By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is one of INDYCAR’s most prestigious events of the season and for a valid reason.
A former stop in the Formula One World Championship from 1976-1983, American Open Wheel Racing have since kept the Southern California street course alive and vibrant. More than any other street courses, Long Beach has had the luxury of having stability which has kept the venue on the calendar on an annual basis.
Fans pack the venue to see various racing disciplines, ranging from sports cars to drifting. It can be argued that Long Beach is auto racing’s ultimate fan experience where both entertainment and racing are equally its core selling points.
Once things get down to business, it’s about who can put themselves in excellent position to be a contender throughout the 85-lap contest. More than any other venue, track position is paramount where qualifying plays an important role in how a racer goes about their race.
Two-time Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi is looking to bounce back after a pit lane incident with Kyle Kirkwood at Texas. He explained during media availability about the importance of having a strong qualifying effort in order to be in the hunt for a race win at the 1.968-mile street course.
“You want to be towards the front. It goes in order of qualifying. For example, Felix got to pick first at Long Beach based on Texas, then down the qualifying order,” said Rossi.
“For Long Beach it’s important to be in the front in terms of pit selection just so that when you’re leaving to go to practice, qualifying sims, whatever, you have as much clear track in front of you as possible.”
Following an unforgettable race in Fort Worth, the minds shift to having a strong result that could come a long way in the championship trail.
A win at Long Beach is a badge of honor and if last year was an indication with Josef Newgarden feeling relieved to finally winning there. Whomever takes the checkered flag this Sunday, they’ve accomplished something tremendous in their racing career.
By the Numbers
What: 48th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, NTT IndyCar Series Race No. 3 of 17
Where: Streets of Long Beach – Long Beach, California (Opened: 1975, first INDYCAR event was 1984)
When: Sunday, April 16
TV/Radio: NBC 3:00 p.m. EST / INDYCAR Radio Network (SiriusXM Channels 85 & 160)
Track Size: 1.968-mile street course
Race Length: 85 laps, 168.28 miles
2022 Race Winner: Josef Newgarden – No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet (Started second, 32 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Colton Herta – No. 26 Andretti Autosport w/ Curb-Agajanian Honda (65.3095 seconds, 108.480 mph – April 9, 2022)
From the Driver’s Seat
Alexander Rossi – No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet
“Every qualifying is very critical, but especially Long Beach because the way it works out, it’s a two-stop race, pretty straightforward two-stop race.
“There’s not many yellows. It’s a pretty clean race, historically speaking. The leader doesn’t really get hung out by a close pit situation type of thing.
“It’s very important to start in the top two or three I think if you’re going to want to try to win that race.”
Last Time at Long Beach
Entering Long Beach, both Colton Herta and Josef Newgarden had a chip on their shoulder. Herta entered Southern California as the dominant defending race winner. Newgarden had never won in Long Beach, hoping to build momentum from his win at Texas Motor Speedway.
Both front row starters became the highlight of last year’s running for different reasons.
Herta had control of the race early on, but as the race unfolded, bad habits reared its ugly head. Rather than fighting for the race win with Newgarden and Alex Palou, a crash 30 laps from the finish ended his day. Similar to Nashville in 2021, driving under pressure became a detriment for Herta.
As for Newgarden, he had the race in control up to that point and despite some pressure from Palou and Romain Grosjean, the two-time INDYCAR champion was able to win one of the sport’s biggest races.
Newgarden’s triumph became a statement victory where nobody should say it’s a guarantee someone will win before the race. As one reporter from the Los Angeles Times learned and found out.
“The funniest bit about this whole weekend was when I left this press conference yesterday after qualifying, there was some dude from the LA Times and he came up to me like right before I hit the stairs and he goes, Hey, Josef, Josef – it’s this dude – he goes, Josef, one question: At what point does Colton Herta check out tomorrow? Like when is that,” said Newgarden
“And I thought it was just such a bizarre question and I went to bed last night, and I go, you know what? I said, that kid is not checking out tomorrow. There’s no way. He’s just not going to do it after I heard this from this person. And he didn’t.”
Another memorable moment happened in the closing laps when Marcus Ericsson’s day ended following an accident. Due to his damaged Honda being located in a closed area, Ericsson became the talk of social media for being stranded, sitting in a fold-up chair as he saw his competitors complete the race.
A year later, the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion was reminded of the low point.
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, April 14
- NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 1 (6:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. – Peacock)
Saturday, April 15
- NTT IndyCar Series Practice No. 2 (11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. – Peacock)
- NTT IndyCar Series Qualifying (3:05 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. – Peacock)
Sunday, April 16
- NTT IndyCar Series Warmup (12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Peacock)
- NTT IndyCar Series Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (3:00 p.m. – 85 laps, 168.28 miles – NBC/INDYCAR Radio Network)
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