becoming the first driver to win from the pole in 11 years.

Thoroughly dominating the race from the drop of the green flag, Rossi led 71 of 85 laps, crossing the finish line 1.2413 seconds ahead of Will Power of Team Penske.

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Ed Jones of Chip Ganassi Racing finished third for his second career podium spot.

With his third IndyCar Series victory, Rossi became the first American to win at Long Beach since Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2010.

"What it means to win this race is hard to put into words," said Rossi, a 26-year-old Andretti Motorsports driver who has finished on the podium in the first three races of the season. "Even though this isn't my true home race, it really feels like one.

"It's a pleasure to be able to come here and race and to be able to win is pretty special. This one I will definitely remember for a very long time and I'm very glad there were so many people here today to see it."

Rossi, who is from Auburn, Calif., won the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 and the IndyCar Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International in New York in 2017.

"If you're going to hit the wish list, those are the three races to win," Rossi said. "I don't really have anything more to say except it's kind of hard to believe and hard to understand and it will definitely take a lot of time to appreciate all this."

Power, a two-time winner at Long Beach, led six laps on Sunday and had a late charge that saw him close to within a second of Rossi with a handful of laps remaining.

"I did feel like I had a shot at Rossi at the end," Power said. "I needed to get close enough to him to do it, but I just stayed at that one-second gap behind him. I couldn't make time up on him enough. It was like qualifying on every lap for both of us there at the end.

Palm trees cast shadows on the race course at the 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach
Palm trees cast shadows on the race course at the 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

"At the end of the day, Rossi was just too fast all day and just really, really good."

Zach Veach and Graham Rahal finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Paul Tracy won the Grand Prix of Long Beach in 1993, 2000, 2003 and 2004. A fan favorite among Southern Californians during his racing days, Tracy, who now calls the IndyCar Series for the NBC Sports Network, proved clairvoyant about the race.

"It's hard to bet against Rossi," he said 30 minutes before the race. "Rossi has been on it all weekend."

The 21-car Pirelli World Challenge race was held earlier in the day.

It was an eclectic mix of Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Bentley, Porsche, Audi and Lamborghini GT, GTA, GTS and GTSA race cars on a sinuous, 11-turn street circuit winding around the Long Beach Arena and Convention Center complex.

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In a 50-minute timed race, it was Daniel Mancinelli of Italy coming up victorious in the No. 31 Ferrari 488 GT3 of TR3 Racing. Toni Vilander of Finland, also in a Ferrari 488 GT3, was second.

"I felt like I was a little bit quicker than Toni, but it was difficult to find the momentum to overtake him," said Mancinelli, who made his move for the lead on Lap 27. "Then I had good momentum coming out of the last corner; I attacked him at the end of the straight for Turn One.

"From there, I just managed the car and brought the car to victory. Here at Long Beach is a very special race and our Ferrari was very good. It's nice to have a Ferrari one-two here."

Said Vilander: "Daniel was willing to take more risks than me today, but it's good to be here and it was a great day for Ferrari. Ferrari is investing in racing in America in general, sending drivers like me here to race and having race teams here in the World Challenge.

"Today was an important day for Ferrari."

The top finishing amateur driver in the 32-lap race was Yuki Harata of Japan in the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Dream Racing Motorsport. The top eight finishers in the race all came from different nations.

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