Andretti Autosport owner, CEO and Chairman Michael Andretti says that Kyle Kirkwood, driver of the No.27 AutoNation Honda is the real deal after watching him claim a dominant made NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory in Long Beach on Sunday.
The Jupiter native, who started the race from pole was flawless following a wonderfully executed strategy by his new strategist, Bryan Herta.
Not only did Kirkwood win the race but Romain Grosjean finished second and speaking following the action, Andretti said:
Kyle is the real deal and we knew it a long time ago when he won the Championship for us in the INDY NXT by Firestone Series. We knew he was something special and he’s really doing us proud. Getting your first win at a place like Long Beach is extra special. It’s a hugely, iconic event and it’ll always be meaningful to him.
I’m just proud of the whole team really. We did a great job across the board with all the cars. I’m so happy for everyone who worked hard over the winter to get us back up front and help us crack the bad luck we had in the first two races. It was definitely a big weekend for us. I’m happy for AutoNation to get a win with us and also DHL to be right there fighting up front and coming away with a podium finish.
It couldn’t be a better day for us. This is the medicine we needed. We knew we had quick cars and we knew if we just kept our heads down, we were going to get the results. We just need to keep it going now.”
The win moves Kirkwood up to fifth in the championship on 74 points and speaking following the race he said:
What an amazing day – what an amazing day for Andretti Autosport. We had first, second and fourth. We all had fast enough cars to win today, ultimately it was me because I started from the pole, and we played the strategy perfectly. We had a little bit of a mishap in the middle stint where we got caught up with some lapped traffic and nearly crashed. But we overcame that. We were able to get back to the lead and everything worked out perfectly. The AutoNation Honda was on rails and the Honda power was perfect. I’m just so happy for everyone the 27 team and the whole Andretti Autosport group.”
For Romain Grosjean in the No.28 DHL Honda it was a case of what could have been. Starting the race from third on the grid he foot hard with Kirkwood but had to settle for second place.
I’m so happy for Kyle. He drove a hell of a race like a champ all weekend, so he deserved that win. We tried everything we could on our end, but it wasn’t easy. There were a few situations and we couldn’t really attack. The No. 28 DHL Honda could have been a touch better here and there, but it feels good to finish P2. I just stayed out of trouble and did what we had to do to get a good result. It wasn’t easy saving that much fuel for that long, but I think we did a good job and I’m happy for Honda, DHL and the whole Andretti Autosport team. I wish it was us up on the top step of the podium, but Kyle deserved it this weekend.
Colton Herta in the No.26 Gainbridge Honda started the race in seventh and finished fourth and speaking following the action the Californian who grew up 60 miles from Long Beach said:
It felt like having a double-double right after the race, it just felt right. The guys are good, everyone’s happy and everyone is excited for the upcoming races. We have a strong package for the next races, too. Happy for Andretti Autosport as a whole. It was a great first win for Kyle – he drove perfectly. Andretti 1-2-4 and I’m good with that. We’re taking it one step at a time and one race at a time and we’ll focus on a good result for the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda at Barber now.”
Devlin DeFrancesco started 20th and came home in P16 and speaking following the race he said:
We may have started the race today on the back foot due to the fuel issue in qualifying, but this weekend we proved that we’re clearly capable of fighting at the sharp end and we can be proud of that. The No. 29 Capstone Honda showed a great amount of speed, but unfortunately we just didn’t get the chance to show what we could do during qualifying or the race. Regardless, I’m happy for the team and for Kyle. Hopefully we can turn things around in Barber
Next up for the team is the two day open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval where they will be joined by Marco Andretti.