Through strong pit strategy and duels on late restarts, Josef Newgarden claimed his first win in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach of his IndyCar career, while simultaneously taking the championship lead in the process.
“I’ve been trying to win a race here for eleven years,” Newgarden said in victory lane. “I’m so happy to finally get it done!”
Newgarden held off a hard-charging Romain Grosjean through on the final restart with five laps to go, aided by a final caution for Takuma Sato ending up in the tire barrier at turn eight thrown on the final lap, to win his second-straight race and keep Team Penske undefeated on the season. This is the first time since 2012 that Penske has won the first three races of the season. Newgarden’s victory also gives Penske the record for most wins by a team on the streets of Long Beach.
“We knew coming into the race we have a good strategy, we make good fuel, with Team Chevy, we’re going to be alright,” Newgarden continued.
“And I had everything I needed today.”
Colton Herta led the field to green and immediately blitzed from the pack, accumulating a two and a half second gap in less than five laps. Just as fast as the gap was built up it faded away, as the first caution came out for Dalton Kellett on lap six. Kellett overshot turn one, making significant contact with the tire barrier on the exit of the corner.
After repairs were completed, the race restarted on lap 10 and Herta wasted no time reclaiming his huge lead. Further in the pack, a thrilling battle ensued on lap 21 for fourth place, as Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi battled for the position. Rossi dove to the inside of Rosenqvist in turn one, making contact with the Swede and taking the spot as both continued on. Marcus Ericsson and Grosjean followed Rossi through. Ericsson soon got revenge for his fellow countryman taking fourth in turn six on lap 25, before Grosjean took fifth from Rossi in turn one on lap 26.
Herta lost his lead in the first pit stop phase, getting overcut by Newgarden after pitting on lap 29. One extra lap was all it took for Newgarden, but both were undercut by Alex Palou who pit on lap 27 and took the lead, keeping Newgarden second and forcing Herta to third.
Palou dominated the stint like Herta before him, up until his pit stop on lap 55. The very next lap, Herta was scheduled to come in, but hit a major bump in the braking zone going into turn nine, smashing the outside wall. A heartbreaking ending that surely brought back painful memories of the 2021 Music City Grand Prixthe fastest car all weekend ended up with a twenty-third place finish.
Able to get to the shortcut to pit lane, no caution was thrown for Herta, and Newgarden was able to get to pit lane on lap 57 and narrowly overcut Palou on pit exit. Palou made gutsy attempts at Newgarden and his cold tires in turns five and six, but Newgarden held on while his tires got up to temperature and maintained the lead.
While Newgarden led, the city of Long Beach quickly realized they would be needing a new garden after Simon Pagenaud spun into the flowerbed at the fountain to bring out the caution on lap 60. Battling with Sato, Pagenaud went side-by-side with the Japanese driver through the fountain section, did some landscaping, and ended up facing the wrong way. The incident collected more cars as Rinus VeeKay got rear-ended by Scott McLaughlin while the former was slowing down due to Pagenaud.
This restart presented an opportunity for Grosjean, sitting fourth place as the only driver in the top five on the softer alternate tires. When the green flag flew with 19 laps to go, Grosjean hounded third-place Ericsson, who spun on the exit of turn four. The Swede made it to an escape road in turn five so no caution was thrown, but he made slight contact with his teammate Scott Dixonwho thankfully didn’t sustain damage.
This propelled Grosjean to third place to hunt down Palou, which he did with 16 laps to go around the outside of the defending series champion with 16 laps to go. Grosjean kept the pressure on Newgarden, but the American veteran held firm as Grosjean’s tires faded. But a caution with ten laps to go for a crash involving Jimmie Johnson and David Malukas stacked the field and gave Grosjean another chance.
Both Newgarden and Grosjean had incredible starts when the green flag flew with five laps to go, and Newgarden was able to successfully block Grosjean on the outside of turn one. That proved to be the Frenchman’s last shot at the lead, as a caution flew on the final lap with Sato in the barriers, giving Newgarden the win.
Palou finished third, unable to keep up with the two leaders on the final restart, with Will Power coming home fourth to put two Penske cars in the top five.
Arrow McLaren SP finally got the result they’ve been looking for, as Pato O’Ward came home fifth after starting the race in eleventh. His teammate Rosenqvist fell down the order after the contact with Rossi and tire degradation, finishing eleventh.
Dixon had the most impressive jump of all, going off-strategy and pitting well earlier than everyone else on both of his pit stops, propelling himself from sixteenth starting position to finish sixth. A brilliant drive and strategy call from one of IndyCar’s best ever.
Graham Rahal finished seventh after starting thirteenth, a much-needed top ten finish for a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team that has struggled greatly to start the season. He finished ahead of Rossi, who seems to have gotten some of his mojo back with an eighth place finish that is a new season best for him, and best since the 2021 season finale at this very circuit.
Helio Castroneves came home ninth for Meyer Shank Racing with a quiet, positive performance, while rookie Kyle Kirkwood once again impresses with the first top-ten finish of his young IndyCar career in tenth place.
The next race on the calendar is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabamaheld at Barber Motorsports Parkon 01 May.
Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach – Official Results
|1||2||Josef Newgarden||USA||Team Penske||1:46:48.010|
|2||28||Romain Grosjean||FR||Andretti Autosport||+ 1.286 sec.|
|3||10||Alex Palou||ESP||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 1.759 sec.|
|4||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||+ 2.965 sec.|
|5||5||Pato O’Ward||MEX||Arrow McLaren SP||+ 3.712 sec.|
|6||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 5.060 sec.|
|7||15th||Graham Rahal||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 5.393 sec.|
|8||27||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Autosport||+ 7.308 sec.|
|9||06||Helio Castroneves||BR||Meyer Shank Racing||+ 8.952 sec.|
|10||14||Kyle Kirkwood (R)||USA||AJ Foyt Enterprises||+ 12.863 sec.|
|11||7||Felix Rosenqvist||SWE||Arrow McLaren SP||+ 14.293 sec.|
|12||20||Conor Daly||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||+ 15.217 sec.|
|13||21||Rinus VeeKay||NED||Ed Carpenter Racing||+ 16.246 sec.|
|14||3||Scott McLaughlin||NZL||Team Penske||+ 17.929 sec.|
|15th||45||Jack Harvey||GBR||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 18.780 sec.|
|16||11||Tatiana Calderon (R)||COLE||AJ Foyt Enterprises||+ 1 lap|
|17||51||Takuma Sato||JPN||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing||+ 2 laps|
|18||30||Christian Lundgaard (R)||DENE||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 2 laps|
|19||60||Simon Pagenaud||FR||Meyer Shank Racing||+ 4 laps|
|20||48||Jimmie Johnson||USA||Chip Ganassi Racing||Crashed|
|21||18||David Malukas (R)||USA||Dale Coyne Racing w/ HMD Motorsports||Crashed|
|22||8||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Chip Ganassi Racing||Crashed|
|23||26||Colton Herta||USA||Andretti Autosport||Crashed|
|24||77||Callum Ilott (R)||GBR||Juncos Hollinger Racing||Crashed|
|25||29||Devlin DeFrancesco (R)||CAN||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||Crashed|
|26||4||Dalton Kellett||CAN||AJ Foyt Enterprises||Crashed|