2023 Long Beach Grand Prix - Part Two
Kirkwood’s First Win
85 laps in less than one hour and forty five minutes. Kirkwood, Grosjean, and Ericsson show us how it's done.
By Brian Kennedy
Sun, Apr 16, 2023 08:03 PM PST
featured image by Albert Wong
Sunday, race day for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, dawned something like the media day on Thursday did - overcast, though not rainy. That would make for a fast race. By the time the 85 laps were finished, less than an hour and three-quarters had elapsed. This was helped by a dearth of caution laps - only seven. The winner was Kyle Kirkwood, with Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson coming in second and third. This was Kirkwood’s first win.
Just to throw some other stats your way, there were six lead changes. The average race speed was 97.171 mph. The fastest lap was Alex Palou’s 104.270 mph on lap 70 (of 85). That’s about 67 seconds. Kirkwood led 53 laps. Josef Newgarden led 27. Two others led a handful. The two caution periods were early (Castroneves) and at laps 20-24 (Dixon). The highest finishing rookie was Marcus Armstrong, in eighth place.
After the race, Grosjean lamented that he had some of his “push to pass” left unused. He said that he is happy with his result, though he wants to win and show that he can do that. Having said that, “I did not even want to go for the win today. It would have been taking too much risk.” He cited winner Kirkwood for his steady, mistake-free day. Grosjean added that he sometimes doubts himself for not having won in F1 and that a win in IndyCar, where the competition is so keen, would make up for that. “I think 2022 was a very hard season. I’ve been racing for 25 years, and I still doubt myself sometimes.” He hopes for better things to come.
Ericsson added, “It was a great weekend for us. I had a very good race going, had the pace in the car to fight for the win today.” He earlier won in St. Petersburg, and he was last year’s Indy 500 victor. That “gives a lot of confidence [for Indy] that we could fight for the win today. We’re very, very happy. We’ve been very strong last year, fighting for the championship and leading the championship. I was disappointed to miss out on that, but this winter, I worked hard on myself and with my team, and I think we’ve come out harder this year. Winning at St. Pete showed that.”
Kirkwood was elated by his finish, explaining the feeling by saying, “I think this win tells us that I’m in a position now where I can go out, prove I’m fast, and also execute and do all the right things in the race.” He further said, “It’s been pretty non-stop since I got out of the car [about an hour prior], so I haven’t really had a moment to think, but ultimately, I’ve just had a moment of calmness. It’s kind of shook the monkey off my back a little bit. We had a spell of bad luck, but all of it was out of our control [in the prior races this season].”
He summed up with, “To have my first win at Long Beach is something that’s incredible. I know I’m going to cherish this moment, this day, for the rest of my life.” He was holding back tears at the end, he said, something that has never happened for him before. “Today was the first day when I could soak it in and realize that I’ve done something incredible, which is really cool.”
His car owner, Michael Andretti, praised his calm in the cockpit. “He knows how to win. You could tell when he was out front that he just knew what to do. He has all the ingredients he needs to be a champion, many times over.”
Kirkwood also added that he had no family at the race—it’s too expensive for them to travel to the West Coast, but that they would be his first priority after his media obligations and that he would see them Monday when he returned home to Jupiter, Florida. He surely won’t be the same person having stood atop of the IndyCar mountain. A win at Long Beach ranks second only to winning at Indy in the 500, which he also mentioned in post-race comments.
About The Author
Brian Kennedy always wanted a ’66 Mustang. 10 years ago, he bought one – and he’s been restoring it ever since. Brian extended his passion for cars by covering events for magazines like Grassroots Motorsports, Sportscar, and Victory Lane – e.g., events in Cart, Pro Rally, Formula Atlantic, the SCCA Runoffs, Trans Am, SVRA, VSCDA, and VARA. He’s also profiled a number of cars and interviewed a number of personalities – among them: Gene Felton (IMSA), Hurley Haywood, Jerry Seinfeld, and Nigel Olsson.