Saturday, April 9, 2022

Morning Warm-Up: Long Beach 2022

Last year, Colton Herta led 43 laps from 14th position last year on his way to his first Long beach victory. This year, Herta will have less work to do to get to the lead, as the California-native won pole position with a lap at 65.3095 seconds in the final round of qualifying. It is Herta's eighth career pole position and he has won from pole position four times in his career. Herta has won the last three IndyCar races to take place in California. Herta could become the eighth driver to win consecutive Long Beach races.

Josef Newgarden makes it an all-American row one, but Newgarden was 0.4455 seconds off Herta's pole-winning time. The only time Newgarden has won consecutive races in his IndyCar career was at Toronto and Mid-Ohio in 2017. He has been runner-up in the last two Long Beach races and on the podium in three of the last four Long Beach visits. 

Álex Palou enters Long Beach third in the championship, and Palou will start third, his best starting position of the 2022 season. The 2021 champion was 0.5572 seconds off Herta's pole time. Palou has five consecutive top ten finishes, the longest top ten streak of his career. Third starting position has produced five Long Beach winners, including two Chip Ganassi Racing Long Beach winners. 

Felix Rosenqvist ended up fourth, 0.6254 seconds behind Herta. This is the second consecutive race Rosenqvist has started in the top five, the first time he has had consecutive top five starting position since the first two races of his career in 2020. Rosenqvist had three top five finishes in his first five IndyCar street course starts. In his last six IndyCar street course starts, he has zero top five finishes and only one top ten finish, eighth last year at Nashville. 

Alexander Rossi will be making his 100th start this weekend from fifth on the grid, and Rossi enters in the worst championship position of his career in 27th. This is only the third time Rossi has been outside the top twenty in the championship in his career. The other two races were after the 2020 Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the following race at Road America. Rossi was 0.7579 seconds behind Herta in the Fast Six, but Rossi was only 0.1718 seconds off Herta in the Fast 12. 

Romain Grosjean's hopes of a pole position were dashed when he got into the barrier during his qualifying run in the Fast Six, deleting his fastest two laps and relegating him to sixth on the grid. Grosjean topped the pre-qualifying practice session. His most recent street course victory was June 25, 2011 in the GP2 Series feature race on the Valencia street course.

Will Power missed out on the Fast Six by 0.0001 seconds. If Will Power takes the green flag, it will be his 16th consecutive Grand Prix of Long Beach start, which would be a new record, breaking a tie with Bobby Rahal, Al Unser, Jr. and Jimmy Vasser. Power would be tied for the fifth-most Long Beach starts with Vasser on 16 starts. The only time Power has won from seventh on the grid was the 2007 Toronto race, Power's second career victory.

Car #8 will start eighth, as Marcus Ericsson will be to the outside of Will Power at the start. The Swede was 0.0803 seconds outside the Fast Six. Ericsson has 11 top ten finishes in his last 12 starts. He had 15 top ten finishes in his first 35 career starts. He has failed to finish on the lead lap in his previous two Long Beach starts. 

Championship leader Scott McLaughlin will roll off from ninth on the grid. McLaughlin has opened the season with a first-place finish and a runner-up finish. The last driver to open the season with a first-place finish and a runner-up finish was Josef Newgarden in 2019. Newgarden won the championship that season. With his runner-up finish in Texas, McLaughlin became the 13th driver to open the season with a first and a second since 1946. The bad news is only four of those previous 12 occasions saw that driver win the championship. Besides Newgarden, the other three are Johnnie Parsons in 1949, Bill Sweikert in 1955 and Will Power in 2014.

Simon Pagenaud rounds out the top ten. Pagenaud topped the opening practice session on Friday. He has six top five finishes in ten Long Beach starts. He has only led in two of those Long Beach starts, 26 led in 2012 on his way to finishing second, his first career IndyCar podium finish, and 28 laps in 2016 on his way to victory.

Patricio O'Ward starts 11th, his worst starting position at Long Beach. O'Ward has started in the top ten in his first two Long Beach starts, however he finished outside the top ten in both those races. O'Ward enters with three consecutive finishes outside the top ten. The only time he has failed to pick up a top ten finish in four consecutive IndyCar starts were his final three starts in 2019 and the 2020 Texas season opener.

Kyle Kirkwood advanced from round one and he will start 12th, matching his career best IndyCar start. Kirkwood won three of four street course races in Indy Lights last year, including a sweep of the Belle Isle doubleheader. He also has three Toronto victories between U.S. F2000 and Indy Pro 2000, and Kirkwood won on his U.S. F2000 debut at St. Petersburg in 2018.

