Kyle Kirkwood credits strategy for Nashville victory: “We absolutely nailed everything”

Spread the love

In taking his second win of the season and second career win, Kyle Kirkwood may have summed up his Music City Grand Prix in a single word: “phenomenal”.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Chris Owens

“We absolutely nailed everything it felt like, to be honest. We had a great strategy. Car was extremely fast. Through the entire race, I feel like we were probably one of the fastest cars.”

Kirkwood started eighth and was in the back of a four-driver group that started the race on the primary tire, with teammate Romain Grosjean at the front of those and starting fifth.

“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.”

The critical moment of the race ultimately came at the first round of stops. A blistering lap before boxing allowed the Andretti Autosport driver to overcut early leader McLaughlin and teammate Grosjean.

It allowed the Floridian to take the net lead. He masterfully managed the race from that point onwards.

“The first pit stop, a lot of things happened there. I passed Colton, Malukas and I think Will 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.”

A lot of talk during and after the race centered on the work of strategist Bryan Herta, and Kirkwood called him “a wealth of knowledge. I always trust on him to call the best strategy, no matter what. I’ve never doubted him, not for one minute. Neither for any of the guys on my crew. Everything is going super well.

In spite of two wins in his first season with Andretti, he’s only being ninth in points. Kirkwood admits some errors have been occasionally been self-inflicted which has cost him valuable points.

“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.”

Hopefully for Kirkwood, the momentum is still strong enough with the Gallagher Grand Prix less than a week out to continue the team’s upward trajectory.