Long Beach Thoughts- A Race that Reflected the Season

As races at Long Beach go, today was one of the better ones. Yellows forced pit strategy, the winning pass came on the track, and there was early doubts as to who would win the championship. Hometown driver Colton Herta won the race after starting 14th. He should have won pole yesterday, but a mistake in qualifying pushed him back on the grid.

Herta led every session except for qualifying. He held off Josef Newgarden on the last restart to win by 0.5883 seconds. The sad thing about eing the winner of the last race of the year is that no one cares. It is a shame in this instance. Herta grew up in Southern California and first went to this race when he was 2 years old to watch his father Bryan race. Winning here is very special for him, but everyone focused on seris champion Alex Palou.

Herta will have to win here next April when the 2022 edition of the Long Beach Grand Prix runs. Don’t bet against him. He won California this year.

9/26/2021 Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

A Deserving Champion

Alex Palou won the NTT Indycar series championship with consistent driving and an unflappable focus. he reminds me of Scott Dixon in his approach to a race. I don’t think this will be the last of his titles. I will have more on him tomorrow.

Random Thoughts

Ed Jones had been racing well the last few weeks, but today we the Jones of old. I was concerned after qualifying yesterday when I saw that he would line up between title contenders Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou. Unfortunately, he ended O’Ward’s race and the chain reaction nearly took Palou out of the race. Jones seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time more often than not.

I have never seen so much tension and anger in the paddock as I did this weekend. I loved it. Indycar felt alive. I hope the tension continues all season in 2022.

Three drivers I felt for today- Pato O’Ward, who didn’t get a fair shot to fight for the championship. This team will be even stronegr next year and O’Ward will be in the title mix as long as he drives in the series.

Romain Grosjean, an instant fan favorite from the moment he started his Indycar career this spring, felled by wall contact and dropped out of the race with 10 laps left. He had some amazing races this year, and while not officially the Rookie of the Year, he was the first timer that was the most fun to watch.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, whose last drive for Andretti Autosport ended as the last car running at the end. Hunter-Reay was involved in the Ed Jones incident on lap1 and struggled with a poor handling car the rest of the day.

Sebastien Bourdais recovered from an early spin to finish eighth in what may have been his last drive for A. J. Foyt Racing.

Photo by Chris Owens, Indycar

Congratulations to Scott McLaughlin, the Rookie of the Year. McLaughlin had a steady, if unspectacular year. Like the other rookies in the series, he had to learn a completely different type of car. I think we will hear his name a lot more in 2022.

I hope the new deal with NBC doesn’t include Rutledge Wood. His pieces are insipid and interrupt the race broadcast unnecessarily.

Josef Newgarden’s last three seasons- Champion in 2019, second in 2020, and second in 2021. Newgarden was also champion in 2017.

Thanks for following along this weekend. I will have a story about Alex Palou’s season and a season wrap up this coming week.

VeeKay Stays at ECR for 2022

A news release from Ed Carpenter Racing:

