Team Penske NTT INDYCAR SERIES Race Report

Track:                  Streets of Long Beach

Race:                   Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Date:                   September 26, 2021

No. 2 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet – Josef Newgarden

Start: 1st

Finish: 2nd

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 85/85

Laps Led: 18

Championship Finish: 2nd (-38 pts)

  • Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet, entered the Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend with a shot to win his third NTT INDYCAR SERIES, title but needing to score a maximum number of points to have a realistic shot. The race pole and a second-place finish in the race propelled them into second place in the championship standings, but just one spot short of their goal.
  • Winning the pole position on Saturday afternoon not only gave Newgarden the best view to lead the field to the green on Sunday afternoon, but it also provided the team with a valuable bonus point in their championship pursuit.
  • After leading the first 18 laps of the race, race strategist Tim Cindric called his driver down pit road for a change to black, primary Firestone tires after starting the race on the red alternates. On the next lap, a caution flag halted the action and significantly altered the lineup between those that had already made their pit stops and those that had not.
  • Race winner Colton Herta was the biggest beneficiary of the yellow flag, and Newgarden spent the second half of the race trying to chase down his nearest competitor. The second-place finish was enough to leapfrog Pato O’Ward to finish second in the final 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES point standings.

Quote: “Colton did a great job, so congrats to him and his entire crew. He was on the right tire on the right point of the race. If there were no yellows, I think we would have been OK today, to cruise out front. But that’s the way it rolls sometimes. Strong effort by our team. I think my Hitachi Chevy crew was the fastest in pit lane all year, so there’s a lot to be prideful for. We fought hard. We came up a little bit short this year, which is unfortunate, but we fought all year long.”

No. 3 PPG Dallara/Chevrolet – Scott McLaughlin

Start: 13th

Finish: 11th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 85/85

Laps Led: 0

Championship Finish: 14th (-244 pts)

  • Scott McLaughlin wrapped up the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year award with an 11th-place finish in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Long Beach season finale.
  • The three-time Australian Supercars champion rolled his No. 3 PPG Chevrolet off from the 13th position, narrowly missing the second round of qualifying on Saturday afternoon. The start of the race proved eventful for McLaughlin, as he avoided a spinning Pato O’Ward and gained several positions on the second lap of action.
  • After moving into the top five during the first round of pit stops, McLaughlin lost track position when a caution flag was displayed before he was able to make it to pit road. With the handling not quite to his liking, the PPG crew gave their driver adjustments to the air pressure and front wing when they stopped a few laps later.
  • With the adjustments, McLaughlin was able to make great pace. He powered his way from the 19th position at the mid-point of the race to finish 11th at the checkered flag. In a first for Team Penske, McLaughlin became the first driver to win Rookie of the Year for the team since the inception of the award in 1979.

Quote: ““I’m really proud of everyone on the PPG Chevy. I think the car has been awesome, and I finally got it to my liking the last six or seven races. So, I’m really proud of everyone at Team Penske and I’m really excited for next year. This year was a foundation year; all about building and I feel like I’ve done that. Hopefully I can be a little bit further up next year.”

No. 12 Verizon 5G Dallara/Chevrolet – Will Power

Start: 12th

Finish: 10th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 85/85

Laps Led:  0

Points Position:  9th (-192)

  • Will Power and the No. 12 Verizon 5G Chevrolet team battled for track position throughout the streets of Long Beach, ultimately finishing 10th.
  • Starting from the 12th position, Power was immediately shuffled back after narrowly avoiding a lap one incident that brought the first caution of the day. Making up a few spots when the green came back out, Power stayed on track as the first group of pit stops commenced until he brought the Verizon 5G Chevy in from the fifth position for red Firestone tires, fuel and wing adjustment/air pressure adjustment.
  • Once pit stops cycled through, Power found himself in 18th, but by the halfway mark he had charged through the field to the 12th position. Going off a two-stop strategy, Power made his final stop of the day on lap 53 for fresh red Firestone tires and another wing adjustment.
  • The matte black Verizon 5G Chevy cycled back to 12th and Power was able to gain a few more positions before the race end to finish 10th – his seventh top-10 finish of the season.
  • Power and the No. 12 team collected a handful of accomplishments including one win, one pole award and four podiums to finish ninth in the point standings.

Quote: “Yeah, I wish we could’ve had a better end to the season. I had a lot of potential in the last three races, just had really bad luck in some instances. We’ve got a great Verizon 5G Chevrolet and a great team. We have a lot of potential so we’ll have a very close look at everything this year and come back swinging next year. I don’t think we showed what we really had this year as a team, as a whole. I think we all had a lot more potential so looking for a big year next year.”

No. 22 Menards Dallara/Chevrolet – Simon Pagenaud

Start: 4th

Finish: 5th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 85/85

Laps Led: 0

Points Position: 8th (-166 pts)

  • Simon Pagenaud and the No. 22 Menards Chevrolet had their sights set on a podium finish after starting fourth in the Long Beach Grand Prix, but closed out the 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series season with the team’s third top-five finish of the year.
  • Starting the 85-lap race on black Firestone tires, Pagenaud fell a few spots in the opening laps before making his first pit stop on lap 20 as the yellow flag fell for the switch to red Firestone tires and a top off on fuel. The No. 22 Menards Chevy cycled out to sixth after the rest of the field had come through and Pagenaud maintained that position until his final stop of the day.
  • As cars made their way down pit road for their second scheduled stops, Pagenaud opted to stop for another set of red Firestone tires on lap 53. Feeling the car was handling well, the team made no adjustments and the yellow day glow Chevy was back out on track.
  • Once again the No. 22 team found themselves up to sixth once pit stops were complete as Pagenaud tried to remain within striking distance of the leaders. Unfortunately the No. 22 Menards Chevy was only able to collect one more spot to finish the day in fifth.
  • In a season filled with adversity, Pagenaud finishes the season eighth in points after earning two podium finishes and three top-five finishes on the year.

Quote: “P5 today in Long Beach. I enjoyed the weekend so much. We had so much pace, the car was beautiful. Obviously, the yellow day glow was bright out there. It was awesome and I enjoyed the race. We started on the black Firestone tires, trying to do something different than the others and hopefully gain position in the next exchange going to red tires versus the black. It could have worked but we had a bad pit stop unfortunately so we settled where we were, yellow came out and we were in good shape, finished fifth. I think that was about where we could have been so pretty happy with today. Thank you to Chevy, thank you to Menards, and thank you Team Penske. It was an amazing weekend.”