Josef Newgarden is the new IndyCar Series leader after taking victory in a Long Beach race in which several big names struck trouble, Scott McLaughlin included.
Newgarden held off Andretti Autosport’s Romain Grosjean in what would have been a five-lap dash to the checked flag, although a fourth Caution of the race was called on the 85th and final lap due to Takuma Sato finding the barriers at Turn 8.
While Team Penske is now three wins from three to start the 2022 season, McLaughlin lost the series lead after he finished 14th on the day, following a mid-race spin.
Early leader Colton Herta crashed his Andretti Autosport w / Curb-Agajanian entry while running in an effective third position, and Marcus Ericsson went out when he hit concrete just after the second restart.
He was run into in that incident by Chip Ganassi Racing team-mate Scott Dixon, but the Kiwi was able to continue and finish sixth, after starting only 16th.
McLaughlin qualified ninth after getting involved in a traffic incident with Ericsson, and there was more drama in the morning’s Warm Up session when he lost a header on his primary Chevrolet engine, forcing Penske to revert to a back-up.
Herta led the field away from the pole position and while Alex Palou (CGR) got a run on Newgarden when they took the green, the latter was able to hold a second position as they rounded the first corner.
Palou slotted into third, from Felix Rosenqvist (McLaren SP), Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport), Ericsson, Grosjean, Will Power (Penske), McLaughlin, and Simon Pagenaud (Meyer Shank Racing).
McLaughlin thus maintained a relative position to start despite being only one of that top 10 on primary tires, while Hertha was using his reds to grow his lead over Newgarden to a full second on Lap 2, and two seconds on Lap 4.
A Caution came on Lap 6 after Dalton Kellett ran his AJ Foyt Racing car into the wall at Turn 1, then a restart on Lap 10.
As drivers began Lap 21, Herta was a full second ahead of Newgarden and two up on Palou while, another six seconds behind, Rossi lunged at Rosenqvist at Turn 1.
They made contact and although Rossi had moved up to fourth, Rosenqvist quickly dropped all the way back to 10th position.
Dixon was up to only 15th when he made a relatively early stop on Lap 21 to exchange his red tires for blacks, while Ericsson overtook Rossi for fourth on Lap 25 and Grosjean for fifth at the start of Lap 26.
Palou was into the pits from third on Lap 27 for a set of blacks, and Herta did likewise on Lap 29, by which time his lead over Newgarden had crept over two seconds again.
Newgarden and Ericsson went a lap longer, and while the former was able to emerge ahead of Hertha, Palou was ahead of both of them.
As it would later become apparent, the initial race leader had lost time in the cycle through some combination of a tardy entry to the pits, a baulk while transiting the lane, and / or a slow stop itself.
Once that pit cycle had just about completed, Palou led Newgarden, Herta, Ericsson, Dixon, Grosjean, and Power, who had stayed with reds.
McLaughlin, who had moved onto reds, held an effective eighth, from Rossi and Pato O’Ward (McLaren SP).
As Palou ran three seconds clear of Newgarden and a frustrated Herta, McLaughlin spun himself and dropped to 20th when he tagged the inside wall at the Turn 11 hairpin on Lap 33, while tailing off-sequence backmarker Tatiana Calderon (AJ Foyt).
The New Zealander was still sitting 20th at 48 seconds back from top spot as team-mate Newgarden brought Palou’s advantage back to two seconds on Lap 43, that being the halfway mark.
Grosjean was past Dixon, hence into fifth position, by the time Car # 9 was called into the lane for his second pit stop at the end of Lap 53, for a set of sticker blacks.
Palou used his push-to-pass to help build his gap over Newgarden back to almost three seconds before he stopped on Lap 55 for scuffed blacks.
Herta crashed out of an effective third position a lap later when he locked the inside front on a bump and understeered into the wall at Turn 9.
There was no Caution then, given he was able to drive the battered # 26 Honda to the pit lane shortcut, although Newgarden was not taking any chances as he darted in for service on Lap 57.
The Penske crew gave Car # 2 another set of blacks, dispatching him quickly enough to rejoin just in front of Palou, and they made light contact at Turn 5 as he just held off the Spaniard.
Anyone who had not made their second stop did so due to the threat of a Caution for Herta’s debris, but the yellow flags eventually came on Lap 60 for a far more unusual reason.
That was the fact that Pagenaud had ended up on the famous Long Beach garden, his # 60 car pointing against circuit direction, with a replay revealing he got there as a result of contact with Sato (Dale Coyne Racing w / RWR).
Said replay also showed that McLaughlin nudged Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing) when the Dutchman slowed just behind the Pagenaud-Sato coming-together.
