IndyCar

PREVIEW: 2022 NTT IndyCar Series – Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

4 Mins read
(Photo Credit: Chris Jones / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is one of the most prestigious races on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule, and after hosting the season finale last year it returns to its April date to host the third race of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season.

Victory lane has only hosted Team Penske cars this season, and head to a track where they are tied for the most wins in track history along with Chip Ganassi Racing and Newman//Haas Racing at six. The early points standings have been dominated by Penske and Ganassi as well, with the top five consisting of drivers from those teams.

Scott McLauglin‘s white-hot start to his sophomore season has him at the top of the standings with 97 points, ahead of teammate Will Power on 69 points. Defending series champion Alex Palou sits third, only four points behind the Australian veteran at 67 points, with Josef Newgarden‘s Xpel 375 victory propelling him to fourth on 65 points. Rounding out the top five is Marcus Ericsson who has 58 points.

Will Penske continue their dominance early in the season and break the win record? Can Ganassi snap their streak and claim the record for themselves? Could five-win Andretti Autosport make it a four-way tie with a victory? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?

Colton Herta celebrating his win at the 2021 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. (Photo Credit: Chris Jones / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

The 2021 Grand Prix of Long Beach had the Astor Cup on the line, moved back to the season finale due to COVID protocols.

Colton Herta threatened early with incredible pace in the practice sessions, but started the race fourteenth after damaging rear tow links during qualifying. Championship outsider Newgarden started on the pole, but later on the first lap it was fellow contender Pato O’Ward who brought out the first caution.

Tagged in the final corner hairpin by Ed Jones, those problems manifested into a broken driveshaft which forced O’Ward to retire on the frontstretch and bring out the second caution on lap 20, ending his title hopes.

IndyCar let the whole field pit before throwing the caution for O’Ward, and as one of the first to make a pit stop, Herta effectively jumped up to third for the next restart behind Newgarden and Scott Dixon. Only a few laps of racing were seen before the next caution on lap twenty six for Marcus Ericsson, and shortly after the restart on lap 31, Herta blitzed past Newgarden and Dixon to take the race lead and build a significant gap.

Despite a late-race challenge by Newgarden, Herta held on to complete the comeback and close out the season on two straight wins. After O’Ward’s mechanical issues, a quiet fourth-place finish was all it took for Alex Palou to win his first NTT IndyCar Series championship.

You can read the full race report here.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND?

Newgarden is riding a wave of momentum after his thrilling win in the Xpel 375, and has two podium finishes in the past two Long Beach Grands Prix. Team Penske have looked fast all year, evident by the fact that they’ve won both races so far this year, and their momentum could very well continue here. Watch for all three Penske cars to be fast here, they could all fight for the pole and for the win.

Josef Newgarden will look to get his second consecutive win of the season at a track he has two consecutive podium finishes in Long Beach. (Photo Credit: Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Herta was unfathomably fast last year at Long Beach, and barring the error that broke the rear tow link on his car in Qualifying it’s not unreasonable to say that he could have taken the pole and led every lap of the race en route to victory. Herta finished fourth at the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, the only other street course run so far this season, will he show the same pace this weekend that he showed last year? This could be his chance to get Andretti in the win column for the first time this year.

Staying with Andretti, Long Beach has long been a dominant track for Auburn, California native Alexander Rossi. Rossi has an average finish of 6.75 over his last four races at Long Beach, two of which he won. In his last four races dating back to 2021, Rossi has an average finish of 19.5 and a best finish of sixth, encapsulating the poor luck and form that has plagued the former Indianapolis 500 winner over the past two seasons. Can he return to form at one of his best tracks?

Alexander Rossi has won two of the last four Long Beach Grands Prix he’s competed in. Will he be able to regain form at a track he is known to win at? (Photo Credit: Chris Jones / Penske Entertainment / Courtesy of IndyCar)

Following a crash during practice at the Xpel 375, Jack Harvey was not cleared to compete in the race by IndyCar medical staff. Now fully recovered, Harvey will return behind the wheel of the No. 45 car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing this weekend. The beginning of his tenure at RLLR has left a lot to be desired, but Harvey and crew will look to get things back on track this weekend.

Finally, we look to Arrow McLaren SP, who like their Formula 1 compatriots, haven’t had the start to the season they would have liked. Both O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist have yet to score a top ten finish, even after Rosenqvist’s tremendous pole lap at the Xpel 375. Caught up in poor strategy at St. Pete, followed by pit road mistakes for both drivers in Texas, a solid race in pit lane this weekend could be just what the doctor ordered to see AMSP back up the order.

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Friday 8 April

1515 PT / 1815 ET / 2215 GMT – Practice 1

Saturday 9 April

0845 PT / 1145 ET / 1545 GMT – Practice 2

1200 PT / 1500 ET / 1900 GMT – Qualifying

Sunday 10 April

1200 PT / 1500 ET / 1900 GMT – Race

WHERE CAN I WATCH?

Coverage in the UK for qualifying and the race will be provided by Sky Sports F1.

In the United States, coverage for the race will be on NBC. Practice and Qualifying will be shown live on the Peacock streaming service.

HOW CAN I KEEP UP WITH ALL THE ACTION?

You can follow all the all the action here at The Checkered Flag. We will be providing coverage of the practice, qualifying, and race sessions.

You can also follow IndyCar on Twitter (@Indycar) for live updates during the sessions.

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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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