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A Long Beach Win 11 Years in the Making for Newgarden

A fist pump to the air for Josef Newgarden (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden entered 2022 with two missing crown jewel races in his arsenal. The Indianapolis 500 and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

After 11 years of shortcomings, Newgarden finally accomplished the latter Sunday. Although the race ended under caution for Takuma Sato’s Turn 8 crash, he fended off Romain Grosjean and Alex Palou to bring Penske its first Long Beach win since 2016.

Newgarden’s race-winning move came at the exit of pit lane when his crew put him out ahead of Palou with ease. The latter fought hard, but couldn’t get by as Newgarden led the last 31 laps to get the job done in Southern California.

“It’s a huge pleasure to finally be able to win around this place,” said Newgarden. “I’ve been coming here for 11 years. I remember my first race here in 2011 I was running in Indy Lights and I stuck the car in the fence with about two to go in Turn 8, and I just — I was leading and literally two to go, so I’ve never had a victory here, so it’s pretty special to finally get one. Yeah, just really, really pleased for the team, the 2 car.

“This place is a hard nut to crack. It’s a lot of pressure like the Indy 500. Everyone looks at this place as the crown jewel of our sport, and it would be an honor to win here and you feel it within the team. The team was so pumped up to be able to win around this place. It does mean more than some other tracks.”

Newgarden leading the way into the hairpin (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

With this win at Long Beach, it’s the first time Newgarden has won back-to-back since 2017 when he won his first title. Not only that, he’s improved from fourth to first in the championship trail, leading Scott McLaughlin by five points.

Finally, Newgarden is a step closer to bringing home the million-dollar grand prize.

To do so, he must win at a road course, and he’ll have the opportunity to do so next at Barber Motorsports Park. This promotion is known as the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge with the prize going to the charity of Newgarden’s choice, which is the SeriousFun Children’s Network – Wags and Walks Nashville.

While celebrating in victory circle, the biggest Newgarden fan cheered loudly. Greg from Northern California got a chance to celebrate with him and the entire No. 2 Hitachi crew.

Newgarden and Greg celebrating in victory circle (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

“(Mel and I) knew that if we cheered for him all weekend. He’s going to be on it,” said Greg.

“It didn’t stop all weekend long and my voice is gone,” Mel replied.

“It’s great (celebrating), but we go over the garage and scream at him all weekend. We pump him up. Get him ready. He loves the streets of Long Beach and he burned it up didn’t he,” Greg concluded.

After three rounds, Penske is undefeated and Newgarden is off to a strong start entering May. The grand goal is simple — bring home the Borg Warner Trophy and taste the milk long at last.

“I’m focused on it. I can’t do more than what I’ve done in the past. So I’m not putting extra pressure on myself that I have to do some superhuman feat,” Newgarden explained.

“It’s for whatever reason just not clicked yet, so I’m just staying the course. I’m going to put effort forward like every year, and I’m going to put myself in position to maybe win the race and I just — one of these years it’s got to work out.

“I would love to do that for our team. It’s a tough one to win. I think that’s what makes it so special. You can go your whole career and not win the Indy 500, and I accept that if that’s the case, but I’m not going to go down without a fight.”

Penske’s winning ways keep on happening in INDYCAR (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

Following a game-changing caution involving Simon Pagenaud, who ended up in the Turn 3 garden, Romain Grosjean stepped up his game. It ranged from avoiding Marcus Ericsson, who crashed and punted by Scott Dixon to end his afternoon, to wowing the crowd by moving up to second.

From there, the mind of catching Newgarden was on, but it wasn’t meant to be. Not even a late-race tangle that eliminated David Malukas and Jimmie Johnson made a difference.

“We tried very hard,” said Grosjean. “It was good enough for P2 but not good enough for a win, so next time.”

Grosjean knew Newgarden had the win in the bag, explaining no matter how hard he would’ve tried making a move, the outcome wouldn’t have changed.

