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Kirkwood fights through, clinching Long Beach Grand Prix and first IndyCar victory

With his Andretti Autosport teammate closing in during the final laps of Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Kyle Kirkwood clicked off consistent laps to endure the 85-lap competition and take home his first NTT IndyCar Series race win. From pole position, Kirkwood’s No. 27 AutoNation Andretti Autosport led 53 laps around the 1.968-mile street course in Southern Los Angeles.

The checkered flag flew on his Honda just 0.990-seconds ahead of the No. 28 DHL entry piloted by Romain Grosjean, who takes his second consecutive runner-up finish in the most prestigious street race on the IndyCar calendar. Grosjean held off third-place finisher of Marcus Ericsson in the closing laps to secure the 1-2 finish for Michael Andretti, claiming the organization’s first win on the 2023 NTT IndyCar season schedule.

Kirkwood, the 24-year-old Jupiter, Floridian becomes only the third Indy Lights champion since 2001 to win a race in the IndyCar Series. The most decorated driver on the Road in Indy in history, and the only driver to win championships in every step up the American Open Wheel Ladder, proves fruitful for Michael Andretti in just his 20th career IndyCar start, and only third driving at Andretti.

Kyle Kirkwood poses in victory lane on his No. 27 AutoNation Honda post-race Sunday. (Picture Credit: Joe Skibinski / IMS Media & Penske Entertainment)

Reigning Long Beach Grand Prix winner, Josef Newgarden struggled to fight for the win all race, opting to go-off strategy of the majority of Sunday’s race leaders. As a result, Newgarden was forced to preserve fuel in the final stint. Race strategist Tim Cindric called the two-time series champion to let cars that were able to run full to the finish past his driver. When the race was all said and done, the No. 2 crew survived to ninth.

Six-time series champion Scott Dixon was eliminated from contention early after being knocked into the seventh turn tire barrier by Pato O’Ward. The move by O’Ward was heavily criticized by the New Zealand driver who goes yet another year without success in the LBC. The No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing team was able to repair his Honda and he returned to the race, but retired early with an oil pressure issue with the car, finishing in last-position.

Dixon wasn’t pleased with O’Ward’s driving early in Long Beach, stating “gloves will be off” going forward.

Alexander Rossi lost out on a potential top-10 result on the last lap after suffering a suspension failure on his No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. Rossi remained stranded in the off-course section as his former seat drove past scoring a win. The California driver postedf a 22nd-place finish, not being able to refire.

Kyle Kirkwood and Marcus Ericsson fought for the win late despite minor damage from this incident.

Pato O’Ward entered the weekend with the championship lead, but after the contact with Dixon, and after nearly triggering another crash with Kyle Kirkwood and Marcus Ericsson, the No. 5 lost major track position recovering from a slide with the aforementioned contact. His Chevy crossed the line in 17th-position and now trails Marcus Ericsson by 15 points for the top spot in the championship, three races in.

Kyle Kirkwood jumped 14 positions in the current IndyCar Standings after his maiden victory. (Picture Credit: Joe Skibinski / IMS Media & Penske Entertainment)

The NTT IndyCar Series next races April 30th from the Barber Motorsports Park, coverage on NBC. However, next for the series attention turns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week for the Open Test ahead of next month’s 107th Indianapolis 500. Coverage will be streamed on Peacock, April 20 and 21 in its entirety.

Race strategist and former driver Bryan Herta called Kirkwood to victory in their second race working together after a change following St. Petersburg.

Race Results – 2023 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

1 – (27) Kyle Kirkwood / 1st Career IndyCar Win
2 – (28) Romain Grosjean / 5th Career Podium
3 – (8) Marcus Ericsson / 9th Career Podium
4 – (26) Colton Herta
5 – (10) Alex Palou
6 – (12) Will Power
7 – (6) Felix Rosenqvist
8 – (11) Marcus Armstrong [R]
9 – (2) Josef Newgarden
10 – (3) Scott McLaughlin
11 – (14) Santino Ferrucci
12 – (15) Graham Rahal
13 – (30) Jack Harvey
14 – (45) Christian Lundgaard
15 – (60) Simon Pagenaud
16 – (29) Devlin DeFrancesco
17 – (5) Pato O’Ward
18 – (51) Sting Ray Robb [R]
19 – (77) Callum Ilott
20 – (18) David Malukas
21 – (06) Helio Castroneves
22 – (7) Alexander Rossi / OFF
23 – (20) Conor Daly / 100th Career IndyCar Start
24 – (55) Benjamin Pedersen [R]
25 – (78) Agustin Canapino [R]
26 – (21) Rinus VeeKay / OFF
27 – (9) Scott Dixon / OFF

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