RINUS VEEKAY TO REMAIN WITH ED CARPENTER RACING FOR 2022 INDYCAR SEASON
Young Dutch Talent Will Continue as Driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet for Third Year
(LONG BEACH, Calif.) September 26, 2021 – Ed Carpenter Racing announced today that Rinus VeeKay will officially remain with the team for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. The 21-year-old will continue as full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet, a role he will now hold for a third season. When the 2021 season concludes today in the streets of Long Beach, VeeKay’s focus will immediately shift to 2022’s 17-race schedule. 
“I am very excited to have another season with Ed Carpenter Racing! We made so much progress this year, I had my first win in IndyCar and made many great memories. Next year, we can be better than we’ve ever been!” stated VeeKay. “We want to be championship contenders, to go for even better results, more frequent wins and podium finishes. The atmosphere at ECR is perfect for that, it feels like a group of friends who are eager to work hard for strong results. I am excited to continue that in 2022 and not having anything change!”
Raised in Hoofddorp, Netherlands, Rinus van Kalmthout began karting in 2009 at the age of 8. With sights set firmly on the pinnacle of North American open wheel racing, he transitioned to the Road to Indy in 2017 and launched his U.S. career driving as Rinus VeeKay. His rapid ascent through the RTI ranks included 16 wins and 36 podiums in 48 races. Those statistics propelled him to second place in the 2017 USF2000 standings, the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 title and a runner-up finish in the 2019 Indy Lights championship. Just four years into his career in the United States, VeeKay not only reached the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, but earned 2020 Rookie of the Year honors.
ECR team owner Ed Carpenter watched VeeKay’s progression through in the Road to Indy and selected the Dutch driver for his team in late 2019. VeeKay has been with ECR ever since and will make his 29th career start this afternoon. “I am very happy that Rinus will be back behind the wheel for ECR in 2022,” said Carpenter. “Rinus has continued to show that he has the talent and work ethic to be a champion and that’s the goal of our team. We look forward to more success next season!”
Though VeeKay is only two years into his NTT INDYCAR SERIES career, he has already built an impressive resume. In addition to his Rookie of the Year title, his debut season included his first pole position and first podium finish. In 2020, he recorded the best qualifying result by a teenager in Indianapolis 500 history by starting 4th; in 2021, he qualified 3rd and became the youngest front row starter in “500” history. In May of this year, VeeKay joined the ranks of NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners. He earned his first career victory in the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. 
VeeKay is grateful for the support he has received. “I want to thank Ed Carpenter for giving me the opportunity to drive for another season! Ed was the one that gave me the chance to be able to prove myself in IndyCar and I am very grateful to him.”  He continued, “Thank you to Tony George, Stuart Reed and the entire team, every single person who makes this possible. I am the one driving, but there is a whole team behind me working day a night to give me a good, reliable car. I also really appreciate the support of ECR’s partners, including SONAX and Direct Supply, for allowing us to work hard, improve and take a big step forward this offseason.”
A third year with the Indianapolis-based team will make VeeKay the longest-tenured full-time driver in Ed Carpenter Racing’s 10-year history. Since its inception in 2012, ECR has raced exclusively in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.  The team has shown versatility by earning eight wins on each style of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and speedways. ECR boasts 36 Top 5s to date, 23 of which have been podium finishes. For nine of their 10 Indianapolis 500s, ECR has had at least one car qualify in the first three rows. An ECR Chevrolet has sat on the front row seven of those years, including three pole positions by Carpenter (2013, 2014 and 2018).
The 2021 season concludes this afternoon with the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, broadcast live on NBC Sports Network at 3 p.m. ET. ECR’s 2022 campaign will the team continue to compete with two full-time entries, the No. 20 and No. 21. While the No. 21 will feature VeeKay for the full season, Carpenter will continue as oval driver of the No. 20 in his 20th season of Indy car competition. VeeKay’s third NTT INDYCAR SERIES SEASON will begin February 27, 2022 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.  
Rinus VeeKay will remain with Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. The 21-year-old will continue as full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet, a role he will now hold for a third season. A third year with the Indianapolis-based team will make VeeKay the longest-tenured full-time driver in ECR’s 10-year history. (INDYCAR Photo)
In May of 2021, Rinus VeeKay joined the ranks of NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winners. He earned his first career victory in the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. One week later, he became the youngest front row starter in Indianapolis 500 history by qualifying 3rd. (DREAM Digital)
About Ed Carpenter RacingEd Carpenter Racing (ECR) has entered its 10th season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES competition in 2021. The Indianapolis-based race team has proven its versatility by collecting eight wins across each type of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and speedways. ECR is led by IndyCar’s only team owner/driver, Ed Carpenter, three-time pole winner for the Indianapolis 500 (2013, 2014 and 2018). In 2021, Indiana natives Carpenter and Conor Daly share the No. 20 Chevrolet as Carpenter drives the oval races and Daly takes over for the road and street course events. Both were entered in the Indianapolis 500 alongside 2020 Rookie of the Year Rinus VeeKay, full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. ECR is active in the eSports arena as part of the iRX World Championship. More information may be found at http://www.edcarpenterracing.com/.

Newgarden’s Pole Keeps Slim Hopes In Play

Some quick thoughts on a wild qualifying session:

I hope the PA was playing the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” as Josef Newgarden won the pole for tomorrow’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is to earn the maximum 54 points. He got the first one of those today. he still needs Palou to finish near the back of the field. Palou can still win the championship no matter what Newgarden does by finishing as low as 23rd. Newgarden holds the tie breaker over Palou of more second places. If Newgarden wins tomorrow the two drivers will each have three victories.

The qualifying session was appropriately unpredictable way to put a cap on an unpredictable season. There have been some dramatic qualifying days this year. Today was off the charts.

Pato O’Ward’s chances for the title are hurt a bit by his not winning the pole. He will start eighth, two spots ahead of Palou.