Graham Rahal was over a tenth off of advancing out of round one and he will start 13th. This will be Rahal's 15th Long Beach start, matching his father Bobby's number of Long Beach starts. Bobby Rahal never won at Long Beach, but he had four runner-up finishes. Bobby Rahal led only one lap at Long Beach. Graham Rahal has led four laps at Long Beach. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has not had a top ten starter through three races this season. 

Hélio Castronveves joins Rahal on row seven after falling 0.0686 seconds off advancing. Castroneves has not had a top ten finish in his last six starts, matching the six start drought he had from the 2018 Indianapolis 500 through the second race of the 2020 Harvest Grand Prix weekend. He ended that drought with his Indianapolis 500 victory last year.  The only time Castroneves has gone seven races without a top ten finish was from Michigan to Surfers Paradise in 1998, starts #12 through #18 in Castroneves career. This weekend marks Castroneves' 360th start. 

Rinus VeeKay will be on the inside of row eight. VeeKay's 2022 season has a near identical opening to his 2021 season. Last year, he opened with a sixth and a ninth. This year, he has opened with a sixth and a tenth. Ed Carpenter Racing has not had a top ten finisher in the last three Long Beach races.

Scott Dixon starts 16th, his worst starting position at Long Beach in nine years. Dixon had started on one of the first two rows in six consecutive Long Beach races. He has won the third race of the season the last two seasons and he has finished on the podium in the third race of the season in seven of the last eight seasons, which includes another victory, and that was the 2015 Long Beach race.

Conor Daly ended up 17th in qualifying. This is Daly's seventh consecutive race starting outside the top fifteen and ninth time in the last ten races. Daly won the 2011 Indy Lights race at Long Beach. It is Daly's most recent victory in the United States. Daly is only of three drivers entered in this race that have won in Indy Lights at Long Beach. The others are Hélio Castroneves and Scott Dixon.

David Malukas makes his Long Beach debut from 18th on the grid, a career-best for the rookie. Malukas was on the podium in three of four street course starts last year in Indy Lights, one of which was a victory at. St. Petersburg.

Christian Lundgaard ended up 19th in qualifying and he leads an all-Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing row ten. Lundgaard's best street course finish in two Formula Two seasons was sixth in the first Jeddah sprint race last year. 

In 20th position is Jack Harvey, his fifth consecutive race starting 20th or worse. Harvey is returning after missing the Texas race due to a practice accident. He had started 33 consecutive races prior to that. 

Callum Ilott will start 21st, three spots worse than Ilott's Long Beach debut last September. This will be the first track Ilott has visited for a second time in his IndyCar career. He has reset his personal best finish in each race this season. His 16th-place result at Texas was the best for Juncos Hollinger Racing since René Binder was 16th in the 2018 Barber race. 

Takuma Sato ended up 22nd on the grid, matching his worst Long Beach starting position. Sato started 22nd in 2011 and 2018. In both those races, he went on to finish 21st. Sato has won the third race of the season twice in his career, his first career victory at Long Beach in 2013 and the 2019 Barber race. 

Devlin DeFrancesco was handed a six-grid spot penalty for his avoidable contact incident at Texas. After the penalty, DeFrancesco will start 23rd. He has finished outside the top twenty in the first two races of the season. He is the only driver to have started both races and not finished in the top twenty. The last champion to open the season with consecutive finishes outside the top twenty was Greg Ray in 1999. Only five champions since 1946 opened the season with a finish outside the top twenty.

Dalton Kellett makes it an all-Canadian row 12 in the #4 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet. Kellett completed all 85 laps in last year's Long Beach race. It is the only time he has finished on the lead lap in a street race in his IndyCar career. 

Jimmie Johnson suffered a broken hand in a practice accident on Friday, but he intends to start this race. It will be from 25th on the grid after causing a red flag in his qualifying group, negating his fastest two laps. Johnson's average finish in six street course starts is 23.833 with five finishes outside the top twenty. 

Tatiana Calderón rounds out the grid in 26th. Calderón will become the first woman to start a Long Beach race since Simona de Silvestro and Ana Beatriz ran in 2013. De Silvestro was ninth in that race while Beatriz was 14th. The only top five finish for a woman at Long Beach was Danica Patrick in fourth in the 2009 race.

NBC's coverage of the 47th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach begins at 3:00 p.m. ET with green flag scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET. The race is scheduled for 85 laps.