Newgarden keeps Penske perfect with Long Beach Win

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Josef Newgarden kept Team Penske undefeated in three NTT INDYCAR SERIES races this season with its second straight victory in 2022, winning the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in a tense three-way battle in the glorious Southern California sun on Sunday.

Newgarden took his first career victory at Long Beach in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, fending off Romain Grosjean in the No. 28 DHL Honda and defending Series Champion Alex Palou in the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi RacingHonda. Grosjean tied a career high finishing second, with Palou rounding out the podiums in third.

The race ended on bail after Takuma Sato crashed through the tire barrier in Turn 8 on lap 84 of the 85-lap race.

TO SEE: Race results | Race Highlights

“It was a fight today,” Newgarden said. “It was not an easy race to win. I was working hard with Grosjean at the end there on used reds (Firestone alternative tires). This Hitachi car was on it. I’ve been trying to win a race here for 11 years so I’m so glad I did.

2014 series champion Will Power finished fourth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet as Team Penske earned at least two of the top four finishes in all three races this season. The last time Team Penske won the first three races of the season was in 2012, and Chip Ganassi Racing in 2020 was the last NTT INDYCAR SERIES team to open a season with three straight wins.

Pato O’Ward completed the top five with the #5 Chevrolet Arrow McLaren SP, his first top 10 of the season.

Newgarden, a two-time series champion, took the series points lead with his 22nd career INDYCAR SERIES victory. He leads teammate Scott McLaughlin, who won the season opener in St. Petersburg, 118-113. McLaughlin finished 14th in the #3 Snap-on Team Penske Chevrolet.

Newgarden took the lead for good on lap 55 when leader Palou made his final pit stop for fuel and main Firestone tyres. Newgarden pitted for the last time two laps later, also taking fuel and Firestone primary tyres, and on the pit exit narrowly stayed ahead of Palou, who was screaming right away on Shoreline Drive trying to earn a drag race for the lead.

The two series champions went side-by-side in a duel for the lead on Newgarden’s lap after its pit stop, making slight hip contact in Turn 5 of the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit. But Newgarden stayed ahead.

“I think the tour with Palou was riskier,” Newgarden said. “We ended up in deep T5, and it almost didn’t work out when we were side by side in that corner. We were side by side in Turn 6.

“It was an uphill battle. But I think Grosjean, overall, had a better chance of doing it. But luckily we held on.

Grosjean was on a different strategy to all the other leading cars, as he took alternative Firestone tires in his final pit stop on lap 56, the lap between the final stops of Palou and Newgarden. The “red” tires offer more traction with their softer compound, but they wear out faster.

Still, Grosjean was able to hold on to his grippier but less durable tires over the final stint as two of the race’s four warning periods came between his final stop and the end-of-race warning after Sato came into collision with the tire barrier in the #51 Nurtec. ODT Honda on lap 84 after jousting for position with the #21 Alzamend Neuro Chevrolet of Rinus VeeKay.

Grosjean took advantage of the prolonged tire wear to pass Palou with an outward move into Turn 1 on Lap 70. He then set his sights on Newgarden, closing in while using all of his available push-to-pass boost.

A warning triggered by Jimmie Johnson turning into the tire barriers at Turn 8 on Lap 76 in his #48 Honda Carvana Chip Ganassi Racing and picking up rookie David Malukas’ #18 Honda HMD brought the field together one last time and gave Grosjean his best chance to pass Newgarden.

Newgarden surged forward on the restart, but an alert Grosjean also got a great restart and stayed on Newgarden’s gearbox, with Palou in tow. But Grosjean never got close enough before the end of race warning.

“Very close, but not close enough,” Grosjean said. “It was fun. With the right tire strategy and with the last precaution, I thought it was going to be great. He (Newgarden) made a mistake, but I just couldn’t use him.

NTT P1 award winner Colton Herta led 28 laps – just four short of Newgarden’s total of 32 – but his No. 26 Gainbridge Honda was knocked out of the race in a crash at Turn 9 as he was running third on his pit lap on lap 56.

Newgarden is just one step away from winning the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge with their victory. The challenge offered by the industrial recruiting giant is a bonus of $1 million to be awarded to the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver who can win on all three unique track styles – street courses, road courses and ovals – this season. The reward, if won, will be split, with $500,000 shared by the driver and his team and $500,000 donated to the charity of their choice.

Newgarden has already won this season on an oval (Texas Motor Speedway) and a street circuit (Long Beach). His first opportunity for road victory comes at the next event, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst on May 1 at Barber Motorsports Park, where he scored three INDYCAR SERIES career victories (2015, 2017, 2018).

PeopleReady is offering an additional $10,000 to the winner of each race this season, also to be shared with the selected charity. Newgarden is sharing its prize from today’s race with SeriousFun Childrens Network and Wags & Walks Nashville.

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