Where did Helio Castroneves come from? The four time Indianapolis 500 winner may have given us a preview of 2022. Castroneves held the top spot in the Fast Six until the last lap, when Newgarden and Dixon both beat his time.

If there is any consolation for Palou, it is that he hasn’t had two bad days in a row all season. The team struggled all day in practice, and they went into qualifying not knowing what they had.

Simon Pagenaud is ending his time with Team Penske on a good note. He has qualified well in the last two races.

Hats off to the crew of Will Power’s car. After his huge collision with Jack Harvey at the end of Round 1, they got the car running for Round 2.

Indycar has to review incidents and timing faster. Two rounds had unnecessary lengthy delays. It seemed to me O’Ward and Palou were the only two cars that slowed down for Power’s incident, but i agree that Palou was too far behind to advance. O’Ward, I felt, should have made the Fast Six.

I didn’t understand what Colton Herta’s strategy was, but it wasn’t the correct one. It’s puzzling what happened to him and Alexander Rossi.

If Romain Grosjean can keep his car off the walls tomorrow, he may be a factor in the race.

The starting lineup:

Herta Paces Second Practice

Colton Herta continues his dominance of California, leading the second practice for the Acura Grand prix of Long Beach. Herta was the only driver to turn a lap in less than 68 seconds on the track that has been a skating rink so far this weekend, with cars sliding towards the wall, locking up brakes, and making varying degrees of contact.

Romain Grosjean had at least three incidents of locking up and missing the turn. he had had contact with the wall near the end of the session. In the final minute of practice, Rinus VeeKay and Scott Dixon spun stalled on track.

Points leader Alex Palou worked on race setup most of the session, ending with the 16th fastest time. His closest competition, Pato O’Ward, was eighth. Josef Newgarden, with a very slight chance at the the title, was fourth. The previous two weeks saw Newgarden strong in practice, but fade to the back in qualifying.

The top 12:

Notes

Mark Miles said that despite Penske taking control of Indy Lights, the Freedom 100 will not return to Carb Day. It was always a fun race with several close finishes, one of which was four wide, but there was always some first time drivers who weren’t ready for that level. It did not end well for them, and I always felt that part of it was very dangerous.

Team Penske put all four of their drivers in the top 10. They will be a factor in qualifying.

Qualifying begins at 3 pm Eastern and is on both Peacock and NBCSN.

Day 2 at Long Beach- Starting Spot Key to Race Success

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

Today’s schedule: Times Eastern

“Going into qualifying I think it’s
important to find a good package because this place is,
from my experience, I’ve only done one race here, if I
remember it was a lot of fuel save, not a lot of passing.
Just in the pit stop sequences. I feel like you need to focus
on that. Qualifying up front will probably pay off a lot more
than if you qualify in the back, unless it’s Portland .”

Pato O’Ward stated the importance of qualifying near the front today for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The track for the final race of the NTT Indycar Series season is difficult to pass on, and pit strategy is crucial. Oddly, the race has only been won 10 times from the pole by just five different drivers.

Qualifying order could have an effect on who wins the championship Sunday. Points leader Alex Palou needs to finish 11thg or better Sunday to win the title. O’Ward needs to earn the maximum points available (54) to have a chance to take the Astor Cup. If O’Ward does not win the pole, Palou will just need a 12th place or better finish. Don’t look for Palou to aim for a result that low.

Notes

Olivier Boisson, will be going with Romain Grosjean to Andretti Autosport in 2022. Boisson has been Grosjean’s crew chief this season, and the pairing has clicked.

Palou said he has spent about 15 hours on the simulator preparing for Long Beach. This is his first time driving the track. Palou had not driven any of the three final tracks, Portland, Laguna Seca, or Long Beach. he has done okay at the first two.

I’ll be back after the noon practice to set up qualifying, and then have a qualifyinq wrap up tonight.

Herta Leads First Practice; Palou Third

Colton Herta at Long Beach. Indycar photo by Chris Jones

Colton Herta is looking to win California. He backed uop his dominating performance at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca by having the fastest time in today’s only practice session for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Andretti Autosport cars showed a lot of strength as the cars of Herta Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, and James Hinchcliffe were in the top our spots late in the session. Hunter-Reay finished fifth, Hinchcliffe eighth, and Rossi ninth.

Alex Palou led the championship contenders in third. Pato O’Ward, who trails Palou by 35 points was 16th, and Josef Newgarden, who is barely hanging on to a chance at the crown, was10th.

