Kirkwood says Nashville win ‘redemption’ from Detroit, Toronto

STREETS OF NASHVILLE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - AUGUST 06: #27: Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport Honda at Streets of Nashville on Sunday August 06, 2023 in Nashville, United States of America. (Photo by Gavin Baker / LAT Images)
STREETS OF NASHVILLE, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - AUGUST 06: #27: Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport Honda at Streets of Nashville on Sunday August 06, 2023 in Nashville, United States of America. (Photo by Gavin Baker / LAT Images)

Kyle Kirkwood said winning today’s third Music City Grand Prix at Nashville helps make up for Andretti Autosport Honda giving him good cars for other street races and being unable to capitalize.

Kirkwood started eighth for today’s race, tracked teammate Romain Grosjean in the first stint, and beat him on the overcut, and then enjoyed a superior strategy to get him to the front. Once in the lead, even dominant pole winner Scott McLaughlin could do nothing about the Andretti driver whose first win came back in April at Long Beach.

“It was phenomenal afternoon — we absolutely nailed everything, it felt like,” said the only driver to have won USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights on his way to IndyCar. “We had a great strategy. Car was extremely fast. Through the entire race, I feel like we were probably one of the fastest cars.

“Andretti Autosport, AutoNation Honda keep giving me a great car that’s good on street courses. This should be more than two wins, to be honest, on street courses, given the cars they’ve given me.

“I’m thrilled with this one here today. This is kind of redemption from last year. A dumb incident. Redemption from Toronto. Redemption from Detroit.”

He continued: “A lot of things happen in the pit strategy. The first pit stop, a lot of things happened there. I passed a few cars. Wasn’t a bunch. I passed Colton [Herta], [David] Malukas and I think Will [Power] technically for position. We kind of overcut Romain and got McLaughlin, and Palou pitted. I think that’s kind of what cycled us up there.

“It wasn’t like I drove through the field from eighth place. It was more like we played our strategy, played our cards right, did everything right when we had clean air. It cycled us up to the point.”

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Kirkwood admitted that when he and Grosjean were running primary tires in the opening stint, he had no intention of passing him. It was switching to the alternate Firestone green sidewalled tires and nailing his out-lap that vaulted him ahead of the ex-Formula 1 driver.

“In the first stint, I told the team to tell Romain I’m not going to pressure him, we’re going to kind of cut through some people. It worked out in my favor that I saved some more fuel and I was able to overcut him and put in a really good lap on that pit. It worked out super well for us.”

Kirkwood said he’s uncertain why street courses have allowed him to shine — “I wish I knew exactly what it was so I could pin it down for the other places I go to, as well” — but then came up with an explanation.

“I think a lot of it has to do just with comfort around walls, adaptability. I feel like there’s some drivers that just have outright raw pace. I feel like I’m one of the drivers that can adapt to things really quickly. I might not have the super pace that some of these guys pull out of a hat randomly sometimes, but I adapt to tracks really well.

“That’s a reason why last year I come to new tracks and I’m already pretty quick. I think it just has to do with that — the track is always evolving, I feel like I’m already up to speed.”

Kirkwood also deflected criticism of Andretti Autosport for its up-and-down results in 2023.

“Honestly, the team has done a great job,” he insisted. “Every weekend we’ve gone into, I think we’ve done everything pretty much exactly how it should be played.

“I think we just had a lot of incidents this year, whether it’s my fault and I’ve done something dumb, or we got into something that was like a dumb incident that we can’t control. There’s been a lot of both, to be honest!

“Just executing. Today was just such a smooth race. Strategy played in our favor. I was hitting my marks the entire time and everything worked out well for us.”


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