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Kyle Kirkwood’s 2023 win in Grand Prix of Long Beach was life-changing – Orange County Register

It’s been a life-changing year for Kyle Kirkwood since he won the 2023 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

“When you get a win in IndyCar, it’s obviously a really big deal, and even bigger that it came at Long Beach, which is one of our signature races,” Kirkwood said. “It’s really been huge for my career and my existence in the sport.”

The victory at Long Beach was Kirkwood’s first checkered flag in the NTT IndyCar Series and assuaged industry critics after a disappointing 2022 debut for the 2021 Indy Lights champion.

“I won every championship to come and a multitude of races every year, and then I got into IndyCar my first year (in ’22) and barely sniffed the Top 10,” Kirkwood said. “It’s a difficult thing to accept and it shows how tough the competition is here.”

He returns to Long Beach aiming to become the first to win consecutive IndyCar Series races on the 1.968-mile road course since Alexander Rossi in 2018 and 2019.


Kirkwood was on the top step of the podium last year when boss Michael Andretti quietly told him that his first victory also came at Long Beach.

“I didn’t know until he told me,” Kirkwood said. “That’s something I definitely should have known. I thought it was so cool.”

Kirkwood certainly kept his cool, leading 53 laps and crossing the line almost a second ahead of Andretti Autosport teammate Romain Grosjean last year.

The victory made Kirkwood a lifelong fan of Southern California’s famous motorsport event, first held in 1975 and the longest-running major street race held in North America.

“It’s a very historic event in so many ways and it’s so cool to be able to drive down Shoreline Drive and experience the same history that’s been there forever,” Kirkwood said. “I love it. I love coming back here.

And the weather – Sunday’s forecast calls for temperatures of 75 degrees with a mix of sun and clouds – is always perfect on race day.

“The weather is obviously perfect when you come here,” he said. “We go to a lot of places where the weather is hectic and there are weather changes and you’re always adjusting to that, but here you kind of know what you’re going to get.

“It’s generally nice weather, clear blue skies, light winds and cool, crisp weather, which is what Indy cars like, so it’s great,” Kirkwood said. “There are two places you can drive year-round, and that’s Florida and California.”

Indycar driver Kyle Kirkwood, right, is congratulated by a racing fan after winning his first career pole for the 48th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Sunday, Saturday, April 15, 2023. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)


The South Florida native never imagined he would drive for Andretti Global Autosport or be welcomed like family.

“Really, just having the whole family and organization around me; Mario goes to absolutely everything (and) he is one of the nicest, most down-to-earth people in the IndyCar paddock,” Kirkwood said. “It’s so cool to be part of their family.”

Kirkwood and Andretti announced last June that the 27-year-old driver would return this year to replace the departing Rossi, and Kirkwood is now in his third season, one of three drivers for the Andretti IndyCar team.

“It’s not something I would have even thought was a possibility when I was 12 or 13, let alone when I was 5 when I started karting,” Kirkwood said. “It’s something super surreal.”

Kirkwood proved his investment with two victories last season, first at Long Beach and then at the Music City Grand Prix later in the year.

California Daily Newspapers

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