The season finale started off sunny and warm for the first couple of days, but Sunday dawned cloudy, cool and stayed that way for the race. Colton Herta, fresh off his win one week ago at Laguna Seca was quickest in every practice session and the Sunday warm-up. He just missed the cut in qualifying and had to start 14th. The championship leader, Alex Palou, qualified 10th while his next closest rival in the points, Pato O’Ward, was penalized during qualifying for improving his time when a yellow flag flew for Will Power (who got sideways in Turn 9 and then pancaked the wall driver’s left on the exit). O’Ward was not happy since some other drivers also improved their times but didn’t lose their fastest laps. Josef Newgarden showed his intent on winning the race and championship by winning the pole position on Saturday.
Will Power gets sideways big time in Turn 9 in qualifying right before he “pancakes” the wall with his left rear on the exit.
The race started cleanly into Turn 1 (which is somewhat unusual for Long Beach) but it didn’t take long for Ed Jones to try an unlikely pass of James Hinchcliffe into the hairpin. He got inside Hinch but managed to punt and spin O’Ward out of the way. O’Ward was able to continue but rolled to a stop some laps later with what appeared to be a broken half-shaft or CV joint.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden flies over the curbing in Turn 9 on his way to pole position! Photo:Larry Mason
Newgarden led for the first stint with Scott Dixon close behind. With different pit strategies, Helio Castroneves led the next stint followed closely by Graham Rahal. In the meantime, Colton Herta, who had climbed his right front tire over the back of his teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay’s left rear tire carved his way through the field even though to go straight his hand position was turning right.
Colton Herta leads Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon after last pit stop on his way to Victory Lane. Note that Herta is on primary “Blacks” while Newgarden and Dixon are on the alternate Firestone “Reds.” Photo: Larry Mason
Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist and Hinchcliffe all ran strongly in the Top 10 early, but the guy making methodical progress was Alex Palou. At the end of the day it was Herta on top followed by Newgarden and Dixon with Palou in fourth. A great day for Ganassi racing as Dixon was champ last year and the Astor Cup trophy stays with the team this year with Palou. By way of O’Ward’s problems, Newgarden vaulted to second in the championship and O’Ward dropped to third in the standings.
Josef Newgarden, Colton Herta and Scott Dixon hold their trophies high in Victory Circle! Photo: Larry Mason
Alex Palou raises the Astor Challenge Cup Champion’s trophy and relishes the moment in IndyCar history! Photo: Larry Mason
In the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race on Saturday, Cadillac brought home the win with Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani in the DPi category. Continuing with the General Motors success, Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy finished first for Corvette Racing in the GTLM category. Rounding out the winners in the GTD category were Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow in their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.
The Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi of Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr takes a tight line around the world famous hairpin turn en route to victory in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event on Saturday afternoon. Photo: Larry Mason
All-in-all a great race weekend and it won’t be long until the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach returns on April 8-10, 2022. Don’t miss it!
By Larry Mason
Copyright © 2021 Larry Mason