Kyle Kirkwood wins Music City Grand Prix for 2nd win of season for Andretti
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kyle Kirkwood says he felt calm on the final restart, probably more than someone in his second IndyCar Series season should.
That’s just how confident he was in how fast Andretti Autosports had his Honda running.
“It was a phenomenal afternoon,” Kirkwood said. “I mean, 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.”
The 24-year-old from Jupiter, Florida, started eighth and led a race-high 34 laps. He took the lead for good on lap 54 and appeared poised to race to the finish when a caution with 10 laps remaining ensured he had enough fuel left to give Andretti Autosports its 72nd all-time IndyCar victory.
Then four cars crashed, three into each other off the restart forcing a red flag stoppage.
On the restart at the end of lap 77 of the 80-lap race, Kirkwood managed to drive through the rubber debris on the 2.1-mile, 11-turn course around the streets of Nashville adding his second career victory to his first at Long Beach in April.
McLaughlin finished second in a similar final shootout here a year ago. He won his second straight pole on this course in his Chevrolet for Team Penske, led the first 24 laps and 25 overall. But he couldn’t chase down Kirkwood.
“I was trying to do my best to hunt him down at the end,” McLaughlin said. “I just had a poor restart. I had no temp in my rear tires for some reason. So annoying. I don’t know what happened. Like I didn’t change my procedure. I’m normally pretty good on restarts, but I was terrible.”
Alex Palou, the series points leader, finished third and padded his season lead to 84 points with four races remaining. Josef Newgarden remains second, posting his best finish yet in his hometown race at fourth. Scott Dixon, who won here a year ago, was fifth.
For a race called “Crashville” with 17 combined cautions the past two years, the first yellow came out on lap 13 when a piece of a rear wing came off David Malukas’ Honda a couple of laps after a pit stop, ending his race after 11 laps.
This was a fast race, finishing in just under 2 hours with only four cautions and eight laps under yellow. That also left the streets filled with rubber chunks as six drivers swapped the lead nine times. The top six finishers made only two pit stops over 168 miles.
Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing came in prepared for a race with lots of cautions, which is why he was trying to stretch fuel. Palou said he felt “super lucky” when the late caution came out in what had been a stressful race until then.
“I think I lost like five years of my life just trying to save fuel, a lot of fuel and praying for a yellow,” Palou said. “It finally came, which was good to me.”
Nashville relocated the restart area for this year. It didn’t help, though McLaughlin made clear restarts on street courses have been a frustrating issue for IndyCar all season long. McLaughlin said he was angry at how the restart went Sunday, an area where he’s usually good.
“We move restarts, we do this, we do that,” McLaughlin said. “Nothing works until we like police it. We have to police something.”
DIXON TIES KANAAN
Dixon started 12th, and the man who won his 53rd career race here a year ago tied Tony Kanaan’s IndyCar record with his 318th consecutive start. The 43-year-old New Zealander can break the tie Saturday in Indianapolis.
Will Power had to scramble before the race started to grab some communication equipment. He had to run to grab the gear, then put the piece on before climbing into his car. He started seventh and finished 10th.
Linus Lundqvist the reigning Indy Lights champ, made his IndyCar debut driving Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 60 for Simon Pagenaud who hasn’t raced since a July 1 crash in practice at Mid-Ohio. Lundqvist was the highest qualifying rookie and started 11th.
He crashed the right front of the car into the wall after having run in the top 10 much of the race. That brought out the final caution with 10 laps remaining. He finished 25th.
The Gallagher Grand Prix on Saturday on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of an IndyCar and NASCAR crossover. Palou won on that course in May, and another strong finish could really help the Spaniard move closer to his second series title in three years.
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