Three weeks after claiming his wildest and dramatic victories in his motorsports career in the Lone Star state, Josef Newgarden backed up his early momentum into this season by shining in the Golden State and winning the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach at the Streets of Long Beach, California, on Sunday, April 10.
The two-time IndyCar champion from Hendersonville, Tennessee, led a race-high 32 of 85 laps and benefitted through an executed pit strategy to cycle to the front twice, including the second one as he fended off Alex Palou to reassume the lead approaching the final 30 laps. Newgarden then held off a challenge from Romain Grosjean through two late restarts to claim the win under caution after Takuma Sato wrecked prior to the final lap. The first Long Beach victory for Newgarden in his 11th attempt was enough for him and his No. 2 Team Penske Dallara-Chevrolet team to emerge as the new points leader.
With on-track qualifying occurring on Saturday, Colton Herta, the reigning winner at Long Beach, started on pole position after establishing a pole-record qualifying lap at 108.480 mph in one minute, 6.2254 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Josef Newgarden, winner of the previous IndyCar event at Texas Motor Speedway in March who posted a fast lap at 107.745 mph in one minute, 5.7550 seconds.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Herta rocketed away with an early advantage while Alex Palou challenged Newgarden for the runner-up spot. Behind, Felix Rosenqvist battled and fended off Alexander Rossi for fourth place while Marcus Ericsson was in sixth ahead of Romain Grosjean.
Through the 11-turn circuit and with the field settling in a long single-file line, Herta led the first lap while Newgarden settled in second place ahead of Palou, Rosenqvist and Rossi.
By the fifth lap, Herta was leading by more than two seconds over Newgarden, who was still ahead of Palou by more than half a second, while Rosenqvist and Rossi remained in the top five. Trailing behind in the top 10 were Ericsson, Grosjean, Will Power, Scott McLaughlin and Simon Pagenaud.
A lap later, the first caution of the event flew when Dalton Kellett locked up his tires in Turn 1 and clipped the tire barriers, where he sustained heavy damage to his No. 4 AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara-Honda as his race came to an end.
Another two laps later and when the safety crew repaired the tire barriers while also towing Kellett’s car off the course, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Herta rocketed his No. 26 Gainbridge Dallara-Honda away from the field for a second time to retain the lead while Newgarden kept his No. 2 Hitachi Dallara-Chevrolet in front of Palou’s No. 10 NTT Data Dallara-Honda and the rest of the field. Behind, Rosenqvist kept his No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Dallara-Chevrolet in front of Rossi’s No. 27 AutoNation/NAPA Dallara-Honda while Ericsson, Grosjean, Power, McLaughlin and Pagenaud remained in the top 10. By then, Pato O’Ward was in 11th in front of rookie Kyle Kirkwood, Hello Castroneves, Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon. Meanwhile, Rinus VeeKay, who damaged part of his front nose after getting into the rear of Castroneves prior to the restart basin 16th while Jimmie Johnson, who broke his right hand during a practice accident on Friday, was in 24th place.
Through the first 20 laps of the event, Herta was out in front by more than a second over Newgarden while third-place Palou trailed by two-and-a-half seconds. Rosenqvist and Rossi, both of whom were more than eight seconds behind the leader Herta, battled for fourth place while Ericsson, Grosjean, Power, McLaughlin and Pagenaud remained in the top 10.
A lap later, Rossi muscled his way into fourth place followed by Ericsson, Grosjean, Power, McLaughlin and Pagenaud while Rosenqvist plummeted to 10th place in front of teammate Pato O’Ward.
Not long after, some like Scott Dixon, Rinus VeeKay and Rosenqvist made a pit stop under green while Herta continued to lead. Meanwhile, Rossi and Ericsson were locked in a tight battle for fourth place before he prevailed on Lap 25. During the following lap, Grosjean made his move to muscle his No. 28 DHL Dallara-Honda into fifth place.
On Lap 28, Palou pitted along with O’Ward. By then, Rossi also made a pit stop. Soon after, Pagenaud pitted along with Kirkwood.
Then on Lap 29, Herta surrendered the lead to pit followed by teammate Grosjean, Conor Daly, Takuma Sato, David Malukas and Johnson. During the following lap, Newgarden pitted along with Ericsson and Scott McLaughlin and Callum Ilott. Following the pit stops, Malukas was penalized for speeding on pit road.
