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Newgarden gets long-awaited win at Long Beach GP
Grand Prix of Long Beach
Josef Newgarden leads Romain Grosjean and Alex Palou during the 47th annual Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday. - photo by DALE BOSOWSKI

LONG BEACH — Josef Newgarden, driving the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, realized a career-long goal by using a pair of lightning-quick pit stops to capture a hard-fought NTT IndyCar Series victory in Sundays 47th Annual Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“I’ve been trying to win a race here for 11 years, so it is a huge pleasure to finally get it done,” Newgarden excitedly said. “This race is one of the crown jewels of our sport so this win is really special to me.”

Grand Prix of Long Beach
From left, Romain Grosjean, Josef Newgarden and Alex Palou celebrate in the winner’s circle after the race Sunday in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. - photo by DALE BOSOWSKI
Newgarden started the 85-lap race from the second position on the grid, just behind last year’s race winner Colton Herta, who dominated Saturday’s qualifying sessions in his No. 26 Gainbridge Andretti AutoSports Honda to capture the pole for Sunday’s race with a record-setting lap of 1 minute, 5.3095 seconds (108.480 mph) around the twisting 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit.

Newgarden, along with defending IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou, spent the first stint of the race trying to stay on pace with Herta, who looked to be almost invincible. However, all that changed during the first round of pit stops when Newgarden got out ahead of Herta while Palou, driving the No. 0 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, leapfrogged both of them with an even quicker stop.

Newgarden and Herta then spent the middle stint of the race chasing down Palou, who was able to easily hold them at bay while negotiating the slippery conditions on the track due to excess rubber build up as the race progressed.

Things would soon get a lot worse for Herta when the Santa Clarita native put his car into the Turn 9 wall while pushing hard on an in-lap for his second and final pit stop of the race on lap 55 ending his day.

“I just broke a little too late, got in there, locked the right front, and that’s it. It’s just a stupid mistake,” a dejected Herta said. “We were definitely in that thing, running good there in third. It’s unfortunate, I feel really bad.”

Palou dove into the pits on the same lap, allowing Newgarden to inherit the lead. Newgarden ducked into the pits two laps later, emerging alongside of Palou leading into turn 1. The pair battled side by side, making contact on a couple of occasions, before Newgarden was able to just creep ahead of the Spaniard to take over the top spot.

Newgarden and Palou were still running first and second with 20 laps to go when a late race caution allowed Romain Grosjean, who was the only car among the frontrunners to opt for the softer Firestone tires for his last stint, to move up behind them. Grosjean, driving the No. 28 DHL Andretti AutoSports Honda, quickly picked off Palou for second after the race went back to green and then proceeded to hunt down Newgarden.

With 15 laps to go, Grosjean made several stabs at the lead and although he was able to get alongside of Newgarden he was never able to gain the advantage to complete the pass. Newgarden eventually weathered the storm as Grosjean’s softer tires began to fade and he used up his remaining push-to-pass allotment.

A late race crash involving 2013 Long Beach winner Takuma Sato put to bed any remaining threats to Newgarden by Grosjean and Palou, as the race ended under a yellow flag. Newgarden’s Team Penske teammate Will Power took the checkers in fourth, and 2021 Long Beach race winner Pato O’Ward rounded out the top-five finishers.

“This was a fight today,” Newgarden said, as he celebrated in victory circle with team owner Roger Penske his crew. “This is not an easy race to win. I was working my butt off with Grosjean at the end on the reds. I was just hoping I could hold him off. It was super-difficult.”

Grosjean’s runner-up finish tied his career best in IndyCar and it was his first podium with his new Andretti team.

Very close, but not close enough. I had to use most of my push-to-pass to get by Alex,” Grosjean lamented. “Josef made one mistake, but I just couldn’t use it. I have to admit the Chevy engine was fast on the straights and I couldn’t quite keep up. Very happy with P2 today.”

 Palou, who led 22 laps, was also satisfied with his result.

“We did a good strategy and went third to first on strategy and pit stops. The crew did an amazing job,” Palou said. “We were so close. It was a really good pit stop again, but I did the out lap before Herta’s crash, and that’s why we came out behind Josef.”

Newgarden led a race-high 32 of 85 laps as he picked up his second consecutive NTT IndyCar Series victory with his last lap win at Texas Motor Speedway in March. He now holds a slim 118-113-point lead over his Team Penske teammate Scott McLaughlin, the victor in the season opener at St. Petersburg, after three of 17 races on the 2022 NTT IndyCar schedule.

The IndyCar Series will now head to Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy GP of Alabama on May 1 before heading to Indianapolis Motorsports Speedway for the GMR GP on May 14 and the 106th running of the Indy 500 on May 29.

The IndyCar season will conclude with the Firestone GP of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on September 9-11.