Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

The 38th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be held this weekend with seven former winners in the field of 26 car-and-driver combinations.

Will Power (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet) is the most successful of the active drivers at Long Beach, with two wins and three NTT P1 Award poles. Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda) has won two races and two poles while Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves (No. 06 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda) won once and has a record four poles.

SEE: Long Beach Event Information Page

Takuma Sato (No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda of Dale Coyne Racing with RWR), Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing), Simon Pagenaud (No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda of Meyer Shank Racing) and Colton Herta (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda of Andretti Autosport w/Curb-Agajanian) are the other former race winners.

Five areas to watch:

First, a Recap

Remember, last year’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was the first in the event’s history held outside of the month of April. It became the season finale due to precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring.

Colton Herta won the 85-lap race, his second win as many races to end the season and third overall in 2021. He also won the street race in St. Petersburg and the road course race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, leading 82.5 percent of the laps in those three race wins.

The season championship was on the line that afternoon, and Alex Palou (No. 10 NTT DATA Honda of Chip Ganassi Racing) did what he needed to do to capture the Astor Cup – he finished fourth. Josef Newgarden (No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) scored the NTT P1 Award bonus point as the top qualifier and finished second in the race, but he fell 38 points shy of his third season title.

It’s worth noting that Andretti Autosport has won the past three Long Beach races, with Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda) winning in 2018 and 2019. Long Beach did not host a race in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Palou is among those eager to return.

“It’s a special place for us; we got the championship there last year,” he said. “Great atmosphere, great weather, great racetrack, and we had a good run last year.”

Where Teams Thrive

Long Beach is the only circuit on the current NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar where three teams share the lead for the most victories in the event. Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Newman-Haas Racing each have won there six times.

Newman-Haas Racing no longer is in operation, with leaves the teams owned by Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi to race for outright supremacy this weekend. Penske has won with Paul Tracy, Al Unser Jr. (twice), Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud. Ganassi’s wins came with Jimmy Vasser, Alex Zanardi (twice), Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.

Andretti Autosport officially has five Long Beach wins – with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Mike Conway, Alexander Rossi (twice) and Colton Herta (last year) – but its predecessor won in 2002 with Andretti driving. That car was entered by Team Motorola, an offshoot of Team Green which became Andretti Green Racing and finally Andretti Autosport.

As for the other tracks on the series’ current calendar, Team Penske has the most wins at St. Petersburg, Texas Motor Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park, both Indianapolis Motor Speedway circuits, Detroit, World Wide Technology Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Chip Ganassi Racing has the most at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Nashville and is tied with Newman-Haas at Toronto.

Andretti Autosport has the most wins at Iowa Speedway. Newman-Haas continues to hold the record at Road America and Portland International Raceway.

A Track for New Winners

Long Beach offers the best chance yet for drivers like Romain Grosjean, Jack Harvey, Conor Daly and the six rookies entered to score their first victory in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Why? Because Long Beach has welcomed more than its share of first-time INDYCAR SERIES winners in the past.

Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mike Conway and Takuma Sato scored the first victory of their careers on this circuit that now spans 11 turns and 1.968 miles. The combination of these five drivers has produced 98 victories in all.

Andretti also scored his 42nd and final INDYCAR SERIES victory there, giving him wins 16 years apart.

While it wasn’t a first win, Ryan Hunter-Reay had a significant “first” at Long Beach in 2010. That victory was his first with Andretti Autosport and fueled what became a 12-year run with the organization.

This season has already had one first-time winner – Scott McLaughlin (No. 3 Snap-on Team Penske Chevrolet) in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. McLaughlin then finished second to Newgarden in the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway to grab the points lead after two races.

Honoring Alex Zanardi

Two-time Long Beach race winner Alex Zanardi (1997, 1998) will be honored this weekend with a place on the Long Beach Walk of Fame. It should come with tire marks.

Zanardi’s first win on the street circuit was capped with a burnout in Turn 1, and that post-race celebration is regarded as the first of its kind in motorsports.

Said Zanardi on that year’s television broadcast, “The crowd here was amazing, and I had to please them a little bit.”

Jim Michaelian, the longtime president of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, said Zanardi did as much for the event as any driver since its formation in 1975.

“I couldn’t help but think the other day what an impact Zanardi had not only here but on the whole INDYCAR SERIES back in the late 1990s,” Michaelian said. “It was how effervescent he was and what joy he brought to the sport. His exuberance was really amazing.

“He did a lot to popularize the sport among non-racing fans. He did that burnout, and now everybody incorporates it in their post-race celebration.”

The burnout can be seen at the 1:26:14 mark of this video.

In 1998, Zanardi came from a lap down to win the race, passing race leader Bryan Herta with two laps to go. Veteran sports car driver Bill Auberlen also will be inducted in the Walk of Fame this weekend.

Weekend Schedule

The action begins Friday with the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES practice at 6:15 p.m. (ET). The session can be viewed on Peacock Premium, the live streaming service of NBC Sports.

Saturday’s schedule includes the second practice at 11:45 a.m. (ET) and NTT P1 Award qualifying at 3:05 p.m. (ET) – both on Peacock Premium.

The warmup for the 38th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be at noon (ET, also on Peacock Premium) with the broadcast of the 85-lap race at 3 p.m. (ET) on NBC and Peacock Premium. The INDYCAR Radio Network also will call the action live on network affiliates, including SiriusXM 160, and the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.

This is the third of 17 races scheduled for this season.