Newgarden holds Grosjean and Palou to win in Long Beach

Josef Newgarden finally added a Long Beach victory to his career resume after winning a hard-fought NTT IndyCar Series victory on the famous Southern California streetcar on Sunday.

After spending the first stay trying to keep Polesitter Colton Herta in sight, Newgarden skipped the Andretti Autosport car during the first round of stops – but both experienced being jumped by Alex Palou.

It set him up for a stalemate still in second place, but this time he is chasing the reigning league champion. He stayed out two laps later than the Spaniard before making his second stop, coming back more or less side by side with No. 10 Ganassi. Palou took a turn by passing him in turn 5, which resulted in less contact between the pair, but no change in position. It his best shot, and when Newgarden got a better exit from the hairpin at the end of the inning and built a small hole, the pair fell back to playing the long game.

The final chapter of the match came just after a restart with 15 rounds left. Newgarden and Palou still ran in first and second place, but right behind them was Romain Grosjean, who was alone among the frontrunners in choosing the softer Firestones for his final stay. That call paid off almost immediately after the race went back to green, as the Frenchman did relatively easy work in selecting Palou for second place, and he immediately set about chasing Newgarden. That hole quickly disappeared and Newgarden found himself coping with a series of attacks from Andretti Honda No. 28. A major outburst from Grosjean at turn 5 was rejected and also set all Grosjean’s remaining push-to-pass on fire.

It finally gave Newgarden respite and also brought Palou back into play in the battle for second place. Did anyone have enough left to make something happen in the last round? We never know for sure, for seconds before the white flag appeared, Takuma Sato knocked into the barrier and the race ended under yellow.

“This was a match today,” said a jubilant Newgarden. “This is not an easy race to win. I worked my ass off with Grosjean at the end on the Reds; I just hoped I could keep him away. It was super-difficult. So proud of Team Penske. I have tried to win a race here for 11 years, so I’m so proud to have it done. ”

After flirting again with a first IndyCar victory, Grojsean was reasonably happy to get out of there with his first podium as an Andretti driver.

“Very close,” he said. “But not close enough.”

Palou was equally happy to finish where he started.

“We made a good strategy,” he said. We went from third to first on strategy, and then we were so close (at the second stop). It was a good pit stop again, but I managed the outing a little badly, that’s how it was (Newgarden) came out in front. The team did an amazing job. It was not our day, but we’re trying on Barber again. ”

It may not have been his day, but it was much better than Herta’s. The 2021 Long Beach winner dominated the opening hours: after just five laps, he had already opened a hole of almost 2.0s at Newgarden, and all the early signs pointed to an afternoon where everyone else would run after scraps. The first setback came in the form of a slow first stop, which prompted Herta to send a radio to the team to ask how he had managed to get out of the first round of stops in the third.

That should prove to be his only stop of the day. Just before he was going in for his second, he boiled it over at the approach to turn 9 and put the car into the fence. Race over.

“I just braked a little too late,” he said. “I got in there, locked the right front, and that was it. Just a stupid mistake. We were definitely in that thing. We finished third and kept up with Alex and Josef, and it’s just unfortunate. I’m feeling really bad “Just exaggerated it a little bit.”

His absence, along with a number of other early exits, helped pave the way for more drivers to save strong results from tough starts to the weekend. Will Power narrowly missed Fast 6 in qualifying, but was happy to get No. 12 Team Penske Chevy home as number four, while Pato O’Ward was nowhere to be found Friday and Saturday, but fought his way to fifth.

“Today was very solid for us,” he said. “I know it’s not a victory, but we have had a very tough start to our year. All I wanted to do today was get a good solid foundation and we will build on momentum from today. We should be proud of what we did today. We went forward, not by a few positions, but a handful. And we’re heading into Barber, one of my favorite places. There are 14 races left, in day was a big step forward considering where we started the weekend.I had a great race car today.Unfortunately we did not start a bit further ahead but eyes ahead – I think we will manage some good things in the next few races. ”

It was a similar story right behind him, with Scott Dixon turning a 16th-place starting position into a sixth-place finish, aided by a strategy built around stopping early and finding space.

β€œStarting with the qualification, we had a big mistake on the car,” he said. “We were super-aggressive in terms of strategy. I think in the first sequence we jumped about 10 cars. Had to give up a little bit to save fuel, but I think a lot of people were surprised by the lap we drove on. “

Along the way, he survived a friendly fire incident when Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson – who ran in third place and looked strong – hit the wall at the end of turn 4 just after a restart on lap 67 and spun directly onto Dixon’s road. The New Zealander could not avoid contact, but escaped unharmed.

Ericsson’s crash was in line with the theme of an afternoon in which more than a third of the field was claimed by accident. Among the more significant was Jimmie Johnsons, as he was already driving with a rail on his hand after crashing last Friday, and then crashing again Saturday morning. On this occasion, he lost it on his way into turn 5 and collected Coynes David Malukas on his way into the tires. It was not immediately clear if there was previous contact between the couple who started the spin.

“I lost it so early, I’m not sure if there was contact behind it or not,” said a confused Johnson. “I was under the impression that I lost it on the rubber stacked up on the corner, but the crew meant something else. Either way, the rubber was unlike anything I’ve seen before. There was inches of rubber stacked up around the racetrack, and it was very interesting to find out where the car was to be placed and I think I was just a little bit wide. “

Most of the other bumps were of the standard type of lockup, slip, bang, but Simon Pagenaud took a different approach as he took a wide-side shot while battling Sato at the fountain and ended up backwards in a flower bed.

Outside of the races that ended the crashes, the second consequence event involved Scott McLaughlin, who was the only driver in the top 10 to start on the black tires. The idea was to get stuck for life in the first stint and then pick others from when he had a tire advantage later in the race. He succeeded in the first part of the mission and ran in the same position as where he started when he made his first stop, but the plan went sideways during the second period when he grabbed the inner barrier by the hairpin and spun, losing 10 positions and bury themselves in the herd the rest of the afternoon.

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