Today’s question: Who will win the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this Sunday?
Curt Cavin: Historically, Long Beach has produced more than its share of first-time series winners – Takuma Sato was one – and repeat winners. I’ll go with the latter in tabbing Colton Herta to double up in Sunday’s race. The driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda wasn’t as strong as I expected him to be in the season’s first street race, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, but he still finished fourth. Herta dominated Long Beach last year, leading 43 laps for his third win of the season, and keep in mind that this effectively is the home race of his family, which considers the Santa Clarita suburb of Valencia its base. Bryan Herta also had several good runs at Long Beach, including the 1998 CART race where he was two laps from winning until Alex Zanardi wiggled past.
Zach Horrall: I’m going to pick the only other driver to score top-five finishes in the last two street course races: Alex Palou. At Long Beach last year, he drove to a fourth-place finish, but more importantly he secured his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship. Then, at St. Petersburg, he finished second behind Scott McLaughlin in an impressive rebound after a practice crash. Palou has yet to win on a street course in his career, but I think he’s due to buck that trend, and what better place to do it than the place he was hoisting the Astor Cup last fall?
Paul Kelly: The Penske Party will continue in Long Beach, with The Captain’s team staying a perfect 3-for-3 in races this season. And it seems to be destiny that Josef Newgarden will win Long Beach for the first time. Why? Newgarden is on Baby Watch this weekend, as his wife, Ashley, is about to deliver their first child. How cool would it be for the new father to give the winner’s trophy to baby boy Newgarden? A quick favor to ask of Josef and Ashley – please name him Lewis so we can call him Lew New!