Sting Ray Robb

The third round of the 2023 season for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will feature a street fight in the land of sun and surf at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Kyle Kirkwood earned his first career NTT P1 Award with a stellar performance in qualifying, pushing the limit of his No. 27 AutoNation Honda to a flying lap of 1 minute, 6.2878 seconds around the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit. He was one of three Andretti Autosport drivers to make the top 10, with Romain Grosjean and Colton Herta ending up third and seventh, respectively.

SEE: Starting Lineup

Since 2008, which spans 14 races (2020 race canceled due to the pandemic), the pole-sitter has only gone on to win at Long Beach on two occasions (2018, ’19). However, a driver starting on the front row has gone on to claim victory five times during that span, including the two aforementioned poles.

Marcus Ericsson will attack the race from second in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, only his second career front-row start in 65 career races, which ties his previous best that happened on one other occasion (World Wide Technology Raceway, 2022). The Swedish driver sits second in the championship standings at 75 points, with Pato O’Ward setting the benchmark with 82.

Live coverage of the 85-lap race begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR LIVE and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Repeating History?

Everyone has seen this show before from Josef Newgarden, the two-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion.

Last year, he finished 16th in St. Petersburg before going on to claim back-to-back wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Long Beach. He opened up 2023 in a similar way with a 17th-place finish to start the year in St. Petersburg and followed it by winning again in the Lone Star State. A win on Sunday would nearly mirror the start from last year, but even with the stats being nearly identical, the driver of the No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet isn’t quite buying in.

“Yes and no,” Newgarden said. “I think from a results standpoint it looks identical, which is odd. But from a flow standpoint, it's very different.

“St. Petersburg was a really different race for us. The engine (fire) was different than last year. I felt like Texas was very different for us this year. I actually thought we had a super-quick car and the quickest car in the field as far as speed. We weren't strong in the middle of the race, but just from car speed I thought we were the best, which gives me a lot of confidence for when we go to other super-speedways. And the team, in general, I feel it was in a good spot at the beginning last year, and it feels like it's just as good of a spot, if not better.”

Rent’s Due

Sometimes stats show a trend, but sometimes the trend is just due to be bucked. The last driver to win from pole at Long Beach was Alexander Rossi in 2019, whom ironically 2023 pole sitter Kirkwood replaced this season in Andretti Autosport’s No. 27 Honda entry.

While Kirkwood is trying to win from pole for the first time under the SoCal sun since his predecessor, he is also trying to become the first driver to capture his maiden victory in Long Beach since Takuma Sato in 2013 while driving for AJ Foyt Racing, coincidentally the team for which Kirkwood drove during his rookie year last season.

Malukas Cleared To Race

Driver David Malukas was cleared by INDYCAR medical officials to race today in the No. 18 HMD Honda after a hard crash during the first round of qualifying Saturday.

Malukas, who finished fourth in the last event at Texas, has a lot of work to do today to get toward the front. He is starting 25th in the 27-car field after the accident eliminated him from the first round of qualifying.

Newgarden Leads Warmup

Reigning Long Beach winner Josef Newgarden rallied from a disappointing NTT P1 Award qualifying session Saturday to lead the morning warmup with a top lap of 1:06.5611. Newgarden will start eighth today.

There were no surprises among the top five after the 30-minute session, as Rossi (1:06.7540), Herta (1:06:8118), Scott Dixon (1:07.0286) and NTT P1 Award winner Kirkwood (1:07.0492) followed Newgarden in the order.

Of note, though: Two Chevrolet-powered drivers led the warmup after Honda-powered drivers swept the top five spots in qualifying yesterday.

Previous Long Beach Winners

There are six previous winners in the field of 27 cars, including last year’s victor Newgarden, along with Dixon (2015), Herta (2021), Simon Pagenaud (2016), Will Power (2008, ’12) and Rossi (2018, ’19).

Among the previous winners, Dixon starts the highest, with his No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda lining up fifth. The lowest among those to reach Victory Lane at Long Beach is Pagenaud, who will start 14th in the No. 60 SiriusXM/AutoNaton Honda for Meyer Shank Racing.

Surf’s up!