Kirkwood takes first IndyCar pole at Long Beach
By Damion Smy
Sunday 16th April, 2023 - 8:47am
Kyle Kirkwood has taken the first IndyCar pole position of his career after ousting Marcus Ericsson by a mere 0.03s at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Andretti Autosport driver topped his Group 1 in Q1, was third in Q2 before taking pole position in the final moments of the Fast Six with a 1:06.2878 lap to edge Ericsson’s Chip Ganassi Racing entry by 0.0375s around the 3.167, 11-turn street course.
Kirkwood’s Andretti Autosport team-mate Romain Grosjean will start third.
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“Our car is on fire this weekend,” Kirkwood said. “We’re doing really good. I’m ecstatic. We’re just constantly chipping away at it, getting better and better, and I couldn’t be any happier than this. Third weekend with the team, and I already got a pole.”
“It’s just a step in the right direction, in my mind. I knew this day would come. I didn’t know whether this day would come this late or this early. There are a lot of tough guys out here.
“But it’s kind of solidifying myself, right? It’s like, ‘Okay, he can do this now.’”
Kirkwood earned his spot in the Firestone Fast Six on a pair of used alternate guayule Firestone tires in the Round of 12, saving his brand-new tires for the final round. That ploy paid off and was just part of the drama that engulfed the latter stages of the second round of qualifying
Q1 Group 1 saw Kirkwood and Ericsson one and two ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, with last year’s Long Beach winner Josef Newgarden in sixth with ahead of 2022 Series winner, Will Power, next for Penske. The session was red flagged when David Malukas’ Dale Coyne Racing entry contacted the wall at Turn 8 before ending up in the wall at Turn 3 the following lap.
A Chip Ganassi Racing one-two in Q1 Group 2 saw Alex Palou ahead of Scott Dixon, with Pato O’Ward’s Arrow McLaren next before Marcus Armstrong in the third Ganassi entry. Romain Grosjean was fifth fastest, ahead of Scott McLaughlin in sixth.
Grosjean then topped Q2 with a 1:06.3246, despite suffering a broken toe-link in his rear suspension, ahead of O’Ward (1:06.3993) and Kirkwood (1:06.4568) to make the Fast Six. Ericsson, Palou and Dixon finished Q2 in that order to make the final session for pole after the Q2 was red flagged.
The incident, which saw Armstrong hit the wall at Turn 9 with less and 60s left on the clock, enabled Kirkwood to save a save of fresh tyres as his time was good enough for the Fast Six, others needing new rubber in an effort to make the cut.
“We did our lap on the used tires, I thought, “Man, the car feels really good on Lap 2, but it’s going to be hard to get it done on Lap 1, which is what you saw right there in the Fast Six,” Kirkwood said.
Pato O’Ward set the initial pace in the Fast Six, leading Grosjean and Kirkwood, who went third fastest before deploying his fresh rubber advantage to take a stunning maiden career pole.
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach starts at 12:45 Pacific Daylight Time on Sunday April 16, 0545 AEST Monday April 17.
Stan Sport will bring all live and ad-free key sessions throughout the weekend.
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