(GPLongBeach on Twitter)
After a dominating open to the season by Team Penske by taking victories in the first two races of the season, the first "crown jewel" race of the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season is upon us as some of the best drivers in the world will barrel down Shoreline Drive once again for the 38th running of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Event History: Marked as one of the "Crown Jewel" events on an IndyCar Calander, Long Beach, California has been a staple in open-wheeled racing all the way back to 1984. During the CART/Indy Racing League split, Long Beach was considered all most on par with the Indianapolis 500. Since then and a unification of both series in 2008, Long Beach is one of two tracks on the final schedule of CART to still be on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule to this day. Josef Newgarden set the fastest lap in IndyCar history during the 2018 Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend with a lap of 1:07.5511. Former winners of the event include Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Alexander Rossi, Colton Herta, and Simon Pagenaud
2021 Event: After canceling the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Grand Prix of Long Beach returned to the schedule in 2021 as the season finale race for the 2021 season. Alex Palou, Josef Newgarden, and Pato O'Ward all entered with a shot of leaving Southern California with the Astor Cup at the end of 167 miles of racing. Newgarden led from pole position as the field took the green flag. On Lap 31, Colton Herta, who won the previous weekend at Laguna Seca, charged hard on black Firestone compounds and never looked back to take his third win of the 2021 season. Alex Palou took home his first of hopefully many more NTT IndyCar Series championship titles.
Track Preview: There are many iconic corners on the Grand Prix layout of the Long Beach Street Circuit that have been staples of iconic establishing shots proceeding on an IndyCar telecast. The Turn 11 hairpin, a blind and the slowest corner on the IndyCar Calander that in 2021, ended the hopes of Pato O'Ward's championship hopes. Down Shoreline Drive and a sequence of turns heads into the fountain carousel. You can see speeds close to 165 miles per hour diving into Turn One and as low as 30 for the Turn 11 hairpin. Passing at Long Beach is easier than most street courses due to the abundance of long straights and very wide 90-degree corners.
Race Predictions: With the second street course of the season, many insiders and odds makers will put the favorite to Penske's Scott McLaughlin as one of the odds-on favorites for this weekend's race. That's no surprise as his worst finish so far this season is 2nd at Texas. When it comes to street courses, other names to include would be Colton Herta and Marcus Ericsson who were both strong on street courses last year with both drivers taking home wins and Herta being the defending winner of the race. But I still believe Penske is far and away the best team right now in the series and there isn't much debate on who would be close to them. It's not if this driver will win in 2022, it's when. So I predict the winner of the 2022 Grand Prix of Long Beach will be Will Power
Championship Standings (Top 3):
Scott McLaughlin - 97
Will Power - 69
Alex Palou - 67
Weekend Schedule: (All times EST)
Friday, April 8th - Practice 1 - 6:15 P.M. on Peacock
Saturday, April 9th - Practice 2 - 11:45A.M. on Peacock
Saturday, April 9th - Group Qualifying - 3:00 P.M. on Peacock
Sunday, April 10th - Race Warmup - 12:00 P.M. on Peacock
Sunday, April 10th - Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach - 3:00 P.M. on NBC
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