By Lap 32, Will Power pitted along with Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard. Once the cycle of green flag pit stops were completed after Devlin DeFrancesco pitted, Palou cycled his way into the lead followed by Newgarden and Herta while Ericsson and Dixon were in the top five. Behind, McLaughlin spun in Turn 11 after he clipped the inside wall while settling behind Tatiana Calderon. Not long after, DeFrancesco, who just pitted, spun and shredded his tire as he limped back to pit road. Both incidents, however, were not enough for the caution flag to be drawn.
Through the first 40 laps, Palou was leading by more than two seconds over Newgarden while third-place Herta trailed by less than a second behind Newgarden.
At the halfway mark between Laps 42 and 43, Palou continued to lead by more than two seconds over Newgarden and less than three seconds over Herta. Ericsson was in fourth place, trailing by more than 10 seconds, while fifth-place Dixon trailed by more than 16 seconds. Rounding out the top 10 were Grosjean, Power, Rossi, O’Ward and Rahal while Kirkwood, Castroneves, Daly, Sato and Rosenqvist were in the top 15. By then, VeeKay, Pagenaud, McLaughlin and Johnson were mired in 17th, 19th, 20th and 22nd.
By Lap 50, Palou stabilized his advantage to more than two seconds over Newgarden while third-place Palou trailed by more than three seconds. Ericsson was still in fourth place while Grosjean was up in fifth place. Trailing behind were Dixon, Power, Rossi, O’Ward and Rahal.
Nearing the final 30 laps of the event, another round of green pit stops occurred as Rosenqvist pitted along with VeeKay and Jack Harvey. Among those who pitted included the leader Palou as Newgarden moved into the lead.
Just then and while the cycle of pit stops continued, trouble struck for Herta after Herta locked up his tires entering Turn 9 and smacked the wall hard as he then pulled his Honda off the course in Turn 10. While the race proceeded under green, Herta’s hopes of winning at Long Beach came to an end as the wreck mirrored a similar one Herta experienced at Nashville Street Circuit last August while contending for the win.
“I just broke a little bit too late, got in there, locked the right front, and that’s it,” Herta, who led 32 laps, said on NBC. “It’s just a stupid mistake. We were definitely in that thing, running good there in third, keeping up with Alex and Josef. It’s unfortunate. I feel really bad.”
Back on the track, Newgarden, who pitted, managed to duel and fend off Palou to retain the lead on Lap 55 while Ericsson was up in third place.
With 26 laps remaining, the caution flew when Simon Pagenaud spun by the Dolphin Fountain between Turns 2 and 3 following contact with Takuma Sato. As Pagenaud tried to drive away, he came to a rest atop the flower bed by the Dolphin Foundation while McLaughlin got damage after running into the rear end of VeeKay, who was trying to dodge Pagenaud.
Following an extensive cleanup, the race restarted under green with 19 laps remaining. At the start, Newgarden retained the lead ahead of Palou through the first two turns. Then behind, Ericsson, who was in third place, got loose and clipped the outside wall exiting Turn 4. While trying to continue under pace, he then got hit by teammate Dixon as he slipped sideways and was forced to pull his car off the course in Turn 5 while the field scattered. The incident spoiled Ericsson’s opportunity for back-to-back podiums of the season while Grosjean moved into third place.
With 15 laps remaining, Newgarden continued to lead by less than four-tenths of a second over Grosjean, who muscled his way into the runner-up spot over Palou during the pervious lap and began his challenge on Newgarden for the top spot. Behind, Will Power was in fourth place followed by Pato O’Ward while Dixon, following his late incident with teammate Ericsson, continued to run in sixth place.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, the caution flew when Jimmie Johnson spun and slapped his No. 48 Carvana Dallara-Honda against the tire barriers. David Malukas, who was running right behind Johnson, also got into the tire barriers after hitting Johnson’s car. At the moment of caution, Newgarden had stabilized his advantage to more than half a second over Grosjean followed by Palou, Power and O’Ward.
Following another extensive cleanup and repairs made to the tire barriers in Turn 8, the race restarted under green with five laps remaining. At the start, Grosjean tried to launch an attack to the outside of Newgarden, but the latter defended the top spot through the first five turns. Through Turns 6, 7 and 8 before entering Turns 9, 10 and 11, Newgarden continued to lead ahead of Grosjean and Palou, Behind, Power was in fourth while O’Ward fended off Dixon to remain in the top five.
