Pato O'Ward

Today’s question: Who will win the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, April 21 (3 p.m. ET, USA, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network)?

Curt Cavin: I’ve already talked myself into about five different scenarios, and the first wheel hasn’t yet been turned in this legendary Southern California event. I keep thinking how I must pick an Andretti Global driver since three of them finished in the top four last year in Long Beach while another – Marcus Ericsson – moved to the team since finishing third here last year. My head also likes Josef Newgarden, who dominated last month’s street race in St. Petersburg, and then there’s that guy Alex Palou, who mopped the field at The Thermal Club. But it’s time for a redemption race, so give me Pato O’Ward, who for better or worse was the driver we couldn’t keep our eyes off last year in this event. O’Ward is brave and bold, and this is a risk/reward race. If he can keep contact to a minimum, he continues his strong start to this season.

Eric Smith: Like Curt, there’s several drivers and scenarios that went through my mind. For the sake of holding back some information for weekend features (stay tuned), I’ll pick Marcus Ericsson. Three of Ericsson’s four career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victories have come on street circuits. All three came at a different venue (St. Petersburg, Nashville, Belle Isle). While Long Beach isn’t a street course where he’s won, he’s been close. Ericsson was fourth and eighth respectively in practice a season ago, qualified second and finished third. Granted, that was for his former team, Chip Ganassi Racing. For his new team, Andretti Global, Ericsson has maintained that street course speed. For the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, Ericsson qualified his No. 28 Delaware Life Honda sixth, and if not for bad luck via a mechanical issue during the race, was destined for a top-10 result. Ericsson was also quickest in the preseason test at Sebring International Raceway, a track that closely resembles a street circuit.

Paul Kelly: It still surprises me to think Arrow McLaren hasn’t won a race since July 24, 2022, when Pato O’Ward captured the second event of the doubleheader weekend at Iowa Speedway. That was 21 months ago. But that drought ends this weekend, and I think California native Alexander Rossi puts papaya back on the top step of the podium in the Golden State. There are two reasons why I think Rossi gets back into the winner’s circle Sunday. One, he knows how to win on the streets of Long Beach, taking consecutive victories here in 2018-19 while driving for Andretti Autosport. Rossi is the only driver with consecutive wins at this iconic event since 2008. Two, and this is far more of a “feel thing” than statistics, Rossi is due. Heck, he’s more overdue than a library book lost in a closet. As much as it puzzles me how Arrow McLaren is winless in the last 23 points-paying NTT INDYCAR SERIES events, it’s even more mind-boggling that Rossi has just one win since 2019, capturing the Gallagher Grand Prix in July 2022 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. That dry spell ends Sunday, which is good because a series with a feisty, no-BS Rossi in the consistent mix for race wins and a championship is an even more interesting series.