IndyCar racing at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

One of several race series at this action-packed weekend —ALL WITH PHOTOS!

5w ago
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The last time IndyCars raced on the streets of Long Beach, California was in April of 2019, due to COVID-19. An eager, enthusiastic crowd of over 180,000 race fans was more than ready for their late September 2021 return, in the 46th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

This event is much more than car racing. It is a party at the beach.

Live entertainment includes a Saturday night outdoor concert and live music throughout the weekend.

The large “Lifestyle Expo” in the Long Beach Convention Center is packed full of all sorts of exhibits — with giveaways, shopping and lots of things to see and do. Throughout the venue are many different food vendors. All of this, and more, contributes to a great party atmosphere.

IndyCar was the marquis series in a fantastic race weekend that included the IMSA Sports Car Grand Prix...

Stadium SUPER Trucks (two races)...

Formula Drift Super Drift Challenge...

Global Time Attack Competition...

and Historic Formula Atlantic Challenge.

Traditionally this event is held in April (as it will be again, on April 8 – 10, 2022) but, due to precautions related to COVID-19, this year’s Long Beach event was moved to being the final race in the 2021 Championship season.

IndyCar Series Championship Trophy

IndyCar Series Championship Trophy

The excitement level was even higher than usual, since the IndyCar Series Champion had not yet been decided going into this race. Three drivers, representative of the truly international field of drivers — Josef Newgarden, from Nashville, Tennessee, driving the Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (2); Alex Palou, from Barcelona, Spain, driving the NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (10); and Pato O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, driving the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet (5) — all three went into the weekend with a chance at becoming the 2021 IndyCar Series Champion.

This is not a PhotoShop trick. These trucks were actually parked that close together.

This is not a PhotoShop trick. These trucks were actually parked that close together.

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach CEO Jim Michaelian

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach CEO Jim Michaelian

Retired IndyCar racer Willy T. Ribbs was there.

Retired IndyCar racer Willy T. Ribbs was there.

The field of 28 IndyCars were on the 1.698-mile track for three days, with practice on Friday, qualifying and the Firestone Fast 6 on Saturday, and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach IndyCar race on Sunday afternoon.

People were taken for rides around the track in a special two-seat IndyCar.

People were taken for rides around the track in a special two-seat IndyCar.

In practice, Colton Herta, from Valencia, California, driving the Gainbridge Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda (26), was quick right from the get-go, setting the fastest lap time in Practice Sessions 1 (01.09.2680 with a speed of 102.281 mph) and 2 (01:07.9783 with a speed of 104.221 mph). Remember, this race is run on city streets!

Jan Wagner, ready to take pictures.

Jan Wagner, ready to take pictures.

Qualifying on Saturday was divided into three elimination rounds, with the quickest of the field of 28 drivers advancing to subsequent rounds, ultimately competing head-to-head in the Firestone Fast 6. The Fast 6 drivers, in order, were Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist and rookie (and former Formula 1 driver) Romain Grosjean. Colton Herta was buried deep in the field in 14th position — but he would not remain there for long after the race began.

IndyCar Firestone Fast 6 driver Simon Pagenaud

IndyCar Firestone Fast 6 driver Simon Pagenaud

In the race, Championship contender Pato O’Ward was eliminated from contention early, due to a collision with Ed Jones. Josef Newgarden ran a strong race, but ultimately his second place finish was not enough to deny Alex Palou the IndyCar Series Championship. He drove a smart race, not taking unnecessary chances, and finished in a solid fourth place.

IndyCar rookie Scott McLaughlin

IndyCar rookie Scott McLaughlin

Graham Rahal (15) racing against Pato O'Ward (5)

Graham Rahal (15) racing against Pato O'Ward (5)

IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson (48) racing against Graham Rahal (15)

IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson (48) racing against Graham Rahal (15)

Alex Palou (10) racing against Simon Pagenaud (22)

Alex Palou (10) racing against Simon Pagenaud (22)

Marcus Ericsson (8) racing against Alexander Rossi (27)

Marcus Ericsson (8) racing against Alexander Rossi (27)

Marcus Ericsson (8) hit the tire wall in Turn 1

Marcus Ericsson (8) hit the tire wall in Turn 1

Cleaning up after Marcus Ericsson's accident

Cleaning up after Marcus Ericsson's accident

Showing the same quick form that he showed in practice, Colton Herta led an impressive 43 laps, including the one that mattered most, winning the race with an elapsed time of 01:49:10.3764 at an average speed of 91.935 mph — ahead of Josef Newgarden in second place and Scott Dixon in third. NASCAR transplant and IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson had a good day, advancing from his starting position of 27th to finish 17th.

Jimmie Johnson (48) racing against Ed Jones (18)

Jimmie Johnson (48) racing against Ed Jones (18)

Jack Harvey (60)

Jack Harvey (60)

James Hinchcliffe (29) leads Alex Palou (10)

James Hinchcliffe (29) leads Alex Palou (10)

Josef Newgarden (2) leads Scott Dixon (9)

Josef Newgarden (2) leads Scott Dixon (9)

IndyCar rookie and former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean (51)

IndyCar rookie and former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean (51)

Colton Herta (26)

Colton Herta (26)

Josef Newgarden (2) continues to lead Scot Dixon (9)

Josef Newgarden (2) continues to lead Scot Dixon (9)

Fast-charging Colton Herta (26)

Fast-charging Colton Herta (26)

Josef Newgarden (2)

Josef Newgarden (2)

Alex Palou (10)

Alex Palou (10)

Romain Grosjean (10)

Romain Grosjean (10)

Alexander Rossi (10)

