c J Wagner-20210926_143049-01995-Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach-Historic Formula Atlantic race+IndyCar race-Colin Herta won-Alex Palou champ+Stadium Super Trucks+Palou presser+VIDEO-A1-100-400+14TC-02465- 6in x 300dpi


One of several race series at this action-packed weekend — ALL WITH PHOTOS!

The last time IndyCars raced on the streets of Long Beach, California was in April of 2019, due to COVID-19. An eager, enthusiastic crowd of over 180,000 race fans was more than ready for their late September 2021 return, in the 46th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

This event is much more than car racing. It is a party at the beach.

Live entertainment includes a Saturday night outdoor concert and live music throughout the weekend.

The large “Lifestyle Expo” in the Long Beach Convention Center is packed full of all sorts of exhibits — with giveaways, shopping and lots of things to see and do. Throughout the venue are many different food vendors. All of this, and more, contributes to a great party atmosphere.

Inside the “Lifestyle Expo”
Inside the “Lifestyle Expo”
Inside the “Lifestyle Expo”
Inside the “Lifestyle Expo”
Inside the “Lifestyle Expo”
Inside the “Lifestyle Expo”

IndyCar was the marquis series in a fantastic race weekend that included the IMSA Sports Car Grand Prix…

Stadium SUPER Trucks (two races)…

Formula Drift Super Drift Challenge…

Global Time Attack Competition…

and Historic Formula Atlantic Challenge.

Traditionally this event is held in April (as it will be again, on April 8 – 10, 2022) but, due to precautions related to COVID-19, this year’s Long Beach event was moved to being the final race in the 2021 Championship season.

IndyCar Series Championship Trophy

The excitement level was even higher than usual, since the IndyCar Series Champion had not yet been decided going into this race. Three drivers, representative of the truly international field of drivers — Josef Newgarden, from Nashville, Tennessee, driving the Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet (2); Alex Palou, from Barcelona, Spain, driving the NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Honda (10); and Pato O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, driving the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet (5) — all three went into the weekend with a chance at becoming the 2021 IndyCar Series Champion.

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach CEO Jim Michaelian
Retired IndyCar racer Willy T. Ribbs was there.

The field of 28 IndyCars were on the 1.698-mile track for three days, with practice on Friday, qualifying and the Firestone Fast 6 on Saturday, and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach IndyCar race on Sunday afternoon.

People were taken for rides around the track in a special two-seat IndyCar.

In practice, Colton Herta, from Valencia, California, driving the Gainbridge Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Honda (26), was quick right from the get-go, setting the fastest lap time in Practice Sessions 1 (01.09.2680 with a speed of 102.281 mph) and 2 (01:07.9783 with a speed of 104.221 mph). Remember, this race is run on city streets!

Jan Wagner, ready to take pictures

Qualifying on Saturday was divided into three elimination rounds, with the quickest of the field of 28 drivers advancing to subsequent rounds, ultimately competing head-to-head in the Firestone Fast 6. The Fast 6 drivers, in order, were Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist and rookie (and former Formula 1 driver) Romain Grosjean. Colton Herta was buried deep in the field in 14th position — but he would not remain there for long after the race began.

IndyCar Firestone Fast 6 driver Simon Pagenaud

In the race, Championship contender Pato O’Ward was eliminated from contention early, due to a collision with Ed Jones. Josef Newgarden ran a strong race, but ultimately his second place finish was not enough to deny Alex Palou the IndyCar Series Championship. He drove a smart race, not taking unnecessary chances, and finished in a solid fourth place.

IndyCar rookie Scott McLaughlin
Graham Rahal (15) racing against Pato O’Ward (5)
Graham Rahal (15) racing against Pato O’Ward (5)
IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson (48) racing against Graham Rahal (15)
Alex Palou (10) racing against Simon Pagenaud (22)
Marcus Ericsson (8) racing against Alexander Rossi (27)
Marcus Ericsson (8) hit the tire wall in Turn 1
Cleaning up after Marcus Ericsson’s accident

Showing the same quick form that he showed in practice, Colton Herta led an impressive 43 laps, including the one that mattered most, winning the race with an elapsed time of 01:49:10.3764 at an average speed of 91.935 mph — ahead of Josef Newgarden in second place and Scott Dixon in third. NASCAR transplant and IndyCar rookie Jimmie Johnson had a good day, advancing from his starting position of 27th to finish 17th.

Jimmie Johnson (48) racing against Ed Jones (18)
Jack Harvey (60)
James Hinchcliffe (29) leads Alex Palou (10)
Josef Newgarden (2) leads Scott Dixon (9)
IndyCar rookie and former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean (51)
Colton Herta (26)
Josef Newgarden (2) continues to lead Scot Dixon (9)
Fast-charging Colton Herta (26)
Josef Newgarden (2)
Alex Palou (10)
Romain Grosjean (10)
Alexander Rossi (10)
Takuma Sato (30)
Felix Rosenqvist (7)
Jimmie Johnson (48)
Ryan Hunter-Reay (28)
Colton Herta (26)
Ed Jones (18)
Takuma Sato (30) leads Scott Dixon (9)
Graham Rahal (15)
Max Chilton (59)
Pato O’Ward (5)
Scott Dixon (9)
Will Power (12)
Jimmie Johnson (48)
Alex Palou (10)
Felix Rosenqvist (7)
Ed Jones (18)
Ryan Hunter-Reay (28)
Colton Herta (26) — Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach IndyCar race winner

For complete race results, leader changes, cautions and penalties, visit gplb.com/results/

Alex Palou (10) — IndyCar 2021 Series Champion
Alex Palou celebrates with the 2021 IndyCar Series Championship trophy
As is his tradition, Alex is also given a box of “Pop-Tarts” to celebrate. Note the Championship ring!


“Porsche Motorsport North America, International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and Grand Prix Association of Long Beach officials announced … that the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will run two rounds of the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by The Cayman Islands during its April 8-10, 2022 race weekend. Porsche Carrera Cup is one of the preeminent one-make racing series in the world and sanctioned by IMSA. Every car competing in the series is identical: the road car-based Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car, which places the emphasis on driver and team talent to win.”

Copyright © 2021 by Jan Wagner — AutoMatters & More 714r1

Jan Wagner


  1. David Sperry on October 28, 2021 at 11:49 pm

    I watched this race on TV. Your well illustrated article covers much more than the race itself, and gave me a flavor of what it would be like to be there in person. Thanks.

    • Jan Wagner on October 29, 2021 at 12:53 am

      Thanks David,
      This is a very expensive project for colleges to undertake, which helps to explain the reduced number of participating colleges and colleges joining forces, from what was originally anticipated.Hopefully by the time of the next event, which I think will happen — but not at Indianapolis Motor Speedway again — an actual wheel-to-wheel race will actually take place instead of one car at a time. Based on what I saw with the crashes and system failures, a race this time around would probably have ended in a big wreck soon after Spot waved the green flag.

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