IndyCar Long Beach starting lineup: Kyle Kirkwood takes pole; Marcus Ericsson second


LONG BEACH, Calif. — For the first time in his brief NTT IndyCar Series career, Kyle Kirkwood will lead the starting lineup to the green flag in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Kirkwood, 24, became the series’ third pole-sitter through three races this season. His Andretti Autosport crew erupted in celebration, and he immediately was congratulated by teammate Romain Grosjean and team owner Michael Andretti.

“I am just ecstatic at the moment,” Kirkwood said. “I couldn’t be happier with this, the third weekend with the team.”

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Click here for Long Beach qualifying speeds | Round 1, Group 1 | Round 1, Group 2 | Round 2 l Round 3

PRIMARY OR ALTERNATE: Tire designations for the starting lineup

Kirkwood was part of the Andretti development system but after winning the Lights championship in 2021 had to leave the organization because it didn’t have an IndyCar seat for him to be promoted. So he spent last year with AJ Foyt Racing until Andretti could bring him back this season as the replacement for Alexander Rossi.

Andretti two weeks ago made a strategist change for Kirkwood and Colton Herta, swapping team leaders ahead of the race at Texas Motor Speedway. Kirkwood was given Bryan Herta, Colton’s father, who has guided two different drivers to Indianapolis 500 wins.

“Right now it’s working out really well,” Andretti said. “Bryan being on his radio will be a lot more beneficial for Kyle and the organization. He’s great for a young driver and he helped Colton when he started out. We just felt it was better for the team.”

Marcus Ericsson, winner of the season-opening race, qualified second for Chip Ganassi Racing and was followed by Grosjean. Ganassi drivers Alex Palou and Scott Dixon qualified fourth and fifth as Honda drivers took the top five spots.

LONG BEACH PRIMERDetails, schedules for watching IndyCar this weekend

Pato O’Ward, the IndyCar points leader after back-to-back runner-up finishes to start the season, qualified sixth and was the only Chevrolet to advance into the “Fast Six” round. O’Ward had dominated every session until the final round of qualifying, when he seemed to lock his tires and fell out of pole-winning contention.

No Team Penske cars advanced into the Fast Six round of qualifying. Will Power was eliminated in the first round, Scott McLaughlin was eliminated in the second round and defending race winner Josef Newgarden was bounced in the final minute of the third round.

Newgarden will start eighth on Sunday.

Also knocked out of the third session was Colton Herta, who won at Long Beach in 2021 and dominated the weekend last year until he crashed out of the race.

There was some controversy in a Saturday morning practice as Callum Ilott demanded IndyCar pay for damages to his No. 77 Chevrolet after he crashed because a piece of curbing was added to the track overnight.

The curbing was not present in Friday’s opening 75-minute session because it had been damaged in an earlier session with sports cars on track. The curbing was reinstalled overnight, but teams apparently were not informed of the alteration.

“I was doing the same line as (Friday). I don’t understand what happened, but I took off when I hit the curb,” Ilott told NBC Sports on Peacock. “And if they didn’t tell us (about a change), then they can pay for the damage, because that’s a joke. It sets everyone on the back foot.

“I’m sorry to everyone on the team, but again, I was just doing the same thing as (Friday). If they changed something and didn’t tell us, what can I do about that?”

Ilott took to Twitter to demand an explanation from IndyCar and the race promoters for the track alteration that also caused Rinus VeeKay to crash.

“Preferably before the session next time. Saves everyone from broken wrists and tens of thousands in damage,” Ilott said in the tweet he later deleted.

The curbing was present during Thursday’s track walk – when teams and drivers walk the course examine it – and was part of the course for last year’s race. Because the curbing had been there for all teams to see on Thursday, IndyCar did not feel it was necessary to notify teams about the overnight change.

However, teams were informed about new paint around the pit exit and Turn 1 to better delineate the boundary lines.

