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Herta Wins Long Beach Grand Prix; Palou Crowned Series Champion

Photo Credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar


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After 15 rounds of elite open wheel racing, the NTT IndyCar Series’ 2021 season conclusion comes down to 85 laps on the 1.968-mile race course assembled through the streets of Long Beach. While every single competitor in the 28-car field wanted to end the season on a high note with success on the oldest-operating temporary street course race in North American auto racing, the major storyline for the season finale was the drivers’ championship. Entering the race with a comfortable lead, Spanish racer Alex Palou is looking to put a cap on what has been a dream season in his first year joining the Chip Ganassi Racing team with a finish of 12th place or better.

 

Arriving at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach with a mathematical chance at the championship, Josef Newgarden took the pole position on the street course. Newgarden’s Chevrolet-powered #2 Team Penske car remained at the front for the opening 18 laps of the event. Starting third at Long Beach, the 2021 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves inherited the lead holding it through a pair of caution periods. When Castroneves’ #06 Meyer Shank Racing pitted, Colton Herta had obtained the lead after making passes on Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden following a lap 30 restart. The young American driver of the #26 Andretti Autosport race car remained in the top spot through the latter half of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Cycling back to the front after a final round of pit stops, Herta and his Honda-propelled race car kept Newgarden behind him as he took victory by 0.5883 seconds. Coming from 14th position after a difficult qualifying outing, Colton Herta’s second consecutive win further emphasizes the standout season for the 21-year-old competitor.


Though Herta enjoyed victory in the season finale for the NTT IndyCar Series, Alex Palou celebrated his first championship title in only his sophomore year on the tour. Palou’s finish of fourth place more than solidified his championship-clinching effort aided also by early race trouble for nearest rival Pato O’Ward. O’Ward’s chance for the season-long title faded on the opening lap after Ed Jones’ #18 car made contact with the #5 Arrow McLaren SP machine.


Behind Newgarden, Scott Dixon secured a podium position in the #9 machine between Josef Newgarden and teammate Alex Palou. Behind Palou, Simon Pagenaud drove the #22 Team Penske machine to fifth place in what was the Frenchman’s final outing with the organization. Pagenaud was recently confirmed to be joining Meyer Shank Racing as a teammate to Helio Castroneves for the 2022 IndyCar Series campaign. Prior to the season-end announcement for Pagenaud, he was one of several winning IndyCar drivers who faced uncertainty for next season. Ryan Hunter-Reay also drove his final race in Long Beach with the Andretti Autosport #28 team where he won the series championship back in 2012 as well as the 2014 Indianapolis 500. Canadian and six-time IndyCar winner James Hinchcliffe also has no confirmed plans for the 2022 season.


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