Kirkwood Wins Long Beach Grand Prix

Daniel Pineda

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is officially over! The 3-day street racing event was filled to the brim with excitement and blood-pumping thrills. From high-speed IndyCars, to sharp-turning drift cars, to high-flying super trucks, there was something for everyone to enjoy.

The highlight of the event would no doubt be the official NTT IndyCar race of Grand Prix, in which it crowned a new winner in the form of Kyle Kirkwood, the driver of the No. 27 AutoNation Honda.

The win at the Grand Prix came in Kirkwood’s 20th career start and third with Andretti Autosport, which he joined after driving for AJ Foyt Racing as a rookie in 2022. The win at the Grand Prix also solidifies Kirkwood’s first ever career victory in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

“I was so happy with just the pole yesterday, but I’m over the moon right now,” said Kirkwood, describing his reaction to winning the Grand Prix. “This is incredible for the whole team. We had a stellar day for the whole team with Andretti Autosport.”

Kirkwood led for 53 of the 85 laps of the race, and held that lead for good on lap 56. Kirkwood described that at certain points in the race, it became difficult to maintain a strong lead against the other drivers.

“It’s never a fun thing when you’re leading the race,” said Kirkwood. “It was a bit frustrating that some of those cars were there, and that they were racing so hard on that one lap. But we stayed cool. I would’ve liked to lead the race from start to finish, but things like that happen.”

Kirkwood’s victory in Long Beach is also special for a multitude of reasons. Not only is the Grand Prix of Long Beach his first ever win as an IndyCar driver, but, coincidentally, it is also where Michael Andretti, owner of the Andretti Autosports racing team, won his first ever race in 1986. Not only that, but Michael’s father, the legendary Mario Andretti, holds four Grand Prix wins in Long Beach.

“This is such a special race, I grew up watching it, and to win here is such a dream come true. The next best race to win, outside of this one, is Indianapolis,” Kirkwood said. “And the feeling I got, it was like trying to hold tears back in the car, which is something I never really felt before.”

Michael Andretti shared a few comments about Kirkwood’s win at the Grand Prix, expressing how proud he was of the first-time winner.

According to Andretti: “He’s the real deal. We knew it a long time ago when he won the championship for us in the INDY NXT series. We knew he was something special.”

Accompanying Kirkwood on the victory pole was fellow Andretti Autosports driver Romain Grosjean, who took second place in his No. 28 DHL Honda. This is the second time Grosjean took second place on the victory podium in Long Beach; the first being last year’s Grand Prix in 2022.

Grosjean stated it was a bit disappointing that he finished second in the Grand Prix two years in a row, but that he was happy for his racing teammate to get their first ever career win.

“It’s awesome for Kyle; I’m happy for him,” said Grosjean. “I wish I was in his position right now, but he drove a hell of a race, like a champ, the whole weekend. He deserved that. We tried everything we could on our end, but it was a fuel situation, so we couldn’t really attack.”

Taking third place in the Grand Prix’s IndyCar race was Marcus Ericsson, driver of the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda, earning a big win for the Chip Ganassi Racing team.

“I think we had a good chance, we were running second on the road behind Kyle, and I think we had a bit more pace near the end of the race,” said Ericsson. “It’s always hard to overtake, especially on a street course.

Ericsson continued: “Kyle did a great job. He deserves the win. I think we definitely could’ve given him a run for first place in the end, but that’s just racing sometimes. I’m happy I was able to make some good overtakes on my way back to the podium, so I’ll take that.”

Colton Herta, another racer for Andretti Autosport and the driver of the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, finished the race in fourth. After the race, he shared his thoughts about what he felt he could’ve done differently to stand at the top of the podium. With his teammates Kirkwood and Grosjean.

“I think we just needed to start up a little bit further in the race – I think that would’ve helped,” said Herta. “But I felt really good. It felt like having a Double-Double after the race: It just felt right. You know, the vibes are good, and everyone’s happy.”

Herta continued: “I’m happy for Andretti Autosports. It’s a great first win for Kyle. He drove perfectly from what I could see.”

Prior to the big race of the Grand Prix, Kirkwood also won the Firestone Fast 6 qualifying race, which placed him in the pole position at the start of the Grand Prix, and awarded him the NTT P1 Award. Following behind Kirkwood in the Firestone Fast 6 included: Marcus Ericsson (Second), Romain Grosjean (Third), Alex Palou (Fourth), Scott Dixon (Fifth) and Pato O’Ward (Sixth).

Kirkwood’s victory in the Grand Prix also boosted up his ranking in the 2023 Season. Prior to the Grand Prix of Long Beach, Kirkwood was ranked 20th in points. He is now currently ranked No. 5, with 74 points.

Romain Grosjean, formerly in rank No. 15, currently stands at rank No. 7, with 71 points. Marcus Ericsson, who was formerly at rank No. 2, now stands at the top of the 2023 leaderboard at rank No. 1, with 110 points. Ericsson took the championship lead by 15 points over Pato O’Ward, who finished the race in 17th place, in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet.

Kirkwood will split $10,000 with Andretti Autosport and his chosen charity, AutoNation DRV PNK, for his victory as part of the PeopleReady Force For Good Challenge.


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