The session was disjointed with two red flags and several yellows. Josef Newgarden spun and lightly tapped the tire barrier. Oliver Askew had two incidents of wall contact, the second one breaking the rear suspension arm.

Turn nine was troublesome as a bump just before the turn had cars airborne and caused several drivers to take the runoff area.

The top 12:

Notes

The track looked great. Perhaps i was just nice to see the Long Beach course again after 17 months.

O’Ward sounded very subdued and frustrated in a post practice interview with NBC.

Indy lights points leader Kyle Kirkwood hinted at having an Indycar ride for next year, but said he can’t say what it is for a couple weeks. The Indy Lights season ends next weekend at Mid Ohio. Your favorite blogger is planning to be there. So am I.

Grosjean, Andretti Confirm Deal; DHL Stays

Photo from Andretti Autosport

It has been one of the worst kept secrets in the paddock. Andretti Autosport made the following announcement today:

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 24, 2021) — After an impressive rookie season in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Romain Grosjean has been named to pilot Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda entry for the 2022 season. The Swiss-born French driver will join longtime Andretti partner, DHL, in his second season competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship.

“We are thrilled to welcome Romain to the Andretti Autosport family,” said Michael Andretti, CEO and Chairman, Andretti Autosport. “He already had an impressive resume before coming to INDYCAR and watching what he’s been able to do in his rookie season here has been exciting to say the least. His vast motorsport experience will be beneficial to the team alongside our already strong 2022 driver lineup. We also couldn’t be more excited to continue our strong partnership with DHL. The DHL sponsorship is one of the longest and most successful in the paddock and we look forward to continued success on and off the track.”

DHL, headquartered in southern Florida, first appeared as a partner with the Andretti Autosport team in 2011 as a co-primary sponsor on the 28-car, growing to be the full primary starting in 2014. During their decorated tenure in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, DHL has been a part of an Indianapolis 500 win, an NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion, 14 wins and 39 podiums.

“We couldn’t be happier to continue our successful partnership with Andretti Autosport, which has provided us with one of our most powerful avenues for connecting people to our global brand,” said Mike Parra, CEO of DHL Express Americas. “The legendary Andretti organization is run by a winning team whose members we have long considered part of our DHL family, and now we are excited to also welcome their newest driver, Romain Grosjean, to our family. We are thrilled to have such a highly regarded international competitor taking the wheel to represent DHL, and we look forward to a fruitful partnership with Romain and the entire Andretti team, both on and off the track.”

Grosjean officially made his move from Formula One, where he spent nine seasons, to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2021. The 35-year-old began his racing career at the age of 14 in multiple international karting championships before collecting numerous championship titles and race wins as he ascended Europe’s ultra-competitive open-wheel racing ladder. Before making the switch to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Grosjean recorded 10 podium-finishes, twice finishing a career-best second, and finished as high as seventh in the Formula One Championship standings. Grosjean has made quite the splash in his first year of American open-wheel racing, recording one pole, three podiums, four top-five finishes, leading over 50 laps and making his oval debut.

“I’m delighted to be joining Andretti Autosport and driving the No. 28 DHL Honda for next season,” said Grosjean. “It’s a big honor to be joining such a great team as Andretti, anyone in the motorsport world knows the name Andretti. I’m super happy and proud to be racing with the team. I’m also very proud to be representing with DHL. I’ve known the DHL color on racing cars for a very long time. I couldn’t be more proud to represent such a great company in INDYCAR. I’m hoping that we are going to be very successful together, which is our aim on every side. I would like also to thank Dale Coyne Racing for giving me the opportunity to join INDYCAR. I’ve enjoyed the racing so much and it’s given me the change today to be racing with one of the most competitive and best teams in the world.”


Grosjean joins already announced drivers Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta in Andretti Autosport’s 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES lineup.

Ilott to Drive Full Time for Juncos Hollinger in 2022

Photo from Juncos Hollinger Twitter account

Junco Hollinger Racing announced this morning that Callum Ilott will drive full time for the team in 2022. Ilott is driving for Junco Hollinger in the final three races of the 2021 season which concludes Sunday at Long Beach.

Ilott finished second in F2 in 2020 to Mick Schumacher, who went to Haas in Formula 1. He has served as a reserve driver for Alfa Romeo this season.

In his first two races, Ilott has done a decent job given the time he has had in the car and the relative newness of the team.

No other team announcements are expected until next week.

Practice for the Acura grand prix of Long Beach begins at 6 pm Eastern on Peacock.