Prodigious talent Kyle Kirkwood scored his maiden IndyCar victory at Long Beach in an Andretti Autosport 1-2 ahead of Romain Grosjean, with Marcus Ericsson claiming the points lead with a podium.
Josef Newgarden was the early mover and led the middle stages before extreme fuel-saving wrecked his race.
The Penske driver jumped from eighth to fourth on a beautifully timed start, and then used his harder tyres – when most started on softs that faded – at the end of the stint to pass Grosjean for third.
Erstwhile championship leader Pato O’Ward – who also rose two spots at the start and began on the hard tyre – put Scott Dixon in the wall with a late move at Turn 8 to bring out a caution that Newgarden made up another spot on, passing Ericsson in the pits.
"I guess it's all gloves off from this point."
— INDYCAR on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) April 16, 2023
Having stopped on lap two, rookie Agustin Canapino stayed out under the caution and took the lead, but clipped the inside wall at Turn 6 forcing Kirkwood into evasive action that allowed Newgarden to make an opportunistic move on the inside to take the lead and push on his soft tyres ahead of Kirkwood and Grosjean.
— NTT INDYCAR SERIES (@IndyCar) April 16, 2023
However, Newgarden pitted a lap before Grosjean in the last stop – and he was immediately told he would be consigned to saving fuel heavily over the final stint without any obvious reason for it. Newgarden declined to explain what had gone wrong in interviews immediately after the race.
In the process of that early final stop Newgarden was jumped by Grosjean, who was in turn jumped by Kirkwood with the polesitter taking the lead once again.
Kirkwood – who won almost every American junior championship you can mention on his rise towards IndyCar – looked safe and assured out front, when his racecraft deep in the field in the past has been called into question.
Grosjean clipped the inside wall at Turn 2 heading into the final quarter of the race, which threatened to delay his victory charge, but following it he erased a gap from almost two seconds to all but nothing four laps later.
Ericsson had fallen back taking evasive action from a wild O’Ward wild dive at Turn 8 earlier in the race – which gave him front wing damage – so had to spend some time recovering, but a good final stop and an impressive despatching of 2021 Long Beach winner Colton Herta shortly afterwards got Ericsson back to third – albeit with almost six seconds to erase to the leaders.
However, he’d pitted a lap later than Grosjean and reeled off rapid laps to erase the deficit and make it a three car train for the victory inside the last three laps.
All three had to be careful with using push-to-pass having had to save some fuel in the final stint, and ultimately Kirkwood held on ahead of Grosjean and Ericsson.
It’s Andretti Autosport’s first win since last August’s Indianapolis road course races and its first outside of Indy since the 2021 Long Beach race won by Herta.
It also ends Andretti’s awful start to the season in terms of finishes. Grosjean had been on pole in St Petersburg but the team took only one top 10 finish across its four cars in the first two races.
Grosjean’s second was much needed points after being taken out fighting for the win at St Pete, while the eventual winner of that race Ericsson is a very worthy points leader after banishing the demons of his 2022 Long Beach crash.
Herta took fourth after an uneventful first stint but his first pair of successive top seven finishes across two races since 2021.
Alex Palou was in the top five early but lost positions in his first stop which put him outside the top 12 and he spent the rest of the day fighting back. Fifth was a strong finish which rounded out a Honda-powered sweep of the top five.
Reigning champion Will Power and Felix Rosenqvist were the top finishers for Penske and Arrow McLaren Chevrolet teams respectively after their own eventful races.
Marcus Armstrong was the top rookie having benefited from Alexander Rossi crashing out on the penultimate lap in a tough day for McLaren. O’Ward eventually finished 17th after his pair of incidents.
Armstrong, who is only doing the road and street circuits, beat Penske pair Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin to eighth. McLaughlin sunk on the softer tyres late in his stint.
Santino Ferrucci gave AJ Foyt its best result in some time with 11th.
|Pos||Name||Team||Car||Laps||Laps Led||Total Time||Fastest Lap||Pitstops||Pts|
|1||Kyle Kirkwood||Andretti Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||53||1h43m17.374s||1m07.971s||2||54|
|2||Romain Grosjean||Andretti Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||0||+0.991s||1m08.269s||2||40|
|3||Marcus Ericsson||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||0||+2.059s||1m08.006s||2||35|
|4||Colton Herta||Andretti Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||0||+7.637s||1m08.271s||2||32|
|5||Alex Palou||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||2||+8.777s||1m07.946s||2||31|
|6||Will Power||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||85||0||+30.323s||1m08.731s||2||28|
|7||Felix Rosenqvist||Arrow McLaren SP||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||85||0||+30.975s||1m08.688s||2||26|
|8||Marcus Armstrong||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||0||+31.912s||1m08.713s||2||24|
|9||Josef Newgarden||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||85||27||+33.785s||1m08.506s||2||23|
|10||Scott McLaughlin||Team Penske||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||85||0||+42.832s||1m08.797s||2||20|
|11||Santino Ferrucci||AJ Foyt Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||85||0||+45.435s||1m08.944s||2||19|
|12||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||0||+46.281s||1m08.865s||2||18|
|13||Jack Harvey||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||0||+47.283s||1m08.715s||2||17|
|14||Christian Lundgaard||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||0||+47.778s||1m08.649s||2||16|
|15||Simon Pagenaud||Meyer Shank Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||0||+49.487s||1m08.671s||2||15|
|16||Devlin DeFrancesco||Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport||Dallara DW12-Honda||85||0||+59.935s||1m08.919s||2||14|
|17||Patricio O'Ward||Arrow McLaren SP||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||84||0||+1 lap||1m08.676s||2||13|
|18||Sting Ray Robb||Dale Coyne Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||84||0||+1 lap||1m09.238s||2||12|
|19||Callum Ilott||Juncos Hollinger Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||84||0||+1 lap||1m09.238s||4||11|
|20||David Malukas||Dale Coyne Racing/HMD Motorsports||Dallara DW12-Honda||84||0||+1 lap||1m08.691s||3||10|
|21||Hélio Castroneves||Meyer Shank Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||84||0||+1 lap||1m08.307s||3||9|
|22||Alexander Rossi||Arrow McLaren SP||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||83||0||+2 laps||1m08.502s||2||8|
|23||Conor Daly||Ed Carpenter Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||83||0||+2 laps||1m09.335s||3||7|
|24||Benjamin Pedersen||AJ Foyt Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||82||0||+3 laps||1m08.999s||3||6|
|Agustín Canapino||Juncos Hollinger Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||52||3||DNF||1m08.879s||4||6|
|Rinus VeeKay||Ed Carpenter Racing||Dallara DW12-Chevrolet||48||0||DNF||1m09.333s||1||5|
|Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara DW12-Honda||37||0||DNF||1m08.655s||1||5|