Feature image credit: Wikimedia Commons – Indycar Grand Prix of Long Beach, 2015
Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta managed to blitz his way to the front of the field to secure the final win of the season as Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou secured the 2021 Indycar championship.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden started the race on pole position as the top six sailed away with Romain Grosjean taking up the rear. Chaos later ensued as the pack ventured around the lap as Patricio O’Ward, a championship contender was rotated around turn 11 by Ed Jones.
Fortunately, O’Ward was saved by A.J. Foyt Enterprises’ Sebastien Bourdais who stopped out on track to terminate the race with a full course caution (FCC).
The race finally returned to green as Newgarden led the pack to lap five, ahead of Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon and Meyer Shark’s Helio Castroneves. Jones was soon given a drive through penalty for avoidable contact.
While Newgarden remained out in front, Grosjean was able to take the inside line around turn five and gain P4 from Arrow McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist, as the McLaren driver was close to hitting the barrier after locking up his tyres.
After 13 laps, only two drivers were inside the top 10 with the black-ringed primary Firestone tyres – Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato. While the remainding eight drivers, inside the top 10, were on the softer, red-ringed alternate tyres.
After a bad start, O’Ward’s day only got worse as the championship contender had a driveshaft issue and retired from Indycar’s final race of the season on lap 19. This meant the championship went down to the two remaining drivers in contention, Chip Ganassi’s Alex Palou and Newgarden.
The race went back to green-flag running on lap 26, led by Castroneves as Newgarden, Grosjean, Dixon and Herta pitted during O’Ward’s incident. However it wasn’t long it wasn’t long until another caution was shown as Marcus Ericsson went into the barrier at turn one.
Castroneves led the field back into green-flag racing on lap 31, ahead of Rahal’s Graham Rahal and Newgarden, respectively. However, Shark’s Castroneves finally pitted on lap 35 with a risk of a full course caution as Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Callum Illot spun around.
Fortunately, the young British driver managed to get going again to prevent a FCC, but he retired later on due to mechanical issues.
Herta flew off into the distance on lap 45 as the Andretti driver was on his second set of alternate tyres which provided the American with track position and over a six-second gap.
After a great run, Grosjean returned back to the pit lane, on lap 60, soon after he ventured into the pits for his second stop. However, it was believed that he had a mechanical problem after his left rear tyre made contact with the barrier.
As the Frenchman remained in the pits, as he got his suspension repaired, it dropped him down to P24 when he returned to the track, but retired soon after. This handed the rookie championship to Penske’s Scott McLaughlin.
Another caution was brought out, as the reach crawled over ¾ distance, after both Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly and Rahal’s Santino Ferrucci battled wheel-to-wheel into turn nine.
Daly was able to run onto the escape road while Ferruci nose-dived into the tyre barrier. The race got back underway on lap 66 as Herta bolted before the start/finish line to get the jump on the second-place championship contender, Newgarden.
With only two laps to go, Newgarden could sniff the exhaust of Herta as he remained less than a second between himself and the lead of the race. Both drivers still had plenty of time for their ‘push to pass.’ However, Herta managed to hold off the advances of Newgarden to secure victory.