The 31-year-old Tennessee native took the checkered flag at the 47th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, winning a thrilling, action-packed race from start to finish.
“It was a fight today, it wasn’t an easy race to win,” Newgarden said after the champagne was doused. “I’ve been trying to win a race here for 11 years, I’m so glad I did… Everyone considers this place the crown jewel of our sport with the Indy 500. It means a lot to win here .”
Newgarden has finished second at Long Beach in the last two Grands Prix and has finished in the top 10 here every time the race has been run since 2015. It’s his second straight IndyCar victory after taking the checkered flag at the Texas as the last race in the series a few weeks ago.
Things are looking good off the track for Newgarden as well – the next time he hits the grid for an IndyCar race on May 1 in Alabama he will most likely be a new dad. Newgarden’s wife, Ashley, is expecting their first child any day.
“I don’t read into things too much…but I will say that for some reason when there’s a lot of chaos in my life, we seem to be doing well,” Newgarden said. “We’re busy, I have a lot on my mind and we’re doing a lot. I try to keep my head in the game with what we are doing on the track.
Newgarden was followed by Romain Grosjean, a Frenchman hotly chasing his maiden IndyCar victory, and reigning IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou.
“I love coming here, it’s a great place to race,” said Gorsjean. “I couldn’t understand (Newgarden), we were good enough for P2 but not good enough for a win. The next time.”
Palou has fond memories of Long Beach after clinching the IndyCar Series title here in September, but couldn’t hang on after leading for much of the race following a clever pit strategy.
“It was a good day for us, we had to be a bit aggressive and came out of the pits in P1,” said Palou. “We led a few laps but we were a bit lacking in speed compared to Josef. It was a good fight with him, to the limit, but he won today.
There was plenty of action on the course with several fallen former champions including Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato; one notable “didn’t finish” was defending champion Colton Herta, who started on pole position after a record-breaking day in qualifying on Saturday. Herta’s skill and recent success at Long Beach made him an overwhelming favorite, with betting sites listing him as an even-odds bet, a rarity in motorsports.
“LA Times writer asked yesterday when is Colton Herta leaving tomorrow?” Newgarden said after the win. “I was totally offended that this guy just assumed he was going to win. I went to bed last night and said, ‘This kid won’t be leaving tomorrow, there’s no way. didn’t – we came here to fight today.
With seven former champions on the 26-car grid, it seemed certain Herta or another former champion would take the checkered flag on Sunday, but as always, the Long Beach race was action-packed. Dalton Kellett entered the tires at the first corner of lap five, as Herta took a steady lead and held it for the first third of the race. Alexander Rossi (who won in 2018 and 2019) made contact with Felix Rosenqvist on lap 21 but was able to stay in the race, racing in the top five.
Alex Palou came out of the pits in the lead on lap 28, with Newgarden second and Herta third for the next 27 laps. Herta seemed to be biding his time, but ran into the wall at the exit of turn nine. Herta was frustrated after the race at not being able to meet his team’s high expectations.
“I broke a little too late and locked up the right front tire and that was all there was to it,” he said. “It’s just a stupid mistake. We were definitely into this thing. It’s a shame, I feel really bad.
It wasn’t the end of the action, however, as Pagenaud ended up running side-by-side with Sato, then walked into the flowers around the dolphin statue in front of the Aquarium of the Pacific.
“Someone finally went to the garden there, it never happened,” Newgarden joked of Pagenaud’s accident.
Jimmie Johnson’s Turn 8 crash forced a late yellow flag and a restart, but Newgarden was able to keep Grosjean in his rearview mirror. As Newgarden, Gorsjean and Palou battled for victory in the final laps, NBC broadcasters loved the action, shouting, “It couldn’t be more tense!”
In the end, Sato crashed into Turn 8 on lap 83, with Newgarden leading, and the race would end out of caution with a waving yellow flag with a half-lap to go, cementing Newgarden’s victory.
The victory was the 22nd of his career and marks the first consecutive wins of his career in five years. It was also Team Penske’s 601st overall victory as a team, and the first at Long Beach since Pagenaud’s victory in 2016 (which was also the last time Chevy beat Honda before the race). Sunday).
“I’ve wanted to win here for a very long time,” he said. “We have raced well here several times. I’ve been racing here since 2011, I was leading the Indy Lights race but came into the tires with two corners to go. Today was special.
This year’s event saw a return to pre-pandemic crowd numbers (with exact attendance figures not yet available) as well as the usual perfect seaside weather. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns next April for the 48th edition of the city’s premier sporting event; The race organizers recently signed an agreement with the city to keep it running until 2028.
The race traversed a 1.97-mile, 11-turn street circuit surrounding the Long Beach Convention Center and began at 12:45 p.m., broadcast live on NBC.
The peloton was made up of riders from 15 nations – eight from the United States, two from Canada, England, New Zealand and Sweden, and one from Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, France, from Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. .