The AutoNation Andretti Autosport No. 27 Honda will lead the field of 27 Indy cars to the green flag in tomorrow’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (3:30pm Eastern, NBC) after Kyle Kirkwood laid down a phenomenal lap in Firestone Fast Six qualifications on Saturday.
With time expired in the last round of NTT IndyCar Series qualifying from the Streets of Long Beach, Kirkwood was one of a couple of drivers yet to finish their final lap. Crossing the timing line to score his lap, the 24-year-old bumped his Andretti teammate of Romain Grosjean from the provisional pole.
The final car to complete laps, Marcus Ericsson was no match for the 1:06.287-minute lap set by Kirkwood, and the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion was slotted in second position. Chip Ganassi Racing’s highest-standing driver in the championship will roll off from the grid tomorrow in the same position he ranks in the series. Ericsson looks to threaten his first LBGP victory after contending last April before striking the wall in the closing laps.
Kirkwood’s first career NTT P1 Award comes in just his third attempt at Michael Andretti’s Zionsville Rd., Indianapolis-based organization. The Jupiter, Florida native’s second Long Beach Grand Prix start tomorrow will be just his 20th career IndyCar Series race.
Despite being demoted to row two, Romain Grosjean was ecstatic for his young teammate who claimed the top spot. Grosjean, suffering dual DNF results in the opening two rounds of the 2023 championship, climbed immediately from his No. 28 DHL Honda to congratulate the young Kirkwood. Grosjean finished second to Josef Newgarden in the 2022 edition of the LBGP after starting from the sixth position.
2021 IndyCar Champion Alex Palou shares the second row with the Frenchman. Palou’s No. 10 Ridgeline Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was just 0.02-seconds shy of Grosjean’s third-place lap. Palou, returning to the site at which he clinched his title 16 months ago, returns ranking fifth in the series standings with just two races completed this year.
Scott Dixon and the top Arrow McLaren entrant in Pato O’Ward rounded out the Firestone Fast Six qualifiers.
The defending Long Beach winner in Newgarden recovered on Saturday after smacking the wall in turn five Friday afternoon. The No. 2 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet just barely missed on advancing into the third round of qualifying. The Tennessee-born driver starts eighth from LBC Sunday.
After impacting a piece of curbing installed Friday night in the fifth turn on the circuit that wasn’t communicated to teams, the Juncos Hollinger Racing team scrambled to repair the No. 77 Chevy for Callum Ilott. Ilott and his car owner Ricciardo Juncos were furious with IndyCar and track officials on the lack of communication, with Ilott claiming the series should be sent the bill for the repairs. The No. 77 was frantically rebuilt in time for the qualifying session. They were able to post the 22nd-fastest lap.
The sixth-place driver in the championship standings will have a hill to climb to maintain ground in the series fight. David Malukas caught the wall through the final corners on the Streets of Long Beach on his warm-up lap but carried on to start his first flyer. Before returning to complete the lap, the car gave and sent the Chicago, Illinois-born driver into the concrete barrier. The No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD Motorsports Honda rolls off the field in 25th place of the 27 starters.
Qualifying Results – 2023 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
Pos – Driver (No.) / Lap Time (in seconds)
1 – (27) Kyle Kirkwood / First Career Pole / 66.287
2 – (8) Marcus Ericsson / 66.325
3 – (28) Romain Grosjean / 66.534
4 – (10) Alex Palou / 66.555
5 – (9) Scott Dixon / 66.573
6 – (5) Pato O’Ward / 66.604
7 – (26) Colton Herta / 66.643
8 – (2) Josef Newgarden / 66.452
9 – (3) Scott McLaughlin / 66.725
10 – (6) Felix Rosenqvist / 66.731
11 – (7) Alexander Rossi / 67.105
12 – (11) Marcus Armstrong [R] / 69.784
13 – (12) Will Power / 67.268
14 – (60) Simon Pagenaud / 66.801
15 – (30) Jack Harvey / 67.315
16 – (06) Helio Castroneves / 66.938
17 – (45) Christian Lundgaard / 67.395
18 – (14) Santino Ferrucci / 66.951
19 – (21) Rinus VeeKay / 67.879
20 – (29) Devlin DeFrancesco / 67.029
21 – (51) Sting Ray Robb [R] / 67.910
22 – (77) Callum Ilott / 67.049
23 – (55) Benjamin Pedersen [R] / 68.297
24 – (15) Graham Rahal / 67.090
25 – (18) David Malukas / No Time Taken
26 – (78) Agustin Canapino [R] / 67.695
27 – (20) Conor Daly / 67.698