Race Weekend Central

2023 IndyCar Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Preview

The NTT IndyCar Series is back in action this Sunday (April 16) for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The second longest tenured race on the calendar is the third stop in the 18-race 2023 schedule.

Josef Newgarden is the defending race winner and will look to repeat at Long Beach as well as make it two-in-a-row on the year after outdueling Pato O’Ward to the finish at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

The 11-turn temporary street circuit is a tight, historic course through the Long Beach Convention Center along with a captivating run down Shoreline Drive. Some of the greatest IndyCar drivers have conquered this track, such as Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr., and Paul Tracy. Six former winners will take to the track this weekend, with multiple storylines in play.

Defending Winner

Newgarden, in his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet, will try to duplicate his work from the previous season. He arrived at Long Beach last year as the Texas race winner and used pit strategy to leapfrog front runners Colton Herta and Alex Palou to win his first Acura Grand Prix. If he triumphs again, Newgarden will find himself in good championship contention and complete two-thirds of the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge requirements to earn its $1 million prize. All that would remain is a win on a permanent road course, with two on tap after Long Beach.

See also
Inside IndyCar: The Grand Prix of Long Beach is a Big Deal

Last Year’s Contender

Challenging Newgarden last year was Romain Grosjean in the No. 28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda, and look for him to be a contender again. In his first full IndyCar season in 2022, Grosjean showed his skills on the tight street course, chasing the Team Penske driver over the final racing stint. If not for an untimely yellow at the end, Grosjean might have overtaken the American over the final lap. This year, the Frenchman has had a great start to the season, but no results to show for it. At the first race at St. Petersburg, he had a superior car but tangled with Scott McLaughlin while battling for the lead. And at Texas, he led one lap and was comfortably in the top five when he lost control while trying to get fourth position coming to the white flag. A finish with his car intact is what he needs to get the season rolling.

Redemption

Fellow Andretti Autosport driver and California-native Herta has quickly taken to his home track in his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, winning in 2021 and leading early in last year’s race before stuffing his car in the wall trying to make up ground after pit stops. Herta has two wins and four poles on street courses in his five-year career but has given up results by crashing when pushing to regain the lead or track position. With a new race strategist – Scott Harner replaced Herta’s dad, Bryan Herta on his pit box at Texas – maybe a different voice in his ear will balance his quickness with patience.

Arrow Mclaren Jumps Into Big 3

The start to the 2023 IndyCar season has not produced the wins for Arrow Mclaren, but they’ve shown that Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing has an opponent pushing for championship consideration. Heading into this round, O’Ward is the points leader and has back-to-back runner-up finishes. If not for an engine issue at St. Pete, he’d been in victory lane instead of Marcus Ericsson. Felix Rosenqvist took pole at Texas. Newcomer Alexander Rossi has two wins at Long Beach and could join the three-time winners club.

Bounce Back

Without a doubt, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was ready to move on from the Texas race at the drop of the checkered flag. All three drivers – Graham Rahal, Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey – lacked pace all weekend and finished no higher than 18th. Street course racing is a different world, and two of them had top-10 finishes at the opening round in St. Pete. They haven’t shown winning-car speed, but at least a return to competitiveness will feel good heading into the next couple of races before Indianapolis.

See also
Al Unser Jr.: King of Long Beach

Pit Strategy

The calls in the pits will be decisive due to the tight track and limited passing opportunities. Last year, Team Penske’s decision to overcut Palou and put Newgarden in clean air got him in front after the last pit stop cycle. It will be a similar situation this year, and the right call – whether to come in early or later – will be critical. And that’s not even considering when yellows will fall.

Lonely Ericsson

Will the 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Ericsson have a different result than last year, when he no longer got to play after his car broke?

Frontstretch Race Prediction

  1. Romain Grosjean
  2. Colton Herta
  3. Scott McLaughlin

The NTT IndyCar Series hits the streets for the 48th running of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this Sunday, April 16, at 3 p.m. EST on NBC.

About the author

Tom is an IndyCar writer at Frontstretch, joining in March 2023. He also works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs History Office and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. A native Hoosier, he's followed IndyCar closely since 1991 and calls Fort Wayne home. Follow Tom on Twitter @TomBlackburn42.

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