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The key storylines from the Long Beach Grand Prix

Written by Caitlyn Gordon, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Credit: Joe Skibinski

After a month-long interval, IndyCar returned to the screens for its second points-scoring race of the season. 

The 27-car field headed to California, with one of the biggest storylines heading into the weekend being the 2023 F2 champion Theo Pourchaire piloting the No.6 Arrow McLaren car, as the beginning of Callum Ilott’s endurance campaign in Imola clashed with Long beach. Let’s dive into the biggest storylines coming out of the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Another Scott Dixon masterclass

Credit: Joe Skibinski

Scott Dixon once again displayed his greatness, securing his 56th IndyCar victory, and only his second at Long Beach — with 2024 becoming the 20th consecutive season where the Kiwi has won a race! 

When the safety car came out, Dixon’s team opted for the alternative strategy which Will Power was on, meaning for the remainder of the race he would be running long stints and would need to be in ultra fuel saving mode. 

With 51 laps to go, Dixon pitted for the final time, giving Newgarden time to gain some track position, but it wasn’t long before the pair would have to battle it out for the victory. 

Colton Herta and Alex Palou pitted, promoting Dixon up into the race lead once again, and though the odds of him winning the race remained low due to his strategy, the ‘Iceman’ was the man to pull it off. 

With the final stages of the race coming in fast, Newgarden was clocking in times in the range of a second and a half quicker than Dixon, and with 16 laps to go, the gap narrowed to just a couple of seconds. 

However, this didn’t phase the No.9 in the slightest, strategically using his push-to-pass to keep ahead of the No.2. His job was made a lot easier when Herta bumped the back of Newgarden’s car, causing the hungry American to back off due to his anti-stall setting off. 

On the last lap, Dixon had enough fuel to go full-send — which he did, crossing the line and even doing some burn-outs to celebrate his win. 

After the incredible victory, Dixon spoke to about how he managed to keep his rivals behind him:

“The pressure was coming hard and strong,”

“But I knew they would burn their tires off pretty quickly with a kind of 10-lap offset. I think they had to close a 10- or 12-second lap. The abuse was coming thick and fast.

“I think we could have had the status quo there with Josef. We had over a hundred seconds of OT [push-to-pass] left. I think he was down to the 20s by the time he even got to me.”

Following the disqualification of the Penske cars from the Grand Prix of St Petersburg, Dixon now leads the championship with 79 points.

Disastrous weekend for Team Penske

Credit: Chris Owens

Team Penske’s drivers had a difficult weekend in Long Beach, after coming off two strong weekends at St. Petersburg and The Thermal Club, there was anticipation that the trend may continue in California. 

Whilst two of Penske’s drivers, Will Power and Josef Newgarden started on the front two rows, their teammate Scott McLaughlin, on the other hand, started in 11th, after struggling to pick up pace in qualifying. The problems started during Sunday’s race day, all was running well for Penske with Power taking first out of Felix Rosenqvist’s wheels and holding the position. 

When a caution was flown due to the Kyffin Simpson hitting the wall, the team decided to opt for an alternative strategy. The strategy meant for the remainder of the race, Power was in ultra fuel saving mode, which saw the Australian dropping down the pecking order before crossing the line in sixth. 

Newgarden as well had a great start to the Grand Prix, keeping close to the front, and when the caution was brought out, the American stayed out and gained track position, which came handy later on. Near the end of the race it was a drag race to the finish line, with Newgarden just inches away from catching the No.9. 

The American was catching up and was looking set to go wheel-to-wheel with Dixon before he was clipped by Herta, causing him to activate his anti-stall and lock up, and what was looking to be a great race for the No.2 ended in tragedy with him dropping down to fourth. 

McLaughlin had a lot of track to make up for, and as the Long Beach Grand Prix started to settle down, the New Zealander was making up positions. However, it all came crashing down with 14 laps to go. McLaughlin’s car started to slow down, with cars flying past him, the No.3 limped to pit road and retired from the race due to a mechanical failure. 

Whilst the race weekend was over, the drama followed Penske into the mid-week where it was announced Newgarden and McLaughlin were disqualified from St. Petersburg after breaching Push to Pass rules. 

The pair had their podium finishes and points stripped of them and received a $25,000 fine each. Power on the other hand wasn’t found to be as liable, therefore he wasn’t disqualified but was issued with a time penalty. The bombshell news now see’s Newgarden fall to 11th in the standings, while McLaughlin drop to 29th, and dead last in the standings.

The Arrow McLaren civil war

Credit: Chris Owens

Penske wasn't the only team to struggle around the 1.9-mile long circuit. Arrow McLaren were also finding it difficult to get grip and pace around the track. Qualifying saw Alexander Rossi and Pato O’Ward start in 13th and 14th respectively with O’Ward stating ‘there was no explanation’ for lack of pace. 

The pair headed into the Grand Prix on Sunday which started out smoothly, however, on lap four, as the two bright Papaya cars headed into Turn 4, O’Ward rear-ended Rossi’s car, causing the American to pick up left-rear damage and having to head to pit road, making Rossi’s job of recovering his race weekend more difficult. 

The incident meant O’Ward was headed for a drive-through penalty; it saw the pair drop down to 26th and 27th. 

Not all hope was lost for Rossi, who made a remarkable recovery up into 10th, running ahead rookie teammate Theo Pourchaire. O’Ward made improvements as well, but ultimately couldn’t get into the top 10, he finished in 16th. Overall the weekend was one to forget for Arrow McLaren.

Strong debut from Theo Pourchaire

Credit: Theo Pourchaire

On the other hand, F2 champion Pourchaire headed into his first race weekend with IndyCar. The Frenchman started in 22nd and gained positions throughout the race, as he looked level-headed around the circuit, never once looking like it was his first race in the championship. 

As the race started to fan out, Pourchaire continued to climb up the ranks. Arrow McLaren opted for the conservative strategy, meaning the Frenchman could continuously push throughout the race, and gain some crucial experience on how to overtake in IndyCar. 

Pourchair crossed the line in 11th, making up eight positions and earning the Fastest Mover Award on debut. The smile beamed from his race in the post-race interview, where he expressed his excitement and admiration for the championship: 

“For me, the racing in IndyCar is amazing,”

“The racing is really good. It's so tough. We're fighting for a tenth of a second or even less. I enjoyed it. Fighting with cars, going out of the pit lane on cold tyres, overtaking them; it's so cool. I enjoyed it. I hope to be back in the future.”

With David Malukas still in recovery, it was confirmed that Pourchaire would be taking the seat for the third round in Alabama. 

IndyCar’s return in Long Beach kicks off an action packed coming month, with IndyCar racing six out of the next seven weekends, the next race at Alabama on the 28th.


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