Micheal Andretti on his team’s 1-2: “We’re very excited about the rest of the year”

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It was an incredible day for Michael Andretti and his team, as the Long Beach round ended with an impressive 1-2. Pole sitter Kyle Kirkwood took his first ever Indycar race win with Romain Grosjean just behind in P2, achieving the same result he had gotten last year at this venue. 2021 Long Beach winner Colton Herta made his way up from P7 to end his race in P4, just outside of the podium positions.

It’s Andretti’s first 1-2 since the Mid-Ohio round in 2020, and an important result that comes after a difficult start of the year. The first round in St. Petersburg had seen Grosjean and Herta qualifying in P1 and P2, with Kirkwood in the top 5 as well, but all three drivers crashed during the race, finishing out of the top ten.

“Unbelievable. We needed this bad. The way we started off the year with really fast cars, not getting any results. It’s nice to get the results we did. 1-2-4 is not a bad day,

said Michael Andretti in the post-race press conference.

“This is going to really help especially rolling into Indy [500] in a few races. This always puts an extra bounce in everybody’s step. Yeah, we’re very excited about the rest of the year.”

Andretti only had words of praise for Kirkwood, who has achieved his first win in the top championship with “calmness”, as per the Floridian driver’s words, going as far as to say that, just like he had won the Indy Lights championship in his rookie year, Kirkwood can go on and win titles with the team in IndyCar as well.

“He’s always been that way, even when he raced for us in the INDY NXT series. He knows how to win. That’s the thing. There’s a lot of guys that just don’t know how to win. You can tell when he was out front, he knew what he needed to do.

“He’s a very smart guy, very confident guy in his own ability. Yeah, he’s got all the ingredients to be a future champion many times over.”

Even if circumstances hadn’t allowed Kirkwood to show his full potential at St. Pete and Texas, the Andretti team founder had no doubts that he would have eventually impress during his first year with the squad in the main game:

“Honestly, the way testing went and even the first couple races, he didn’t get the chance to show exactly what he had. But we knew it, seeing it in the data, what was going on that, yeah, I’m not surprised. When we saw the first, like I said, the testing, the first couple races, it’s going to come soon, right away, so…”

The extremely high regard in which Andretti holds his newest driver is evident also by the way he compared him to Colton Herta:

“I think they’re very, very similar. I think they’re both very, very good. I think both are going to win a lot of races from now on. Yeah, I compare them very equally.”

Asked on what did the team do in order to be more prepared for the Long Beach race, and if some special work was done in the off weeks between Texas and this weekend, Andretti declared the effort put in over the winter was the main factor.

“I wouldn’t say last few weeks. I think it was the off-season that we put a big effort in in a lot of areas we felt we were really weak. We worked very hard on our pit stops. Pit stops let us down a few times last year.”

“There’s racetracks where we were weaker than we wanted to be, and we worked very hard on hopefully fixing those problems. Yeah, it was not the last few weeks, it was the hard work over the winter. It’s nice to see it paying off,” he admitted with pleasure.

Among the areas that have shown massive improvements since the last season an honourable mention has to be made for pit stops.

While not mentioning how the progress was made, Andretti took time to highlight the hard work the pit crew has put in, the importance it holds in achieveing this kind of results and how thankful he felt for them:

“I’m not going to tell you (smiling). I can tell you, though, it was a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication from all the guys. I think that’s what it was.

“They’re out there on their own practicing. They’re not having to be told to get out there and work on their technique. Credit to all the guys that are going over the wall. They deserve to be getting the results now because they put in the effort that they needed,” he concluded.