Herta Completes Comeback for California Sweep as Palou Collects Season Championship

3 Mins read
(Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar)

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.

(Photo Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar)

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

126Colton HertaUSAAndretti Autosport
22Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske+ 0.588 sec.
39Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing+ 1.075 sec.
410Alex PalouESPChip Ganassi Racing+ 2.412 sec.
522Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske+ 3.123 sec.
627Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport+ 4.673 sec.
760Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing+ 6.346 sec.
814Sebastien BourdaisFRAA.J. Foyt Enterprises+ 8.027 sec.
930Takuma SatoJPNRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 10.593 sec.
1012Will PowerAUSTeam Penske+ 11.429 sec.
113Scott McLaughlin (R)NZLTeam Penske+ 12.332 sec.
1218Ed JonesUAEDale Coyne Racing w/ Vasser-Sullivan+ 26.966 sec.
137Felix RosenqvistSWEArrow McLaren SP+ 27.416 sec.
1429James HinchcliffeCANAndretti Steinbrenner Autosport+ 27.972 sec.
1559Max ChiltonGBRCarlin+ 30.035 sec.
1615Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+ 30.348 sec.
1748Jimmie Johnson (R)USAChip Ganassi Racing+ 31.160 sec.
1811Charlie KimballUSAA.J. Foyt Enterprises+ 32.154 sec.
194Dalton KellettCANA.J. Foyt Enterprises+ 32.158 sec.
206Helio CastronevesBRAMeyer Shank Racing+ 32.620 sec.
2120Conor DalyUSAEd Carpenter Racing– 1 lap
2245Oliver AskewUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing– 2 laps
2328Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport– 2 laps
2451Romain Grosjean (R)FRADale Coyne Racing w/ Rick Ware RacingContact
2521Rinus VeekayNEDEd Carpenter RacingMechanical
2677Callum Ilott (R)GBRJuncos Hollinger RacingMechanical
275Pato O’WardMEXArrow McLaren SPContact
288Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi RacingContact
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Lifelong sports junkie, currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Lead writer for Indycar at The Checkered Flag.
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