American Josef Newgarden wins first Long Beach Grand Prix
American Josef Newgarden won the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach IndyCar race Sunday, finishing 1.2869 seconds ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean for his first victory in Long Beach.
The race ended under caution after Takuma Sato of Japan speared the tire barrier in Turn 8 on Lap 84 of the 85-lap race on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit surrounding the Long Beach Convention Center.
“It’s a huge pleasure to finally be able to win around this place,” Newgarden said. “I’ve been coming here for 11 years. I remember my first race here in 2011. I was running in Indy Lights and I stuck the car in the fence with about two to go in Turn 8. I was leading and literally two to go, so I’ve never had a victory here so it’s pretty special to finally get one.”
Newgarden took the lead for good on Lap 55 when leader Alex Palou made his final pit stop for fuel and primary tires. Newgarden pitted for the last time two laps later, also taking fuel and primary tires, and upon pit exit narrowly stayed ahead of Palou, who was screaming down the main straightaway on Shoreline Drive trying to win a drag race for the lead.
The two drivers went side by side in a duel for the lead on Newgarden’s out lap after his pit stop, making slight hip check contact in Turn 5, but Newgarden stayed in front.
“I think the out lap with Palou was more risky,” Newgarden said after winning his second consecutive race on the NTT IndyCar Series. He also won the XPEL 375 March 20 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. “We got together in T5 going in deep, and that almost didn’t work out when we were side by side in that corner. We were side by side in Turn 6. That was the difficult battle.”
Pole-sitter, pre-race favorite and defending champion Colton Herta was knocked out of the race when he crashed into the wall while running third on his in lap to the pits on Lap 56.
“I just broke a little too late, got in there, locked the right front and that’s it,” Herta told NBC Sports. “It’s just a stupid mistake. We were definitely in that thing, running good there in third. It’s unfortunate, I feel really bad.”
The Valencia-raised Herta led for the first 28 laps.
Herta had won the last three NTT IndyCar Series races in California — the 2019 and 2021 editions of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey and the 2021 Long Beach race. The series didn’t race in California in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson raced Sunday despite suffering a broken bone on the outside of his right hand in a crash during practice Friday. He started 25th and crashed into a tire barrier with 10 laps to go, finishing 20th in the 26-car field.
Both Newgarden and Grosjean got great restarts on the restart on the 80th lap, with Grosjean remaining narrowly behind Newgarden.
“Very close, but not close enough,” Grosjean said. “That was fun. With the right tire strategy and with the last caution, I thought it was going to be great. He (Newgarden) did one mistake, but I just couldn’t use it.”
The second-place finish matched Grosjean’s best finish in his 16 races on the IndyCar Series. He also finished second in last season’s GMR Grand Prix and Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix, both on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Road Course.
Palou finished third after starting third behind Herta and Newgarden.
“We had to be aggressive with the strategy there to try and beat Newgarden and Colton there in the first stop. We did, and the guys did an amazing strategy, amazing stop, and we came out in P1,” said Palou, the 2021 series champion.
“Then we were leading for some laps, but I could see that we were lacking a bit of speed compared to Josef. We had to pit because we pitted two laps earlier, so we had not a lot of fuel, and he got us. It was a good battle with him on track, as well. I think it was on the limit, but we tried, both of us. He won today.”
The victory gave Team Penske its third victory in the series’ three races in 2022. Scott McLaughlin won the season opener Feb. 27 at St. Petersburg. This is the first time Team Penske has won the first three races of the season since 2012. Chip Ganassi Racing in 2020 was the last NTT IndyCar Series team to open a season with three consecutive victories.
All cars use fourth-generation NTT IndyCar Series chassis with universal IR-18 aerodynamic bodywork, Chevrolet or Honda engines and Firestone tires.
Earlier Sunday, at the Grand Prix’s second Historic IMSA GTP Challenge Race, Sebastien Bourdais and co-driver Renger van der Zande won for Cadillac Racing, which claimed the top two spots as Earl Bamber finished in second place.
Bourdais lightly hit the wall seven minutes into the 100-minute race while trying to lap a GTD class Porsche at the iconic hairpin of the Long Beach street course, but was able to make up the time.
“You kind of go into a bit of a trance when you try to pull off something that really shouldn’t be possible,” Bourdais said. “You’re on fire because you’re so mad at yourself. I guess I’m accustomed to stupid mistakes and trying to make up for that. Luckily, there wasn’t much damage and I’m just glad we got the lead back.”
Following the IndyCar race, IndyCar and NASCAR driver Robby Gordon won the Grand Prix’s second 30-minute SPEED/UTV Stadium Super Trucks race, one day after finishing second behind his 14-year-old son Max.
The elder Gordon founded the series for 600-horsepower V-8 engine trucks.
The Grand Prix concluded with its second Porsche Carrera Cup race, with Kay van Berlo winning for the second time in two days in the series for Porsche 911 GT3s.