Kyle Kirkwood caps breakthrough weekend at Long Beach with first INDYCAR win

By: Spencer Neff
April 16, 2023

2023 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Results

Heading into the 2023 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, a switch to Andretti Autosport had many pegging Kyle Kirkwood as the next first-time winner. Making his 20th career start, the sophomore driver returned to the site of his previous best finish (10th-2022) and earned his first victory in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, leading 53 of 85 laps on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit.

Joining Scott McLaughlin as drivers to win their first pole and race on the same weekend since 2001, Kirkwood held off teammate Romain Grosjean, who earns his fourth career runner-up finish, by .9907 of a second. The driver of the No. 27 Dallara-Honda becomes the sixth driver to earn their first career win at Long Beach. A native of Jupiter, Florida, he is also the first driver born in the state to win an INDYCAR race.

Kirkwood also becomes the sixth driver to earn his first career victory at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, joining Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mike Conway and Takuma Sato.

St. Petersburg winner Marcus Ericsson took back the points lead. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is 15 points ahead of Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward, who finished a lap down in 17th.

Honda swept the Top 5 thanks to Colton Herta and Alex Palou joining their Andretti and CGR teammates atop the running order.

Team Penske’s Will Power finishing as the best Chevrolet entry in sixth. Rookie Marcus Armstrong earned a career-best finish of 8th in his second race. A late-race fuel save would have Texas winner Josef Newgarden finish ninth after spending much of the day in the Top 3.

Slowed by two cautions for seven laps, the race featured 293 passes, with 170 for position. Both were the most in this race since 2018. The race featured an average speed of 97.171 mph, the fourth-best in 39 runnings and six lead changes among four drivers.

Kirkwood leads the field through Long Beach’s historic fountain area (Travis Hinkle/INDYCAR)

Race Recap

The start of the race was met with issues for 2001 race winner Helio Castroneves. The Meyer Shank Racing driver crashed in the Fountain area between Turns 1 and 2. Although the No. 06 Dallara-Honda was able to continue, he lost a lap and needed time on pit road for a new front wing.

Up front, Kirkwood, Ericsson and Grosjean maintained their spots from the start of the race, with Newgarden having moved from eighth to fourth. On Lap 18, he moved around Grosjean for third after a smooth pass entering Turn 1.

On Lap 20, series points leader O”Ward tangled with Scott Dixon, with the 2015 Long Beach winner getting the worst of it. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s No.9 went nose-first into the Turn 8 tire barrier. Dixon’s contact would prompt the second caution of the afternoon.

Lap 23 would bring the first major sequence of pit stops. Kirkwood fended off Newgarden on pit exit. After staying out, Juncos Hollinger Racing’s Agustin Canapino would lead three laps, the first of his career, as the 27-car field headed back to green.

On the Lap 26 restart, O”Ward spun on entry into Turn 8 attempting to pass Kirkwood and Ericsson. After making the switch to the alternate Firestone tires, Newgarden grabbed hold of the lead following the restart bottleneck.

By Lap 38, a frustrated Dixon was out of the race, his first DNF (did not finish) since WorldWide Technology Raceway (Gateway) in 2021, a span of 23 races and 2908 laps. Newgarden would begin the final sequence of pit stops on Lap 53. Two laps later, Kirkwood made his final stop of the day and held the lead after blending into the racing lan ahead of his two main combatants.

While Ericsson unsuccessfully challenged Grosjean for second, Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi nosed his Chevrolet-powered Dallara into the Turn 9 tire barrier. The No.7’s incident would have no impact on the final result, as the race was run without further stoppage.

Kirkwood is joined on the podium by Grosjean and Ericsson (Travis Hinkle/INDYCAR)

Up Next

Although next weekend will not feature a race, the stars and teams of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will have a busy schedule on their plate.

The Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be held on Thursday and Friday, April 20-21. Thursday’s on-track activity begins with veterans practice from 11-1, Rookie Orientation/Veteran Refreshers from 1-3 and a full-field session from 3-6. Friday will have a schedule availability from 10-4 on track.

The next race weekend, the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park, will begin with practice at 3:40 p.m. on Friday, April 28. The 90-lap race on the 2.3-mile, 17-turn course in Birmingham, Alabama will be the first natural terrain road course after two street courses sandwiching an oval event.

All times are EDT. Stay with IndyCar1909 and all our platforms for the latest on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

Header Image By Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR


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