“I was looking at Turn 11, the hairpin, making a last-lap lunge maybe if I was close enough,” said Grosjean. “But I don’t think I was close enough on that lap and Josef was driving well and not making any mistakes. It’s not ideal to finish under yellow, but I don’t think the result would have been much different.”

Grosjean enjoying the champagne after scoring his first podium with Andretti Autosport (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

Rounding out the podium was defending series champion Alex Palou, who’s off to his best three-race start to date. With McLaughlin finishing 14th to cap off a frustrating Sunday that saw him undergo a pre-race engine change, Palou sits third in points.

With Barber and the Indianapolis 500 coming soon, Palou is excited to enter May with momentum.

“We are now heading to some of the tracks that we know we can be a bit better, that we have better cars that I’m more confident,” said Palou. “We tested at Barber, as well, two weeks ago. It felt amazing to be back there, and then we go to the month of May, which is the best month of the year, a part of April which is my birthday, also.

“April is good. But I cannot wait for the month of May. I think it’s really special for everybody, all the drivers, all the crews, the fans. Hopefully, we’re already carrying good momentum, but hopefully, we can carry better momentum with Barber and Indy GP before the big one, the Indianapolis 500.”

Strong points day for Palou (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

Polesitter Colton Herta led the opening 28 laps before Palou took over the top spot following a strong pit stop from the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing crew. From there, Herta battled with Newgarden until déjà vu reared its ugly head.

Flashbacks to Long Beach 2019 and Nashville last summer beckoned Herta as he locked up his brakes in Turn 9 before slamming the inside wall. The damage ended his afternoon as he parked the wounded No. 26 Gainbridge Honda into a safe area and wound up 23rd.

Herta will enter Barber 11th in points, 59 behind Newgarden (Photo: Luis Torres | The Podium Finish).

Round 4 of 17 won’t commence until Sunday, May 1 as the series heads to Alabama for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Live coverage begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on NBC. Palou is the defending race winner.

47th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Results

  1. 2 – Josef Newgarden
  2. 28 – Romain Grosjean
  3. 10 – Alex Palou
  4. 12 – Will Power
  5. 5 – Pato O’Ward
  6. 9 – Scott Dixon
  7. 15 – Graham Rahal
  8. 27 – Alexander Rossi
  9. 06 – Helio Castroneves
  10. 14 – Kyle Kirkwood (R)
  11. 7 – Felix Rosenqvist
  12. 20 – Conor Daly
  13. 21 – Rinus VeeKay
  14. 3 – Scott McLaughlin
  15. 45 – Jack Harvey
  16. 11 – Tatiana Calderon (R) (-1 lap)
  17. 51 – Takuma Sato (Contact)
  18. 30 – Christian Lundgaard (R) (-2 laps)
  19. 60 – Simon Pagenaud (-4 laps)
  20. 48 – Jimmie Johnson (Contact)
  21. 18 – David Malukas (R) (Contact)
  22. 8 – Marcus Ericsson (Contact)
  23. 26 – Colton Herta (Contact)
  24. 77 – Callum Ilott (R) (Contact)
  25. 29 – Devlin DeFrancesco (R) (Contact)
  26. 14 – Dalton Kellett (Contact)

Throughout my young motorsports media career, my number-one goal is to be a personnel that can be flexible with my writing and photography in the world of NASCAR, INDYCAR and ARCA. Content delivery is vital because this is my main passion and what keeps me going. I've dealt with several challenges in my life, such as autism and making most out of trips despite relying on transportation. Even my quest of finding acceptance in my profession which has been my biggest challenge since graduating from college in 2016. Despite those hurdles with Motorsports Tribune and now The Podium Finish, I promise that you'll see excellence with my content. With two National Motorsports Press Association photography awards, I'm not slowing down anytime soon. Outside of media, I'm super vocal about my musical tastes that goes from Metallica to HAIM. Not only that, expect my social media filled with references nobody will understand, especially Licorice Pizza.

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