Photo: Josef Newgarden earns a hard -fought win
Today’s race showed that a street course can produce exciting racing. Pit stop strategy got Josef Newgarden to the lead. He then had to defend against three challengers- Colton Herta, Alex Palou, and Romain Grosjean. Newgarden brilliantly defended the lines going into the corners to keep Grosjean at bay.
There was a three -way battle for the lead over the last 20 laps. You just can’t ask for more.
Team Penske has swept the season so far, which should worry the rest of the paddock. Scott McLauglin won the opener at St. Pete. Newgarden has now won two in a row heading to Barber, one of his favorite tracks.
Half a Loaf for Andretti
Andretti Autosport hoped to have a much- needed successful weekend. Herta won the pole, and Alexander Rossi and Grosjean joined him in the Fast Six.
A day that looked like a victory, a potential second podium spot, and a top ten dissolved by the halfway mark.
It almost all got away from them. Grosjean’s second place saved the day. Rossi had two forays into runoff areas and Herta crashed. Rossi did finish eighth after running as high as fourth.
As talented as Herta is, he has difficulty playing catch-up. In Nashville last year he also crashed while trying to chase down the leader.
Johnson’s Weekend of Contact
Jimmie Johnson had arguably his most forgettable weekend of his Indycar career. He had wall in every session but one. Johnson injured his hand in Friday’s practice crash. After the first two races and his sixth place result at Texas, I though we might be seeing some progress. Long Beach is a big setback for Johnson.
Top Ten for Kirkwood
Kyle Kirkwood finished 10th today for A, J, Foyt Racing. This will not be his last top ten finish this season. Kirkwood has done a great job qualifying and today the team got a good race result. He was consistent all day.
The other rookies did not have great days. Kirkwood’s teammate Tatiana Calderon finished 16th, her best result to date. The Foyt rookies were the two highest finishing rookies.
The others- Christian Lundgaard (18th), David Malukas ((21st), Callum Ilott (24th), and Devlin DeFrancesco (25th) had contact or mechanical issues. Lundgaard was the only other rookie running at the finish.
Dixon has been relatively invisible this season. He started 16th and finished sixth, a decent day for anyone, but below par for a six time champion. Dixon sits fifth in points, but it has been a very quiet fifth. It has been almost a year since Dixon won a race.
Besides Herta and Rossi, Scott McLaughlin, Marcus Ericsson, and Simon Pagenaud had hopes for better results.
McLaughlin’s troubles began after two laps of the warmup, when a cracked header ended his practice time. The engine was replaced. He spun exiting the hairpin and recovered to finish 14th but slipped to second in the point standings.
Marcus Ericsson, whom I expected to contend for the win today, spun on lap 66 while fighting for third place and ended up parked in a runoff area for the rest of the day. He will be back and should get a win sometime this year.
Simon Pagenaud did some flower gardening around the fountain and ended the race in 19th. After a promising stat to the weekend on Friday when he led the first practice, Pagenaud seemed to lose some steam with each session. I am puzzled by what I have seen from Meyer Shank Racing this year. I thought they would be much better.
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was a success. It returned to its traditional spot on the calendar, drew huge crowds each day, and produced a great race. I will have a weekend wrap up in the morning before heading back to Indy. Thank you all for following along this weekend.