Kirkwood scores an impressive first IndyCar pole at Long Beach

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Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Chris Owens

Kyle Kirkwood was the fastest of all at qualifying in Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver was the only to have new sticker alternate tyres at the Fast 6 and didn’t waste them. He was followed by Marcus Ericsson and Kirkwood’s Andretti teammate teammate Romain Grosjean. Championship leader Pato O’Ward could only qualify on the third row for tomorrow’s race.Round 1, Group 1On the first banker laps with the black primary tyres, David Malukas touched turn 9’s outside wall. Feeling that the car was ok, the Dale Coyne driver tried to set his lap but crashed while exiting turn 4. He brought out the red flag and was out of qualifying. “Little Dave” will start on the last row in tomorrow’s Grand Prix, providing he clears a medial check.

Colton Herta topped the first timed laps, with a 1:07:8391.When the session restarted, with 6:40 minutes to go, the teams split the strategies between drivers that got another lap with the primary tyres and the two Penskes of Josef Newgarden and Will Power that went out with the green alternate tyres.

Kyle Kirkwood finished the session on the top, with a 1:06:5593. Marcus Ericsson, Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi, and Josef Newgarden advanced to the Fast 12.The biggest upset was the No. 12 Team Penske car of Will Power, which didn’t advance as he missed out by six thousands of a second. He will start on the 7th row.Harvey, Lundgaard, VeeKay, Robb, Pedersen, and Malukas went out with the Australian.

Round 1, Group 2

Five drivers started the session with the alternate tyres, and started it on top.

Agustin Canapino touched the outside wall at turn 5, but it didn’t damage his Juncos. While his teammate Callum Ilott had his breaks on fire while pitting between runs.

On the fast runs, the Ganassis proved to be the quickest team. Alex Palou led round 2 with a 1:06:3995. Teammate Scott Dixon advanced in second. The other drivers that advanced to the Fast 12 were championship leader Pato O’Ward, Ganassi rookie Marcus Armstrong, Romain Grosjean and Scott McLaughlin.Both Meyer Shank Racings just didn’t advance, with Pagenaud ahead of Castroneves. Ferrucci, DeFrancesco, Ilott, Rahal, Canapino, and Daly also didn’t.

Fast 12

Going into the second segment of qualifying, the Ganassis and the Andrettis were the teams to beat. Arrow McLaren was able to advance with its three cars and Team Penske had only two, with the early loss of Will Power in Group 1.At the start of the session, Colton Herta missed his breaking point in turn 1, went to the run-off zone, and caused a local yellow. He was penalized and lost his fastest lap up until that point.

Kirkwood set the fastest banker lap with a 1:06:4568.When the second run started, Romain Grosjean got impeded by Alex Palou and complained on the radio: “I got blocked, I got blocked, I got blocked.”With 53 seconds on the clock, Marcus Armstrong lost his breaking point and crashed his Ganassi on the outside tyre wall of turn 9. The rookie’s session was over. He lost his two fastest laps. The Kiwi will start tomorrow’s race on the 6th row.

Race direction allowed all drivers to have another timed lap, and everyone went out, with Fast 12 leader at that point, Pato O’Ward, at the end of the queue.The team begged the Mexican to save tyres, but he didn’t. He did a fast lap, but couldn’t be as fast as Romain Grosjean’s Andretti. The Frenchman topped the time sheets with a 1:06:3246. But, he crashed his Andretti at the entry of Seaside Way, leaving his mechanics in a rush to check his car’s damage.The championship leader and Arrow McLaren driver was second. Also advancing was Kyle Kirkwood, Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou and Scott Dixon.Colton Herta was eliminated just at the end when Ericsson finished his lap. Both Penskes followed, with Newgarden ahead of McLaughlin, then Rosenqvist, Rossi, and Armstrong.

Fast 6

The Fast 6 started with a clear favorite: Kyle Kirkwood. The Andretti Autosport driver was the only one that had a new sticker alternate tyre.

On the first laps with used tyres, Pato O’Ward topped the field, with a 1:06:9332. But, the Ganassis seemed quick.

Nonetheless, on the second run, anyone could top Kyle Kirkwood with his new tyres. The Andretti driver got his first pole position with a 1:06:2878. He was followed by Marcus Ericsson, that was the last to complete his lap, but couldn’t top the American.Completing the Fast 6: Romain Grosjean, Alex Palou, Scott Dixon and Pato O’Ward, as the championship leader locked up at turn 9 on his final run.