As the laps ticked down under Caution, Newgarden led Palou, Ericsson, and Grosjean, who was one of only two drivers in the top 10 on reds.
Power was fifth, ahead of Dixon, O’Ward, Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) on red tires, Rossi, and Kyle Kirkwood (AJ Foyt), with VeeKay 15th and McLaughlin 17th after taking another pit stop under the Caution.
When the second restart of the race came on Lap 67, Ericsson lost the rear and hit the wall exiting Turn 4, before he was hit by team-mate Dixon at Turn 5.
While the Swede’s race was over, the six-time IndyCar champion somehow pressed on in a net unchanged sixth position, having been jumped by O’Ward as he checked up.
Grosjean tried a dive to the outside of Palou at Turn 1 on Lap 69 and when they did not work, he tried again a lap later, clearing the # 10 Honda as they got to the braking zone.
Newgarden had still not escaped, coming under huge pressure from the # 28 Andretti Honda, but Grosjean had reportedly exhausted his push-to-pass.
The gap from first to second was back out to around 0.7s when Caution came on Lap 76, due to Jimmie Johnson (CGR) and David Malukas (DCR w / HMD Motorsports) ending up in the wall together at Turn 8.
Behind the Safety Car, Newgarden led Grosjean, Palou, Power, O’Ward, Dixon, Rahal with a juicy 72 seconds of push-to-pass remaining, Rossi in eighth, Helio Castroneves (MSR) in ninth, and Kirkwood in 10th, with McLaughlin 14th.
The field went back to green with five laps to go, Newgarden having to go defensive at Turn 1 after Grosjean got a good run on him.
The two-time champion had crept to a 0.78s lead as he took the white flag, and the threat of Car # 28 disappeared entirely when officials threw another yellow due to Sato’s incident.
The podium was therefore Newgarden, Grosjean, and Palou, with Power fourth after holding off O’Ward.
Dixon was sixth, ahead of Rahal, Rossi, Castroneves, and Kirkwood, with Rosenqvist classified 11th, VeeKay 13th, and McLaughlin 14th.
The next event will be held at Barber Motorsports Park on April 29-May 1 (local time), with the action streamed live and ad-free on Stan Sport.
Results: Race, Streets of Long Beach
|Pos||Num||Driver||C / E / T||Race time / Split||Pit stops||Status||Grid pos|
|1||2||Josef Newgarden||D / C / F||1: 46: 48.0102||2||Running||2|
|2||28||Romain Grosjean||D / H / F||+1.2869||2||Running||6|
|3||10||Alex Palou||D / H / F||+1.7594||2||Running||3|
|4||12||Will Power||D / C / F||+2.9654||2||Running||7|
|5||5||Pato O’Ward||D / C / F||+3.7122||2||Running||11|
|6||9||Scott Dixon||D / H / F||+5.0605||2||Running||16|
|7||15||Graham Rahal||D / H / F||+5.3931||2||Running||13|
|8||27||Alexander Rossi||D / H / F||+7.3084||2||Running||5|
|9||06||Helio Castroneves||D / H / F||+8.9521||2||Running||14|
|10||14||Kyle Kirkwood||D / C / F||+12.8631||2||Running||12|
|11||7||Felix Rosenqvist||D / C / F||+14.2930||2||Running||4|
|12||20||Conor Daly||D / C / F||+15.2177||2||Running||17|
|13||21||Rinus VeeKay||D / C / F||+16.2460||3||Running||15|
|14||3||Scott McLaughlin||D / C / F||+17.9291||3||Running||9|
|15||45||Jack Harvey||D / H / F||+18.7807||2||Running||20|
|16||11||Tatiana Calderon||D / C / F||+1 lap||3||Running||26|
|17||51||Takuma Sato||D / H / F||+2 children||2||Contact||22|
|18||30||Christian Lundgaard||D / H / F||+2 children||3||Running||19|
|19||60||Simon Pagenaud||D / H / F||+4 children||3||Running||10|
|20||48||Jimmie Johnson||D / H / F||+12 children||3||Contact||25|
|21||18||David Malukas||D / H / F||+13 children||4||Contact||18|
|22||8||Marcus Ericsson||D / H / F||+19 children||2||Contact||8|
|23||26||Colton Hertha||D / H / F||+30 children||1||Contact||1|
|24||77||Callum Ilott||D / C / F||+30 children||2||Contact||21|
|25||29||Devlin DeFrancesco||D / H / F||+50 children||2||Contact||23|
|26||4||Dalton Kellett||D / C / F||+80 children||0||Contact||24|
Race winner: 85 laps