Here’s the IndyCar starting lineup for Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, engine and speed):


1. (27) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 1:06.2878 (106.879 mph)
2. (8) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 1:06.3253 (106.819)


3. (28) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 1:06.5347 (106.483 mph)
4. (10) Alex Palou, Honda, 1:06:5549 (106.450)


5. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 1:06.5730 (106.422)
6. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 1:06.6039 (106.372)


7. (26) Colton Herta, Honda, 1:06.6431 (106.310)
8. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 1:06.6452 (106.306)


9. (3) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 1:06.7251 (106.179)
10. (6) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 1:06.7317 (106.168)


11. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 1:07.1049 (105.578)
12. (11) Marcus Armstrong, Honda, 1:09.7839 (101.525)

ROW 7 

13. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 1:07.2681 (105.322)
14. (60) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 1:06.8010 (106.058)


15. (30) Jack Harvey, Honda, 1:07.3150 (105.248)
16. (06) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 1:06.9385 (105.840)


17. (45) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 1:07.3957 (105.122)
18. (14) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 1:06.9517 (105.820)

ROW 10

19. (21) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 1:07.8796 (104.373)
20. (29) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 1:07.0294 (105.697)

ROW 11

21. (51) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 1:07.9105 (104.326)
22. (77) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 1:07.0490 (105.666)

ROW 12

23. (55) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 1:08.2970 (103.735)
24. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 1:07.0909 (105.600)

ROW 13

25. (18) David Malukas, Honda, no time
26. (78) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 1:07.5956 (104.812)

ROW 14

27. (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 1:07.6986 (104.652)

‘It’s gnarly, bro’: IndyCar drivers face new challenge on streets of downtown Detroit

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment
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DETROIT – It was the 1968 motion picture, “Winning” when actress Joanne Woodward asked Paul Newman if he were going to Milwaukee in the days after he won the Indianapolis 500 as driver Frank Capua.

“Everybody goes to Milwaukee after Indianapolis,” Newman responded near the end of the film.

Milwaukee was a mainstay as the race on the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but since 2012, the first race after the Indy 500 has been Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

This year, there is a twist.

Instead of IndyCar racing at the Belle Isle State Park, it’s the streets of downtown Detroit on a race course that is quite reminiscent of the old Formula One and CART race course that was used from 1982 to 1991.

Formula One competed in the United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. Beginning in 1989, CART took over the famed street race through 1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle, where it was held through last year (with a 2009-2011 hiatus after the Great Recession).

The Penske Corp. is the promoter of this race, and they did a lot of good at Belle Isle, including saving the Scott Fountain, modernizing the Belle Isle Casino, and basically cleaning up the park for Detroit citizens to enjoy.

The race, however, had outgrown the venue. Roger Penske had big ideas to create an even bigger event and moving it back to downtown Detroit benefitted race sponsor Chevrolet. The footprint of the race course goes around General Motors world headquarters in the GM Renaissance Center – the centerpiece building of Detroit’s modernized skyline.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

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Motor City is about to roar with the sound of Chevrolet and Honda engines this weekend as the NTT IndyCar Series is the featured race on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course.

It’s perhaps the most unique street course on the IndyCar schedule because of the bumps on the streets and the only split pit lane in the series.

The pit lanes has stalls on opposing sides and four lanes across an unusual rectangular pit area (but still only one entry and exit).

Combine that, with the bumps and the NTT IndyCar Series drivers look forward to a wild ride in Motor City.

“It’s gnarly, bro,” Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward said before posting the fastest time in Friday’s first practice. “It will be very interesting because the closest thing that I can see it being like is Toronto-like surfaces with more of a Long Beach-esque layout.

“There’s less room for error than Long Beach. There’s no curbs. You’ve got walls. I think very unique to this place.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Speeds from the first session

“Then it’s a bit of Nashville built into it. The braking zones look really very bumpy. Certain pavements don’t look bumpy but with how the asphalt and concrete is laid out, there’s undulation with it. So, you can imagine the cars are going to be smashing on every single undulation because we’re going to go through those sections fairly fast, and obviously the cars are pretty low. I don’t know.

“It looks fun, man. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be learning through every single session, not just for drivers and teams but for race control. For everyone.

“Everybody has to go into it knowing not every call is going to be smooth. It’s a tall task to ask from such a demanding racetrack. I think it’ll ask a lot from the race cars as well.”

The track is bumpy, but O’Ward indicated he would be surprised if it is bumper than Nashville. By comparison to Toronto, driving at slow speed is quite smooth, but fast speed is very bumpy.