Alexander Rossi (10)

Takuma Sato (30)

Takuma Sato (30)

Felix Rosenqvist (7)

Felix Rosenqvist (7)

Jimmie Johnson (48)

Jimmie Johnson (48)

Ryan Hunter-Reay (28)

Ryan Hunter-Reay (28)

Colton Herta (26)

Colton Herta (26)

Ed Jones (18)

Ed Jones (18)

Takuma Sato (30) leads Scott Dixon (9)

Takuma Sato (30) leads Scott Dixon (9)

Graham Rahal (15)

Graham Rahal (15)

Max Chilton (59)

Max Chilton (59)

Pato O'Ward (5)

Pato O'Ward (5)

Scott Dixon (9)

Scott Dixon (9)

Will Power (12)

Will Power (12)

Jimmie Johnson (48)

Jimmie Johnson (48)

Graham Rahal (15)

Graham Rahal (15)

Graham Rahal (15)

Graham Rahal (15)

Alex Palou (10)

Alex Palou (10)

Felix Rosenqvist (7)

Felix Rosenqvist (7)

Ed Jones (18)

Ed Jones (18)

Ryan Hunter-Reay (28)

Ryan Hunter-Reay (28)

Colton Herta (26) — Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach IndyCar race winner

Colton Herta (26) — Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach IndyCar race winner

For complete race results, leader changes, cautions and penalties, visit gplb.com/results/

Alex Palou (10) — IndyCar 2021 Series Champion

Alex Palou (10) — IndyCar 2021 Series Champion

Alex Palou celebrates with the 2021 IndyCar Series Championship trophy

Alex Palou celebrates with the 2021 IndyCar Series Championship trophy

As is his tradition, Alex is also given a box of "Pop-Tarts" to celebrate. Note the Championship ring!

As is his tradition, Alex is also given a box of "Pop-Tarts" to celebrate. Note the Championship ring!

BREAKING NEWS:

“Porsche Motorsport North America, International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and Grand Prix Association of Long Beach officials announced … that the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will run two rounds of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by The Cayman Islands during its April 8-10, 2022 race weekend. Porsche Carrera Cup is one of the preeminent one-make racing series in the world and sanctioned by IMSA. Every car competing in the series is identical: the road car-based Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car, which places the emphasis on driver and team talent to win.”

To see the most photos and the latest text, and to explore a wide variety of content dating back to 2002, visit AutoMatters & More at AutoMatters.net. On the Home Page, search by title or topic, or click on the blue ‘years’ boxes.

Copyright © 2021 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #714r1

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Comments (35)

  • I live 2 miles away from turn 9. I watch it on TV. After they went to CART in 84 I stepped away from it. The F1 crowds were fantastic, the races were fantastic. Then came the beerfest with a car race in the middle. People walking around with no idea who was racing it was just a big beer drinking party. I think I've done 3 or 4 races since 84, none in the part 15 years. Of all the races I have been to around the world, Long Beach is more a party than a race, just not for me.

      1 month ago
    • I hear you, when they ran the Indy 500 and the Michigan 500 on the same day, they lost me

        1 month ago
    • Hi Steve,

      Thank you for sharing your comments.

      It is interesting that this has been your takeaway from the Grand Prix of Long Beach. I am well aware that people probably see this event, and also the Indy 500, as excuses to party. To them, it...

      Read more
        1 month ago
  • Thanks for the update on IMSA. No, I wasn’t aware of the Challenge or Twitch. What kind of cars were racing?

      1 month ago
    • They were highly modified Indy Lights cars. They 'raced' one car at a time. Only one of the nine successfully made it through all of the challenges. I heard that in the first DARPA off-road race, none of the vehicles finished the entire...

      Read more
        1 month ago
    • Very interesting. I wasn’t aware of this. David.

        1 month ago
  • Great article Jan. I can see you are quickly becoming comfortable with your new Sony equipment. I actually watched the IndyCar race on TV, but there were so many yellow flags I never saw the finish because I failed to record enough time.

    A great photo of you and your new gear. That huge telephoto lens must weigh you down. While I never watch it, I thought the IMSA cars are impressive. Is IMSA a rival of, or sponsored by, SCCA? And are IMSA cars eligible to race in endurance races like Le Mans and Daytona?

    You sure captured the party atmosphere of the weekend…a variety of different racing series, things to see, good weather and lots of spectators. What more can you expect!

    Do your press credentials get you into pit lane before or during the racing? That would be really exciting.

      1 month ago
    • Hi David,

      You've asked good questions. I'll do my best to answer them. Also, please read my lengthy response to Steve Maurice's comment. You might find it interesting, too.

      Yes, my new Sony gear is heavy, but not as heavy as my Nikon gear...

      Read more
        1 month ago
    • I did read your informative reply to Steve Maurice. And thanks for the clarification of IMSA

        1 month ago
  • I absolutely LOVE the blue modded nsx

      1 month ago
    • It looked really good. That's why I photographed it, and then chose to include it here.

      Jan

        1 month ago
  • We saw you there. Great pics.

    Our hands-down favorite events were the historics-- there is something so elemental about those cars. Awesome time.

    Seeing the C8.R duo rip up the track with that soundtrack? Now, a Z06 is on my shopping list!

      1 month ago
    • I am excited that an all-Porsche series will beclouded in the race series at Long Beach next April.

      Jan

        1 month ago
    • As I said in my reply to Kevin, The Long Beach races this year were especially challenging for me to photograph because I only left myself one week to learn how to use my new Sony mirrorless full-frame camera gear, after switching from Nikon...

      Read more
        1 month ago
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