With two laps remaining, Newgarden continued to lead by nearly six-tenths of a second over Grosjean, who had Palou starting to intimidate him for the runner-up spot.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Newgarden remained as the leader by less than eight-tenths of a second over Grosjean while third-place Palou trailed by more than a second. By then, Takuma Sato ran into the tire barriers in Turn 8 while battling VeeKay for position.
Just as the field cycled their way to Turn 8, where Sato was unable to continue in time until the leaders arrived, the caution flew and the race was over, which handed the victory to Newgarden for the first time at the Streets of Long Beach and for his second consecutive IndyCar win in recent weeks.
In addition, Newgarden recorded his 22nd career win in the NTT IndyCar Series. With the win, Team Penske and Chevrolet have won the first three scheduled IndyCar events of the 2022 season.
“[The Long Beach victory]’s definitely up there on the list,” Newgarden said on NBC. “Man, this was a fight today. This was not an easy race to win. I don’t know if it looks simple from the outside, but I was working my butt off with Grosjean at the end there on the used reds [tires]. I was hoping he would fade a little bit towards the end, but I was just trying to hold him off on the restart. It was super difficult. This Hitachi car, it was on it. We knew, coming in the race, we have a good strategy. We make good fuel with Team Chevy. We were gonna be alright and I had everything I needed today with pit stops trying to get around Alex [Palou]. So proud of Team Penske. I’ve been trying to win a race here for 11 years, so I’m so happy to finally get it done.”
The runner-up result for Grosjean was his third in the series coming in a total of 16 career starts in the IndyCar Series and first since finishing in second place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in August 2021. It also marked his fourth career podium result in IndyCar competition.
“Very close, but not close enough, right?” Grosjean said. “It was fun. We had the right tire strategy. The last caution, I thought it was going to be great. [I] Lost a bit of time when Marcus [Ericsson] stuffed it in front of me and then catch Alex [Palou]…Josef was up there. He made one mistake, but I just couldn’t use [the car] and then, I have to be honest, the Chevy engine was fast on the straight, so I couldn’t quite keep up. Very happy with P2 today. First podium on the DHL color. It’s a great day. Looking forward to more. We take what it is.”
Filling in the final podium result in third place and with his second podium result of the season was Alex Palou, who was in contention to claim his first victory of the season.
“We took the gamble on the first [pit] stop,” Palou, who led 22 laps, said. “We did a good strategy. We went from third to first. That was only on strategy and the pit stop, the crew did an amazing job. We were so close…I’m super proud of everybody at the No. 10 car and everybody at the Chip Ganassi Racing team. It was not our day, but yeah, we’ll try again at Barber.”
Power and O’Ward finished in the top five while Dixon, Rahal, Rossi, Castroneves and Kyle Kirkwood completed the top 10 on the track.
There were five lead changes for five different leaders. The race featured four cautions for 14 laps.
With his second consecutive victory in recent weeks, Josef Newgarden leads the NTT IndyCar Series standings by five points over teammate Scott McLaughlin, 15 over Alex Palou, 16 over Will Power, 35 over Scott Dixon and 43 over Romain Grosjean.
1. Josef Newgarden, 32 laps led
2. Romain Grosjean
3. Alex Palou, 22 laps led
4. Will Power, two laps led
5. Pato O’Ward
6. Scott Dixon
7. Graham Rahal
8. Alexander Rossi
9. Helio Castroneves
10. Kyle Kirkwood
11. Felix Rosenqvist
12. Conor Daly
13. Rinus VeeKay
14. Scott McLaughlin
15. Jack Harvey
16. Tatiana Calderon, one lap down
17. Takuma Sato – OUT, Accident
18. Christian Lundgaard, two laps down
19. Simon Pagenaudm, four laps down
20. Jimmie Johnson – OUT, Contact
21. David Malukas – OUT, Contact
22. Marcus Ericsson – OUT, Contact
23. Colton Herta – OUT, Contact, 28 laps led
24. Callum Ilott – OUT, Contact
25. Devlin DeFrancesco – OUT, Contact, one lap led
26. Dalton Kellett – OUT, Contact
Next on the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series schedule is the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, which will occur on May 1 at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.