2022 IndyCar Recap: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

2022 IndyCar Recap: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

by April 11, 2022 0 comments

What is arguably the second biggest race of the year in IndyCar returned to its rightful April spot this weekend. That of course is the Grand Prix of Long Beach, one of the best street course circuits anywhere in the world. An absolutely packed crowd showed up for both the IMSA race on Saturday, followed up by IndyCar on Sunday. This also marks the final race on the schedule before the month-long stretch at Indianapolis Motor Speedway begins. With that in mind, getting some momentum into the Month of May was crucial for this IndyCar field.

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Jimmie Johnson Injured

Coming off of a monster performance at Texas Motor Speedway, seven-time NASCAR Champion Johnson had some good mojo on his side coming into Long Beach. That didn’t seem to click, as Johnson suffered a significant hand injury after a date with the wall. Despite fracturing his hand, on top of having another practice crash the next day, he was set to give an honest effort on Sunday.

Encore Performance

Last year’s race winner at Long Beach, Colton Herta, picked up right where he left off last fall. After securing pole over last year’s pole-sitter Josef Newgarden, the California kid left the field in the dust off the start, pulling out to nearly a two-second lead before an early caution came out on lap six for Dalton Kellet. Herta however got back to business on the restart, getting a second lead over Newgarden after a lap of green flag racing. By the time lap 20 hit, only Newgarden and Alex Palou were within two seconds of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.

Differing Strategies

It became clear that at the rate the top three were running, Herta wasn’t going to be passed straight up at this time. With that said, both Newgarden and Palou opted to pit off of the strategy that Herta was. For the defending champion, his team brought him in two laps before Herta, and three before Newgarden. That ended up being a brilliant call, as Palou ended up three seconds up in the lead with Newgarden in second, and Herta falling to third. A race that had been dominated by the latter had its script completely flipped at the midway point.

Problems for the Points Leader

After losing in a photo finish at Texas to Newgarden, Sunday was not the day Scott McLaughlin needed whatsoever. After qualifying in ninth, the presumptive IndyCar points leader was a non-factor for the bulk of the day. That ultimately came to ahead when he spun coming out of the final corner, running behind Tatiana Calderon. There’s never a really optimal time to have a sub-top 15 day, but for Scotty Mac, better to have this now than say late in the season.

And Everything Becomes Chaos

Just as Scott Dixon began the final round of green-flag pit stops, everything bad that could have happened did. First and foremost, Herta, who seemed poised to make a run at the win, locked up the front tires and junked his No. 26 car. Very reminiscent of his accident from Nashville last season, however, this did not bring out a caution. As for the two remaining front runners, Newgarden did to Palou what he did to himself and Herta earlier, jumping him with pit strategy to take the lead.

Just as that happened, Simon Pagenaud managed to get his No. 60 Meyer Shank ride stuck in the flowers in the fountain turn. Truly one of the more odd incidents in recent IndyCar memory. Pagenaud was spun by Takuma Sato, then proceeded to gun it into the flowers and beached himself. This then brought out the second caution of the day. Newgarden would lead Palou, Marcus Ericsson, and Romain Grosjean, on the presumptive final restart of the day.

Grosjean out of Nowhere

Although he restarted fourth here, Grosjean wasn’t in that top group that dominated the bulk of the afternoon. That didn’t stop him from finding another gear and moving up to second place and getting right on Newgarden’s gearbox. The problem was he used up all of his push to pass to do so and had none to spare with 10 laps to go. The good news for Grosjean is that he would get one last crack at Newgarden, as Johnson and David Malukas wrecked to bring out the final caution of the day.

Back-to-Back

A five-lap showdown between Newgarden and Grosjean was set to settle things, and Newgarden was simply too good out front. Even with Sato ending up in the tires ending things a half-lap ahead of schedule, no one in the field was gonna get Newgarden yesterday on that last stint. This marks the first time the Tennessee native has won back-to-back races since Toronto and Mid-Ohio in 2017. Additionally, career win No. 22 for Newgarden gets him into the IndyCar Series points lead headed into the pair of races in Indianapolis.

IndyCar Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Top 10

1st No. 2 Josef Newgarden

2nd No. 28 Romain Grosjean

3rd No. 10 Alex Palou

4th No. 12 Will Power

5th No. 5 Pato O’Ward

6th No. 9 Scott Dixon

7th No. 15 Graham Rahal

8th No. 27 Alexander Rossi

9th No. 06 Helio Castroneves

10th No. 14 Kyle Kirkwood


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