Kyle Kirkwood’s first career NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory Sunday in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach came at the same circuit where Michael Andretti, his team owner, scored his maiden win in 1986.
Kirkwood earned his first win in his 20th career start and third with Andretti Autosport, which he joined this season after driving for AJ Foyt Racing in 2022 as a rookie.
“It’s incredible,” Kirkwood said. “It's so cool. Everything has been timed perfectly. I'm so thankful for the opportunity that they've given me. The car was amazing today. It was fantastic. The feeling I got at the end, I was trying to hold tears back in the car, which is something I've never really felt before all through the ladder system.
“It almost feels like through my entire open-wheel ladder series career, I always wanted more. I'd win a bunch of races, and I'd be like, ‘OK, I need to get to the next one, keep progressing.’ Today was the first time I was able to actually soak it in and acknowledge I've done something incredible. So, it's really cool.”
Kirkwood joined his team owner on the list of illustrious drivers who earned their first career INDYCAR SERIES wins at Long Beach – Paul Tracy, Juan Pablo Montoya, Takuma Sato and Mike Conway.
“Oh, it's huge,” Andretti said. “I know he's going to remember this day for a long, long time. Well, forever, I think.
“It's always extra special to do it at places like here in Long Beach. It's just a great event, great history, great fans. The fans are so into it. You just love doing well here.
“Yeah, for us Andrettis, it's been a very special place for us. I won my first and very last race of my INDYCAR career here. My dad (Mario) I think won four times. He's the only time an American won a Formula One race on American soil. There's so many things we've been able to do here in Long Beach to make it that special for us.”
Kirkwood became the first new winner in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES since Scott McLaughlin won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding in February 2022.
Honda Surges to Top-Five Sweep
While Andretti Autosport and Chip Ganassi Racing divided up the top five finishing positions with Kirkwood, Romain Grosjean, Marcus Ericsson, Colton Herta and Alex Palou, there was one common denominator: They were all powered by Honda in the prestigious Southern California street race sponsored by Acura, a division of Honda.
“Five Hondas in the top five in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach?” Ericsson said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Reigning series champion Will Power placed sixth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, the first Chevy-powered finisher.
O’Ward Slips from Lead after Eventful Day
Pato O’Ward entered the weekend as the championship leader by seven points but fell to second, 15 behind Ericsson, after a rough day at the office Sunday.
O’Ward made contact while trying to dive under six-time series champion Scott Dixon in Turn 8 on Lap 20, sending Dixon’s No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing into the tire barrier. Six laps later, O’Ward spun into the same barrier after trying to make the same passing maneuver under Kirkwood, also with side-by-side contact. O’Ward resumed in the race but ended up a lap down at the finish in 17th place in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
While O’Ward appeared rough and ready in the two early incidents involving contact, he earned courtesy points from Kirkwood, Grosjean and Ericsson with four laps remaining, pulling over on the back straight to get lapped and let the lead trio pass with no resistance.
The contact with O’Ward was one chapter of a frustrating day for Dixon. He ended up retiring due to an oil pressure problem after completing 37 laps and was credited with 27th – his worst result since finishing 32nd in the 2017 Indianapolis 500.
Dixon expressed the move by O’Ward as being “extremely late” and “wouldn’t have chosen to do that.”
Said O’Ward: “I’m not going to apologize for that. We’re racing, so a lot of times when I’ve been in that situation, I’ve kind of just let the guy go because if you’re on the outside, you’re more vulnerable to those things happening.”
Rosenqvist Salvages Sunday for Arrow McLaren
Felix Rosenqvist finished seventh to leave a positive note on an otherwise tough weekend for Arrow McLaren on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street circuit.
Teammates O’Ward and Alexander Rossi were both on par for strong finishes, but misery ultimately fell through the checkered flag with finishes of 17th and 22nd, respectively.
The result Sunday helped put Rosenqvist’s season back on track with his first top 10 result of the season in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.
“Yeah, it’s good to be back,” Rosenqvist said. “P7 is definitely not bad in INDYCAR these days. It is tight. We, as a team, had a bit of a disappointing qualifying, and I think those days you have to take what you can get.
“Good pace. Good racing. We were sporty. Good pit stops. It just wasn't our day for a win, but we were quick, and we were up there. So, just have to keep doing what we're doing. Try to qualify bit better at Barber (Motorsports Park) and see if we can do it there.”
Power Paces Penske Trio
After being the worst qualifier among Team Penske’s trio Saturday, reigning series champion Power propelled from 13th on the grid to finish sixth in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet to lead the team.
Josef Newgarden finished ninth in the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, with Scott McLaughlin 10th in the No. 2 Sonsio Team Penske Chevrolet.
“It was just experience and fuel-save conservation,” Power said. “I’ve done it for so many years; it’s just absolutely my wheelhouse. To have a race like that, I was just right in my element.”
Ferrucci Flying Flag for Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing didn’t light up qualifying with Santino Ferrucci starting 18th and rookie Benjamin Pedersen 23rd, but determination and effort by the team’s No. 14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet-driven by Santino Ferrucci resulted in an 11th-place finish.
“Yeah, we've been struggling with this mid-corner understeer all weekend long,” Ferrucci said. “We threw a bunch of things at the car, at the race. Still not exactly the easiest race in the world saving that much fuel, but honestly, the only cars that finished in front of us were (Arrow McLaren), Penske, Ganassi and Andretti.”
Ferrucci spoke truth. He was the top finisher outside of the “Big Four” teams in the series.
Odds & Ends
- Between Kirkwood and Rossi, the No. 27 Honda for Andretti Autosport has three poles and three wins over the last five races at Long Beach.
- Kirkwood exited the weekend fifth in the championship after entering this race 20th.
- There were 253 on-track passes today, the most at Long Beach since INDYCAR started recording the stat here in 2009.
- Agustín Canapino used an early pit cycle to lead his first-ever INDYCAR SERIES laps at Long Beach. The Argentine was out front for three laps from Laps 23-25 but finished 25th, hampered by a mechanical problem in the No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet.
- It was revealed on race morning that reserved seating for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach was sold out by Saturday night.
- American Sydney McLaughlin, the world record holder in the 400-meter hurdles and Olympic gold medalist, met Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin and went for a ride in the Fastest Seat in Sports with Davey Hamilton.
- Anaheim Ducks center Adam Henrique gave the command to start engines as the grand marshal.
- A constellation of celebrities also was in attendance on race day, including:
- Arash Markazi: founder & CEO, Sporting Tribune.
- Zach Lugo: Lifestyle influencer with more than 12 million social media followers
- Jake McDorman: The star of new Peacock series “Mrs. Davis” took a two-seater ride.
- Adam Carolla: New York Times best-selling author, comedian and host of “The Adam Carolla Show.”
- Omar Benson Miller: Actor from CBS shows “True Lies” and “CSI Miami.”
- The Smoking Tire Podcast: Los Angeles-based podcast and media house focused on the automotive industry with hosts Matt Farah and Zach Klapman.
- Erick Coomes: Grammy-nominated bass player from the funk band Lettuce who grew up in Long Beach.
- Amymarie Gaertner: Dancer, choreographer and social media influencer.