The best way to describe this edition of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is that it was like a rollercoaster – lots of ups and downs when it came to the weather, racing and emotions. Friday’s temperatures were near 100 degrees with track temps about 130 degrees and while everyone anticipated that the weather would slow everything down, the exact opposite happened. The street circuit rubbered in so well that lap times fell like the temperatures would throughout the weekend.
Practice 1 for the NTT IndyCar Series was done in those really hot temps on Friday afternoon, yet the top time was over two seconds faster than the fastest time in the same session last year. Saturday’s temps were closer to the low 70’s with the sunshine still plentifully abundant when the NTT IndyCar Series took to the track for knockout qualifying. In the Firestone Fast Six, Colton Herta continued his mastery of the seaside street circuit that he won on last year to earn the pole. He waved to the Honda HPD employees in the Turn 10 grandstand on his cool down lap as a salute to all of their hard work. He was followed closely by last year’s pole sitter, Josef Newgarden. Alex Palou rounded out the top three. Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi claimed the next two spots enhancing the outlook on their season. Romain Grosjean completed the top six after losing his two quickest laps due to a shunt into the Turn 5 wall causing a red flag. Without that blunder, he would’ve started second.
At the start of the race, Herta pulled away immediately and opened up a significant gap to Newgarden and Palou. He easily led the first 28 laps until his first pit stop. After all the front runners had stopped, it was Palou who found himself in front until lap 54 of 85. From there, Team Penske did a great job to get Newgarden out front where he would remain for the rest of the race. However, it wasn’t that easy as he had to fend off strong challenges from Herta (who locked up under braking and smacked the wall in Turn 9 driver’s left), Palou and with just a few laps remaining, Grosjean who was on the Firestone “Reds” versus Newgarden on “Blacks.” Neither had any push to pass left and on a late re-start Newgarden took a super defensive line into Turn 1 and kept the lead. With a lap to go, Takuma Sato nosed into the tire barriers in Turn 8 (which collected a number of cars during the race) and so the race finished under caution. In the post-race press conference, Grosean admitted that even if they had a re-start it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
In the IMSA WeatherTech 100 minute race, Sebastien Bourdais started from pole with a new track record and pulled away until overtaking a backmarker in another class at the Turn 11 hairpin. As he went inside on the entrance to the corner he lost grip, went wide on the exit and nosed into the outside wall driver’s left. He had to wait to back up and get going again and dropped to dead last in DPi. At that point he was upset with himself and figured that he had nothing to lose by being aggressive in traffic and charging to the front. In his own words every time he needed to make a pass he was just going to “send it.” He did just that in the drive of the weekend and handed off to his teammate Renger van der Zande who dutifully brought the Chip Ganassi Cadillac under the checkered flag for an exciting win. It was an all-Cadillac podium with the sister Ganassi car in second and the JDC Miller Motorsports entry in third.
In the GTD Pro category, Corvette Racing snared the pole with Jordan Taylor although it was the Aston Martin Vantage driven by Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas that brought home the victory ahead of the Vasser Sullivan Lexus and rounding out the podium was the Corvette.
In GTD, it was the BMW M4 of pole sitter Madison Snow along with teammate Bryan Sellers who drove to victory over a super competitive field. The podium was rounded out by an Acura NSX and Lexus RC F.
The Historic Motor Sports Association Invitational was a real fan favorite with cars from the pinnacle of IMSA GTP and European prototype era. The sensational sleek and sexy looking cars still look modern even 30 years later. Furthermore, the variety of machinery from chassis to engines thrilled the fans ‘round the track. Former Porsche factory driver Patrick Long went two for two in the events on Saturday and Sunday in Tom Malloy’s Leyton House Porsche 962. Tom Long was second on Saturday in the beautiful in look, and in sound, four-rotor, silver and blue Mazda RX-792P. Jerome Rodela rounded out the top three on Saturday in the Eagle Toyota MkIII. On Sunday, McLaren’s Zak Brown brought his gorgeous Jaguar XJR10 home in second followed by the lone non-prototype Porsche 935 of Martin Lauber.
The Porsche Carrera Cup races had Kay van Berlo take both wins over a very large field that also had numerous caution flags throughout both races.
The Speed Energy Stadium SUPER Truck races were won by one family – Gordon. Both Robby and his son Max won with Robby taking the win on Sunday and 13 year old Max being victorious on Saturday.
By Larry Mason
Copyright © 2022 Larry Mason
Colton Herta jumps out to an immediate lead at the drop of the green flag of the 47th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Unfortunately for him, a smack to the Turn 9 wall (after locking his brakes on Seaside Way with 30 laps remaining) ended his chance to win back-to-back.
Late in the race Newgarden leads Palou and Grosjean. A late restart allowed Grosjean (on Firestone Reds) to get past Palou but he fell just short of winning and settled for second place. Notice the marbles off line.
Here Josef Newgarden leads Colton Herta after great pit work by his Team Penske crew. Notice the rubber building up in the expansion joint and the marbles off line.
From L-R, Romain Grosjean, Josef Newgarden, and Alex Palou share the podium celebration holding up their hard-earned trophies.
Sebastien Bourdais had the drive of the weekend after qualifying on the pole with a new track record, dropping to last in the race and charging back to the lead before it was all said and done.
Patrick Long put on a driving clinic against the other historic prototype drivers to take home two victories over the weekend.
Robby Gordon and his son Max celebrate Max’s win on Saturday. Dad Robby would win on Sunday!
Photos by Larry Mason