Kyle Kirkwood delivers promptly in AGPLB qualifying

Kyle Kirkwood undoubtedly made a statement in qualifying for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach that caught the attention of team owner Michael Andretti.

“He’s the real deal,” Andretti said. “Happy for him. He’s been a pleasure on the team. We’re really excited, really happy for the results.”

Kirkwood’s pole comes three races into his NTT IndyCar Series forray with the team. His freshman campaign came at the hands AJ Foyt Racing following an Indy NXT championship with Andretti.

The 24-year-old Floridan has an astonishing record in IndyCar’s Road to Indy ladder program – winning a combined 31 races and 18 poles along with championships in USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 and Indy NXT.

Kirkwood and his Andretti Autosport crew took a strategic route to take the pole. He advanced to the Firestone Fast Six by using used tires while his rivals used fresh rubber to maximize. The gamble paid off as Kirkwood rolled out with fresh tires and delivered a lap of 1 minute 6.2878 seconds to take the pole ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson.

He added that the fresh tires gave him the upper edge but needed two laps to get them up to speed.

“One thing about how car is we needed that second lap,” he explained. “If we didn’t have that second lap, it would have been more of a struggle. I feel like there were a lot of other cars that were able to do it on the first lap. Us not so much. Our car was extremely fast.”

Kirkwood is coming off a rocky start to his IndyCar campaign with Andretti. He crashed out of the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after qualifying fifth. At Texas he found himself in the crosshairs of Alexander Rossi, the man he replaced at Andretti, after the pair collided on pit lane.

He attributed his turnaround to the support coming from within the team.

“Ultimately it’s a testament to the team,” he said. “Andretti Autosport does a phenomenal job. I feel like we’ve made a leap from last season based on my understanding. I wasn’t with them last season. Based on what the drivers talk about, we’re in a really good direction. I feel like the car is in a really good spot. For instance, in that entire qualifying session, I didn’t touch a thing, brakes, bars. This is good enough, we can go for the pole like this. That was the case.”


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