Herta got off to a perfect start, leaving Team Penske-Chevrolet’s Newgarden to fend off Chip Ganassi Racing’s top starter, Palou, which he did. Behind them, Arrow McLaren SP-Chevy’s Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi (Andretti) finished fourth and fifth respectively, while the big mover at the front of the field was another Ganassi car, that of Marcus Ericsson, who edged past Will Power Andretti von Penske and Grosjean is sixth.
Herta had opened up a 2.3 second lead over Newgarden at the start of Lap 6 when Dalton Kellett’s AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet hit the tire wall at Turn 1 and got the first yellow.
The restart on lap 10 was uneventful and while Herta wanted to stay out of Newgarden’s reach, he saved fuel and happily gave up his lead by 1.6 seconds. Behind Newgarden, Palou was just 0.8 seconds back and on lap 20 the reigning series champion was well ahead of Rosenqvist, whose mirror was filled by Rossi while Ericsson was just behind the two-time Long Beach winner.
On lap 20, Rossi went into Turn 1 and when Rosenqvist tried to turn, he bounced off the Andretti car, allowing Ericsson and Grosjean to slip as well. Power, McLaughlin and Pagenaud would also demote the #7 Arrow McLaren SP car. Rosenqvist pitted at the end of lap 23 to move on to the primaries.
The decline of one Swede triggered the rejuvenation of the other as Ericsson passed him at Turn 6 and Grosjean passed him at Turn 1. Rossi pitted at the end of lap 26 for the primaries.
Scott Dixon, who died on April 16th and ran 15thHe had already stopped on lap 21 and was running very fast on the harder compound, albeit on 21Stand his teammate Palou was the first of the frontrunners to catch up from third on lap 28. Herta stopped next time, as did Grosjean.
McLaughlin and Rahal, the top drivers who started in the primaries, temporarily finished fifth and sixth.
Newgarden, Ericsson and McLaughlin pitted on lap 30 and the Penske driver still came out second but with Palou in the lead and Herta behind him.
Power and Rahal drove an extra lap before pitting.
On lap 35, with 50 to go, Palou was 2.8 seconds ahead of the duel between Newgarden and Herta, while Ericsson was nine seconds further behind Dixon, Grosjean, Power, Rossi, O’Ward and Rahal. Championship leader McLaughlin had emerged ahead of Grosjean but fell back to 20thth after marking and rotating the wall at the hairpin. Meanwhile, Pagenaud had lost time and places with a long stop and a subsequent fall in a runoff.
Just after half the distance, Herta seemed to redouble his efforts to go around Newgarden, who was now just 1.5 seconds behind Palou. About 17 seconds off the lead, Grosjean was pursuing Dixon, who had to save fuel after his early first stop. In fact, on lap 47, Grosjean successfully made the jump to fifth place.
On lap 53 the top three stretched, Palou leading by 2.7 seconds over Newgarden who was 1.5 seconds ahead of Herta.
Dixon made his second stop at the end of Lap 54, the team opted for a new set of primaries, and teammate Palou left just one more lap before slotting in for the Blacks. Power and Rossi also stopped this lap, but the latter had a slow stop. Power, meanwhile, managed to get in front of Dixon.
Herta pushed hard on his in-lap as he blocked over the bump heading into Turn 9 and hit the outside wall hard. IndyCar delayed the yellow to clear Herta’s debris so others could stop before the pit lane closed. Newgarden ducked into pit lane and came out just ahead of Palou, who took a look around the outside of the Penske at Turn 5, but there was no hope that worked. In the next half lap, Palou tried to find a way past Newgarden but couldn’t find an opening.
Then caution came out as Pagenaud failed to get past the inside of Takuma Sato’s Dale Coyne Racing with RWR-Honda and instead mounted the roundabout at Fountain Curve and landed himself in the flowers there.
The ensuing chaos saw McLaughlin and Rinus VeeKay also get together, but apparently without significant damage.
At the restart, with 19 to go, Newgarden held off Palou, but behind him Ericsson lost the rear of his car at Turn 4 and marked the wall with his left rear. Grosjean and Power ducked through, but as Ericsson swerved to park him on the inside of Turn 5, Dixon slammed into his rear, allowing O’Ward to slide past the six-time champion.
Grosjean then took turns trying to pass Palou for second at Turn 1 on Lap 69, but Grosjean forced him to the outside. The Andretti rider repeated the effort on lap 70 and this time he was further up in the braking zone and was able to traverse and take second place.
Grosjean immediately started putting pressure on Newgarden, who looked scratchy on defence, but the Frenchman ran out of push-to-pass boost. He would, however, get another chance to tackle Newgarden (who had 4 seconds of P2P left) as Jimmie Johnson’s hot weekend ended slightly early after slipping into the Turn 8 tires and Dale Coyne Racing’s David Malukas was picked up with HMD.
At the restart with four laps to go, Grosjean tried to make the pass into Turn 1, but Newgarden’s defense on the inside line was enough to parry him off. A lap later Newgarden used his last sprint from P2P to start from the hairpin and he was practically safe for another lap.
He stayed up on the penultimate lap without an obvious threat from Grosjean and then had to go yellow when Sato skidded into the tires at Turn 8 and was unable to start.
And so Newgarden clinched his first win at Long Beach, his second straight win, Penske-Chevrolet’s third straight win, and Newgarden now takes the championship lead from McLaughlin while Palou and Power take the other two drivers over the 100-point border are.