Race Weekend Central

Kyle Kirkwood in Good Place in 1st Season with Andretti Autosport

All Kyle Kirkwood does is win.

As the 24-year-old Floridian made his way up the junior formula ladder on his way to the NTT IndyCar Series, Kirkwood collected a lot of hardware.

The numbers are staggering. In 109 starts between 2016-21, Kirkwood won 47 races, amassed 80 podiums and captured five championships, including the 2021 IndyNXT title.

That earned him an IndyCar drive with A.J. Foyt Racing in 2022, and then, unfortunately, the winning stopped. At least temporarily.

In 16 races, Kirkwood’s only top 10 came at Long Beach (where he finished 10th), and only five of his finishes were inside the top 20. These results landed him a 24th-place finish out of 25 full-time cars. For a guy used to running at the front, running at the back was quite different.

But Kirkwood understood. Getting reps, laps and track time was important, and he knew that he was working towards something bigger in 2023. Kirkwood, who had raced with Andretti Autosport in IndyNXT, knew he was heading to Andretti at some point, and it was all but settled when Alexander Rossi announced in June he was heading to Arrow McLaren.

“For me it was about learning everything I needed to learn in IndyCar,” Kirkwood said Saturday (April 1) after qualifying for Sunday’s PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Obviously I went into every race trying to win, it was never like ‘oh this is just a learning weekend for me.’ That wasn’t the case at all, but it was important to learn everything I needed to last year. Coming (into 2023), hopefully go after for some wins now that I have everything under my belt.”

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So far, the results have been solid. Kirkwood was at the top of the time sheets in testing both at Thermal Club and Sebring International Raceway and made his first Firestone Fast Six during qualifying at St. Pete, starting a career-best sixth.

On race morning he was second-quick in morning warmup behind teammate Colton Herta but, like the rest of his team, was involved in an incident that damaged his No. 27 machine. While teammates Herta, Romain Grosjean, and Devlin DeFrancesco were unable to continue, Kirkwood’s car was able to be repaired, and he soldiered on three laps down and finished in 15th place.

Racing is a results-oriented business, and in the end, that’s all that matters, but at the same time, Kirkwood was encouraged by what he saw from the team.

“I think we made a step forward, no doubt, compared to last year,” Kirkwood said. “Execution is the key for us, it’s the key for everyone in IndyCar. Right now we know we have fast cars, we know we have the drivers, we know we have the crew … we’ve got everyone we need to get it done. Now we just have to get it done.”

Kirkwood’s experience with Andretti has helped him to adjust quickly to his new team, and having the input from his teammates, as well as from Meyer Shank Racing, which is part of a technical alliance, has put him in a great space.

“I’ve settled in very well,” he said. “They’ve welcomed me with open arms. I’ve been with them in the past but it’s nothing new.

“I love this car that I’m driving. It is so comfortable to drive, it’s given me a new respect and understanding about what IndyCar really is.”

Kirkwood qualified 20th for the PPG 375 Saturday. The 250-lap race will air Sunday at 12 p.m. ET on NBC.

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