In an exciting finale that matched the intensity of the season before it, Colton Herta made his way through the field from fourteenth to win the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, while Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Alex Palou finished fifth to win his first career NTT IndyCar Series championship at only twenty-four years old.
With a problem-free race and fourth place finish, Palou earned Chip Ganassi’s fourteenth championship, becoming the first Spanish IndyCar champion in history. Patricio O’Ward, who sat second in points entering the weekend, was taken out of the event in the hairpin on the first lap by Ed Jones, bringing out the first caution. Those issues came home to roost in the form of a broken driveshaft on lap 20 that forced him to park the car on the frontstretch and bring out another caution. This allowed Palou to race his race and maintain his calm demeanor to cruise to his first series championship.
“That’s ours, right?” Palou said, pointing to the Astor Cup.
“[I’m] super happy, can’t thank enough everybody who made this possible.”
Herta showed the speed that saw him at the top of both practice sessions from the drop of the green flag, carving through the field. He was able to take advantage of the second caution by being the first to hit pit road. IndyCar gave the whole field a chance to pit before throwing the caution, with Herta effectively moving up to third.
A third caution came out on lap twenty-six for Marcus Ericsson, who found himself in the tyre barrier in turn one after battling Alexander Rossi. Within three laps of the ensuing restart on lap thirty-one, Herta had made moves on both Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden for the lead, before building a huge gap.
Newgarden needed to win the race to maximize his points and stay in title contention, and he was thrown a lifeline on lap sixty-two after Oliver Askew was buried in the tyres in turn nine after battling with Conor Daly. Herta’s final stint of the race was on the primary black tyres, while Newgarden behind was on the faster alternate reds, and Herta was able to get a great launch on the restart to pull away. Newgarden reeled him in, however, and launched an attack in the final laps. But the California native kept the two-time champion behind him for the victory.
Though Team Penske may not have won the championship, Scott McLaughlin brought the team home the Rookie of the Year championship with an eleventh place finish. Romain Grosjean was fighting for the title inside the top ten, but a broken tow link late in the race brought his spectacular season to a heartbreaking end.
Newgarden finished second, doing almost everything he needed to do to keep himself in the title hunt, but unfortunately his forty-eight point gap to the leader was too much to overcome. With O’Ward’s issues however, Newgarden was able to secure second place in the championship.
Dixon rounded out the podium with a third place finish, with Palou fourth securing the championship.
Simon Pagenaud in a spectacular fifth place in his final race for Penske, while Rossi finished sixth after starting fifteenth.
Jack Harvey was the biggest mover of the day, moving from twenty-fifth to finish seventh in his final race for Meyer Shank Racing. He was followed by two other drivers with unknown futures in the sport, with Sebastien Bourdais in eighth and Takuma Sato in ninth. Brilliant results for all three drivers.
Will Power saw out the top ten with a tenth place finish, putting three of four Penske cars in the top ten.
And so, the 2021 season comes to a close, with a new champion crowned and a sweeping youth movement on the way. Congratulations to Palou and crew on his first championship! Now, onto 2022!
Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Results
|1||26||Colton Herta||USA||Andretti Autosport|
|2||2||Josef Newgarden||USA||Team Penske||+ 0.588 sec.|
|3||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 1.075 sec.|
|4||10||Alex Palou||ESP||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 2.412 sec.|
|5||22||Simon Pagenaud||FRA||Team Penske||+ 3.123 sec.|
|6||27||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Autosport||+ 4.673 sec.|
|7||60||Jack Harvey||GBR||Meyer Shank Racing||+ 6.346 sec.|
|8||14||Sebastien Bourdais||FRA||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||+ 8.027 sec.|
|9||30||Takuma Sato||JPN||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 10.593 sec.|
|10||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||+ 11.429 sec.|
|11||3||Scott McLaughlin (R)||NZL||Team Penske||+ 12.332 sec.|
|12||18||Ed Jones||UAE||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan||+ 26.966 sec.|
|13||7||Felix Rosenqvist||SWE||Arrow McLaren SP||+ 27.416 sec.|
|14||29||James Hinchcliffe||CAN||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||+ 27.972 sec.|
|15||59||Max Chilton||GBR||Carlin||+ 30.035 sec.|
|16||15||Graham Rahal||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+ 30.348 sec.|
|17||48||Jimmie Johnson (R)||USA||Chip Ganassi Racing||+ 31.160 sec.|
|18||11||Charlie Kimball||USA||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||+ 32.154 sec.|
|19||4||Dalton Kellett||CAN||A.J. Foyt Enterprises||+ 32.158 sec.|
|20||6||Helio Castroneves||BRA||Meyer Shank Racing||+ 32.620 sec.|
|21||20||Conor Daly||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||– 1 lap|
|22||45||Oliver Askew||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||– 2 laps|
|23||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||USA||Andretti Autosport||– 2 laps|
|24||51||Romain Grosjean (R)||FRA||Dale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware Racing||Contact|
|25||21||Rinus Veekay||NED||Ed Carpenter Racing||Mechanical|
|26||77||Callum Ilott (R)||GBR||Juncos Hollinger Racing||Mechanical|
|27||5||Pato O’Ward||MEX||Arrow McLaren SP||Contact|
|28||8||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Chip Ganassi Racing||Contact|