Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
It’s been a fast and challenging weekend for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES as it returns to one of the series’ most prestigious races: the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach from the streets of Long Beach, California on its date legit April.
A 26-car grid makes up the second NTT INDYCAR SERIES field at Long Beach in seven months, with this event serving as the 2021 season finale. The race was postponed to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This weekend’s race marks the 38th INDYCAR SERIES race on the Southern California street circuit.
Firestone supplies more than 1,400 tires for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The tires feature the same technology that Firestone Racing used at the season opener in St. Petersburg, which is also a street circuit that features a mix of concrete and asphalt surfaces. Each entry received six sets of main tires (black), four sets of alternate tires (red) and five sets of rain tires (grey).
It’s a perfect day for a run along Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach. Temperatures are forecast to be close to 66 degrees by the time the green flag drops, a sharp turn since the start of the weekend when Practice 1 took place in temperatures in the mid-90s. The partly cloudy day is expected to feature 67 % humidity and 10 mph winds.
You can catch the action live on NBC, Peacock Premium and INDYCAR Radio Network starting at 3 p.m. ET. You can listen to live broadcast radio on network affiliates, SiriusXM 160, INDYCAR.com and the INDYCAR mobile app powered by NTT DATA.
Here’s what you need to know to prepare for today’s action:
Change Tracking Challenge Drivers
There are many things that make the streets of Long Beach a challenging racetrack, and perhaps one of the biggest is that the track is constantly changing.
This is a natural result of street courses, which are rebuilt on the city streets leading up to each race and demolished once the race is over. It is virtually impossible to make the track look exactly the same from year to year.
This year, however, track officials intentionally modified the Turn 6 wall to help NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars navigate the course. Normally turn 6 has two straight walls that form the corner. This time around, track officials built a more rounded wall, as NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers have historically cut the two straight walls and found themselves in the tire barriers on the exit of the corner.
The change is a positive development, but it does mean the wall sinks deeper into the corner and changes the way drivers approach that corner. Defending winner Colton Herta struggled with him in Practice 2, spinning out of the turn and tapping the wall with his rear wing.
Drivers also notice that the track offers much more grip than expected, which translates to higher speeds. There are several theories as to what’s different, including the extra rubber from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Robby Gordon Stadium Super Trucks also racing the streets of Long Beach this weekend, as well as the idea that more putty has been deposited. on the course this weekend.
As the speeds increased, the changes caused several riders to derail or hit the tire barriers, including: Herta, Romain Grosjean, Dalton Kellett, Jimmie Johnson, Scott Dixon, Jack Harvey, David Malukas, Graham Rahal and Pato O ‘Ward.
The speeds… they increase!
The streets of Long Beach are incredibly fast this weekend.
Herta won the NTT P1 Award from pole position to start today’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 5.3095 seconds, breaking the record of 1:06.2254 set by Helio Castroneves in 2017.
Likely due to a combination of previously mentioned factors, such as more rubber on the track and more sealant, this is still surprising given the increase in temperatures seen at the start of the weekend.
Even with temperatures in the mid-90s during early practice Friday, which usually results in a hot race track with less grip, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers were putting in fast laps.
In Practice 2, the top nine drivers in the speed charts unofficially broke the track record. The session was led by Romain Grosjean, whose best time of 1:05.6520 eclipsed the record by more than half a second.
What does this mean for today’s race? Well, the drivers that make up the first two rows of today’s starting grid are the immediate favorites to win the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach: Herta and Josef Newgarden, who start first and second, and Alex Palou and Felix Rosenqvist, who start third and fourth, respectively.
Specifically, however, Herta is the overwhelming favorite, as the streets of Long Beach have the highest success rate of pole-sitters winning the race of any other street course on the calendar. The most recent driver to do so was Alexander Rossi, who won this race from the first starting point in 2018 and 2019.
Herta heads warming up
Colton Herta sealed his status as the favorite to win today after leading the morning warm-up with a best lap of 1:05.8645 in the #26 Gainbridge Honda.
Scott Dixon moved into second place in the speed chart at 1:06.1923 in the #9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, followed by teammate Marcus Ericsson at 1:06.3934 in the #8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing.
Series leader Scott McLaughlin encountered mechanical problems that forced his #3 Team Penske Snap-on Chevrolet into the paddock early in the session, where Team Penske and Chevrolet officials changed its engine due to a suspected electrical problem, a Chevrolet spokesperson said. McLaughlin will retain his ninth place on the starting grid.
Graham Rahal hit the wall with the rear left and front right of his #15 Quartz Engine Oil Honda later in the session, requiring repairs in the pits.