“This is a mix of Nashville high-speed characteristics and Toronto slow speed in significant areas,” O’Ward said. “I think it’ll be a mix of a lot of street courses we go to, and the layout looks like more space than Nashville, which is really tight from Turn 4 to 8. It looks to be a bit more spacious as a whole track, but it’ll get tight in multiple areas.”

The concept of having four-wide pit stops is something that excites the 24-year-old driver from Monterey, Mexico.

“I think it’s innovation, bro,” O’Ward said. “If it works out, we’ll look like heroes.

“If it doesn’t, we tried.”

Because of the four lanes on pit road, there is a blend line the drivers will have to adhere to. Otherwise, it would be chaos leaving the pits compared to a normal two-lane pit road.

“If it wasn’t there, there’d be guys fighting for real estate where there’s one car that fits, and there’d be cars crashing in pit lane,” O’Ward said. “I get why they did that. It’s the same for everybody. I don’t think there’s a lot of room to play with. That’s the problem.

“But it looks freaking gnarly for sure. Oh my God, that’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing believes the best passing areas will be on the long straights because of the bumps in the turns. That is where much of the action will be in terms of gaining or losing a position in the race.

“It will also be really easy to defend in my opinion,” Palou said. “Being a 180-degree corner, you just have to go on the inside and that’s it. There’s going to be passes for sure but its’ going to be risky.

“Turn 1, if someone dives in, you end up in the wall. They’re not going to be able to pass you on the exit, so maybe with the straight being so long you can actually pass before you end up on the braking zone.”

Palou’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was at the Honda simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, before coming to Detroit and said he was shocked by the amount of bumps on the simulator.

Race promoter Bud Denker, the President of Penske Corporation, and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, sent the track crews onto the streets with grinders to smooth out the bumps on the race course several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a decent amount of work, and even doing the track walk, it looked a lot better than what we expected,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I hope not. That’ll be something to take into account.

“I think the track layout doesn’t look like the most fun. Maybe not the most challenging. But I love these types of tracks with rules everywhere. It’s a big challenge, and you have to build up to it. That’s the types of tracks that I love to drive. It’s a very much Marcus Ericsson type of track. I like it.”

Scott Dixon, who was second fastest in the opening session, has competed on many new street circuits throughout his legendary racing career. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing likes the track layout, even with the unusual pit lane.

I don’t think that’s going to be something that catches on where every track becomes a double barrel,” Dixon said. “It’s new and interesting.

“As far as pit exit, I think Toronto exit is worse with how the wall sticks out. I think in both lanes, you’ve got enough lead time to make it and most guys will make a good decision.”

It wasn’t until shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Friday that the IndyCar drivers began the extended 90-minute practice session to try out the race course for the first time in real life.

As expected, there were several sketchy moments, but no major crashes during the first session despite 19 local yellow flags for incidents and six red flags.

Rookie Agustin Canapino had to cut his practice short after some damage to his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet, but he was among many who emerged mostly unscathed from scrapes with the wall.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was third fastest in the practice after coming off his first career IndyCar victory in the most recent street race at Long Beach in April. “I think a lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall (too hard), which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected. Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job between the two manufacturers. I’m sure everyone had pretty much the same we were able to base everything off of. We felt pretty close to maximum right away.”

Most of the preparation for this event was done either on the General Motors Simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina, or the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Now, we have simulators that can scan the track, so we have done plenty of laps already,” Power told NBC Sports. “They have ground and resurfaced a lot of the track, so it should be smoother.

“But nothing beats real-world experience. It’s going to be a learning experience in the first session.”

As a Team Penske driver, Power and his teammates were consulted about the progress and layout of the Detroit street course. They were shown what was possible with the streets that were available.

“We gave some input back after we were on the similar what might be ground and things like that,” Power said.

Racing on the streets of Belle Isle was a fairly pleasant experience for the fans and corporate sponsor that compete in the race.

But the vibe at the new location gives this a “big event” feel.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” Power said. “The location, the accessibility for the fans, the crowd that will be here, it’s much easier. I think it will be a much better event.

“It feels like a Long Beach, only in a much bigger city. That is what street course racing is all about.”

Because the track promoter is also the team owner, Power and teammates Scott McLaughlin and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden will have a very busy weekend on the track, and with sponsor and personal appearances.

“That’s what pays the bills and allows us to do this,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500