Josef Newgarden won Sunday’s (April 10) Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach after a fierce battle with Romain Grosjean in the race’s closing stages.
Newgarden lined up second on the grid behind Colton Herta, maintaining his position through the majority of the race before barely jumping past Alex Palou during the second round of pit stops.
This marks the first back-to-back set of wins for Newgarden since 2017, when he was his first IndyCar title in his first year at Team Penske.
“This was a fight today, this was not an easy race to win!” Newgarden said. “I’ve been trying to win a race here for 11 years, so I’m so happy to finally get it done.”
Team Penske has now won the first three races of the 2022 season, a feat last achieved by Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon in 2020. Despite this performance, Newgarden was cautious to hype up his own season-long prospects, emphasizing the importance of performing at Indianapolis.
“It’s too early to say, it’s only three races in. We could have a horrible rest of the year,” he explained. “I’m feeling positive about where we’re going, but we have a long way to go. Indianapolis is where we need to perform at Team Penske and we know that … so let’s see what we do in the month of May.”
The path to Newgarden’s first Long Beach win opened wide on lap 56 when Herta planted his Andretti Autosport Honda in the turn 9 barriers while pushing on his in lap. Herta and Newgarden were both jumped by Palou after the first round of pit stops. Palou’s first in lap was a full second faster than that of Herta, leaving the Andretti driver concerned with not being outpaced once again.
Herta’s pace prior to his lap 56 mistake was that of a race winner, perhaps even a win as safe as his dominant performance at the 2021 Long Beach round. Herta managed the gap to Newgarden properly through the majority of the race, always keeping the Hitachi Chevrolet between a second to a second and a half behind.
Newgarden was viciously challenged by Grosjean for the last quarter of the race owing to the Frenchman’s red set of tires being faster than Newgarden and Palou’s harder black sets. The Texas winner mounted a staunch defense despite Grosjean’s superior pace and maintained his lead until Grosjean’s tires, and pace, began to wane.
Never so simple, Long Beach threw up a surprise for the leaders when Jimmie Johnson spun on the entrance to turn 8, collecting David Malukas in the process and triggering a full course caution. Grosjean once again set his sights on a maiden IndyCar win, pulling alongside the No. 2 car on the entry to turn 1 with five laps to go, though Newgarden ultimately retained his lead.
As the leaders approached the white flag, 2013 Long Beach winner Takuma Sato found himself beached in the turn 8 barriers after attempting to run through the corner side by side with Rinus VeeKay.
Sato was unable to get his car refired and officials were forced to throw a caution as Newgarden and company quickly approached a stationary Sato.
Despite the dominance of Herta, Palou and Newgarden, the race produced prospects for strong runs for a few drivers who needed a turn of good luck. Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist both enjoyed time on the brink of the top five, before the two collided and Rosenqvist was forced to pit.
Graham Rahal also scored a pleasant seventh place finish while 2021 Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves came home in ninth place.
Likewise, both Dalton Kellett and Marcus Ericsson retired after driver-error contact with Long Beach’s tight walls on laps 6 and 66, respectively.
Simon Pagenaud made perhaps the most memorable display of the race when he mounted Long Beach’s famous flower beds when trying to run through the fountain section two abreast with VeeKay. Pagenaud spun when the two ran out of real estate, triggering the race’s second caution.
With this win, coupled with his win last time out in Texas Motor Speedway, Newgarden takes the point lead from teammate Scott McLaughlin.
The NTT IndyCar Series will visit Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday, May 1. Coverage will begin at 1 p.m. ET on NBC.
The top 10 from the 2022 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach are:
4. Will Power
5. Pato O’Ward
6. Scott Dixon
10. Kyle Kirkwood
About the author
Alex is the IndyCar Editor at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also leads the Center for Asia-Pacific Policy at the BIED Society, an international think tank in Washington, D.C. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.