Today’s question: Who will win the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this Sunday, April 16 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE, INDYCAR Radio Network)?
Curt Cavin: Look, fellas, I don’t think Josef Newgarden is going to win 10 races in an NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, as he spoke of at the end of last season. But more than the personal-best five, which he achieved last year, is possible. Heck, I think he’s good for as many as seven, which would be incredible in this ultra-competitive era. Newgarden’s path to the season title began with his recent win at Texas Motor Speedway, and I think he makes it two in succession for the second consecutive track. He will qualify strong again at Long Beach – he started from the No. 2 position last year and won the pole the year prior – and will lead about as many laps as he did in 2022 (32 of the 85). Is this guy on a roll? You betcha. And a note here to the PeopleReady Force for Good Challenge: Start prepping that $1 million check because Newgarden will again be the first driver to win a series race on all three types of tracks (ovals, road courses and street circuits).
Joey Barnes: There are a healthy handful of drivers that could easily be picked to come out on top at any event in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and that especially rings true at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. I would expect guys like defending race winner Josef Newgarden to be strong, toss Alex Palou and Romain Grosjean on that list. Alexander Rossi, who was dominant in each of his two victories there in 2018 and ’19, is someone I would expect to be a contender, especially given his pace early at Arrow McLaren. That teaser said, no other driver is in better overall form than Rossi’s teammate Pato O’Ward, and I expect that to continue in the third race of 2023. The pride of Mexico, O’Ward has led 114 of 315 laps through the opening two rounds and has two runner-up results. Last year, O’Ward started 11th at Long Beach and ended up fifth, the only driver to start outside the top 10 that finished in the top five. Lastly, add the fact that Arrow McLaren as an organization have clearly made improvements and look every bit the rival of the “Big Three” of Andretti, Ganassi and Penske, and it’s easy to see how the third time might be the charm for O’Ward.
Paul Kelly: This might be my easiest pick of the year: Alexander Rossi will win the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. There are many reasons for my confidence surrounding this choice. One, this venue and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca are home tracks for Rossi, and who doesn’t want to take the checkered in front of family and friends? Two, Rossi has appeared resurgent since moving to Arrow McLaren after last season, as he finished fourth in the season opener last month at St. Petersburg and qualified third at Texas before his race was compromised after the early collision with Kyle Kirkwood on pit road. Three, there’s absolutely no question Arrow McLaren definitely has expanded the “Big Three” in the series of Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport to a “Big Four.” Pato O’Ward has finished second in both races this season, and Felix Rosenqvist won the NTT P1 Award at Texas. The team is red-hot right now. Finally, look at Rossi’s track record at Long Beach. He’s one of only two drivers in the 27-driver field with two or more wins here, joining reigning NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Will Power as a two-time winner at America’s most prestigious street race. Rossi won in 2018 and 2019 at Long Beach, and he’ll stand atop the box again this Sunday.