Newgarden bests Grosjean to take maiden Long Beach crown

 Josef Newgarden prevailed on a late pit exchange and held off a late charge by Romain Grojean to claim the win at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The victory is the second in a row for the two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and his first at the 1.98-mile street circuit.

“This was a fight today,” said Newgarden. “This is not an easy race to win. I don’t know if it looks simple from the outside, but I was my butt off with Grosjean there on the used reds. I was hoping he would fade a little bit towards the end, just trying to hold him off on the restart was super difficult. This Hitachi car, though, was on it.

“We knew coming into the race, we have a good strategy, we make good fuel with Team Chevy, we were going to be all right. I had everything I needed to do with pit stops, as you saw trying to get around Alex (Palou). So proud of Team Penske. I’ve been trying to win a race here for 11 years, so I’m so happy to finally get done.”

Newgarden ran in polesitter Colton Herta’s tire tracks for the race’s opening stint. He leapfrogged Herta with a quick first pitstop while reigning series champion Alex Palou vaulted them both with an even swifter pit exchange.

The gap between the trio slightly see-sawed throughout the stint until Palou ducked into the pits on Lap 55.

Herta thumped the barrier Turn 9 and was eliminated from the race.

Newgarden stayed out until pitted leader on Lap 57. He emerged onto Shoreline Drive into a hot battle with Palou for the lead. Newgarden defended Palou’s challenge and ran in control until a yellow flew on Lap 60 when Simon Pagenaud’s spun in the fountain turn.

The yellow brought Palou right to his rear wing ahead of his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson while Romain Grojean entered the fore armed with softer red tires while Will Power completed the top five.

Newgarden fended off Palou while Ericsson hit the Turn 4 barrier and eliminated himself from the race. Grosjean slingshot past Palou heading into Turn 1 on Lap 70. Grosjean mounted a charge on Newgarden, but Newgarden safeguarded the top spot.

Another yellow on Lap 75 bunched up the field as Jimmie Johnson and David Malukas crashed in Turn 8 and set up a four-lap dash to the finish.

Newgarden snubbed any chance of Grosjean passing him on the restart and Takuma Sato’s crash in Turn 8 on the final lap sealed the win.

Grosjean scored his fourth career podium while Palou ended up third. Two-time Long Beach winner Will Power finished fourth while Pato O’Ward came home fifth – his best finish of the season to date.

Scott Dixon used an alternate pit strategy to vault from 16th to sixth ahead of Graham Rahal in seventh. Alexander Rossi ended up ninth while Helio Castroneves and Kyle Kirkwood claimed their season-best finishes of ninth and tenth.

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