Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood graduated from promising youngster to IndyCar winner at today’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The 24-year-old Floridian converted pole position to a poised victory on the famous California streets.
Kirkwood Comes of Age
Kirkwood made his debut in 2022 for the AJ Foyt Enterprises racing team. It was a difficult rookie season as Kirkwood cultivated a reputation for crashing. After winning four junior championships on the Road To Indy, people expected a lot from the Jupiter driver. He failed to deliver, but an offseason switch to Andretti Autosport promised much. However, Kirkwood blotted his copybook with silly incidents at St. Petersburg and Texas. The pressure was on, but the sophomore IndyCar racer delivered a calm, composed, mistake-free drive as he held off teammate Romain Grosjean in the late stages. Even when Kirkwood fell behind two-time champion Josef Newgarden, he maintained his composure and poise. It was a coming-of-age drive from Kirkwood.
Andretti’s Street Circuit Package is Money
In the second street-circuit race of the 2023 season, Andretti Autosport came home with three cars in the top four, including a first and second. All weekend, the Andretti cars looked rapid. The vehicle was pliable over the bumps and had good traction and solid braking stability. Kirkwood told NBC after the race that his car was reliable all weekend, and they did not have to chase the setup too much. Add those results to Grosjean’s incredible speed in St. Petersburg, and the Andretti cars look to have aced street-circuit racing. With more street-circuit races in Detroit, Toronto, and Nashville later this season, Andretti should fancy their chances for more wins.
Bad Day for Championship Contenders
Perennial championship contenders Pato O’Ward, Josef Newgarden, and Scott Dixon experienced challenging afternoons. Dixon got bumped into a tire wall by O’Ward before an oil pressure problem ended his race. Texas Motor Speedway winner Newgarden led for 27 laps before falling to a ninth-place finish. Hamstrung by fuel-saving and the alternate tire strategy not working, the two-time champion signed off his weekend by saying, ‘a lousy day in Los Angeles is a better day than anywhere else.’
Championship leader O’Ward surrendered the lead after making a mistake and spinning at turn eight after a pace car period. That compromised his race, and he finished outside of the points.
Driver of The Day – Kyle Kirkwood
Winning your first race is memorable for all racing drivers. Kyle Kirkwood matched his maiden pole position with a maiden win. He joins the likes of Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr., and Helio Castroneves by converting pole to victory in Long Beach. He was the only choice for driver of the day.
The next IndyCar race is in two weeks at Barber Motorsports Park for the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix. Before that, testing commences for the Indianapolis 500. May is almost here, and IndyCar is hurtling toward the Brickyard with a balanced championship.