What was your most vivid memory of the season-ending Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach last weekend?
Curt Cavin: The way Alex Palou handled the pressure of the championship-deciding weekend was impressive, to be sure, but what I liked best about the weekend was Helio Castroneves’ emotional response to contact with Alexander Rossi in the Sunday morning warmup. Of course, I could have done without one of the words he used on television, but INDYCAR needs more visual passion. Formula One has gotten a lot of mileage out of Max Verstappen walking unfazed past Lewis Hamilton and his damaged car after their collision at Monza, and some tension between drivers would be good for this sport, too. I wish we had more races left this season as everyone would be on alert when Castroneves and Rossi got near each other. Instead, we’ll have to file that away for future reference.
Zach Horrall: My most memorable take away is simply, “Damn, Colton Herta.” I left Long Beach incredibly impressed with him. I expected Alex Palou to win the championship, so that wasn’t exactly shocking, but his genuine pleasure to take part in every championship obligation is refreshing and honorable. Meanwhile, Herta rose from 14th to win at his home track. Only three Acrua Grand Prix of Long Beach winners have started further back. And he ended the season with two wins to mark his winningest season in INDYCAR. At Laguna Seca and Long Beach, he combined to lead 134 of 180 laps. That means 75 percent of the last two races have been led by this 21-year-old. I think I know who Palou’s immediate challenger for the Astor Challenge Cup in 2022 is.
Paul Kelly: First off, if anyone wants Powerball numbers, I’ll take your call. I predicted that Alex Palou would win the championship, Colton Herta the race and Scott McLaughlin the Rookie of the Year award at Long Beach. Nothing like hitting the trifecta, although none were daring picks! On a more serious note, I’m sharing the same takeaway as Curt – the F-bomb heard around the racing world by Helio Castroneves after his collision with Alexander Rossi during the race morning warmup. I haven’t seen Helio that angry since he nearly – and unwisely – squared up with muscle-laden former INDYCAR security director Charles Burns next to the racetrack in Edmonton in 2010 after Castroneves was judged to have blocked then teammate Will Power in a dash for the win. This time, the combination of Helio’s profane fire and Rossi’s cool, dismissive snark in their respective interviews about the incident was television, er, streaming, gold. Everyone likes to see drivers who get along, and that comity was something that Romain Grosjean noticed and appreciated right away about the INDYCAR paddock compared to Formula One. But racing is a stressful business in so many ways, and that anxiety breeds passion that sometimes can go over the edge. There’s nothing wrong with that – drivers have superhuman skills, but they are human, after all. Helio did nothing differently than how many of us have reacted when we thought we’ve been cut off on the highway. This flashpoint will simmer and probably be forgotten during the offseason, and a small part of me feels a bit bummed out by that.