Having never started better than fifth in his IndyCar Series career to date, Kyle Kirkwood qualified on pole position for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Long Beach ahead of defending Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson.
The pole-winning run came just as the chequered flag fell in the Fast Six stage of qualifying. With his team mate Romain Grosjean trying for his second pole in three races, Kirkwood reeled off a 1’06.288 on his last flying lap to knock Grosjean off of provisional pole.
He’ll now aim to become the first driver to win at Long Beach from pole position since Alexander Rossi’s back-to-back, pole-to-win victories in 2018 and 2019 – and take a first career IndyCar win that many have expected from the most successful prospect of the Road to Indy ladder system.
Andretti were destined to take a front-row lockout, but on a scrubbed set of alternate compound tyres, Ericsson jumped ahead of Grosjean with a time just 0.038 seconds short of Kirkwood’s benchmark. Grosjean will start from third place as he seeks his own, long-awaited first IndyCar victory.
Alex Palou qualified in fourth place ahead of 2015 Long Beach GP winner Scott Dixon in fifth, giving Honda engines a lockout of the top five in qualifying. Championship points leader Pato O’Ward, the only Chevrolet-powered driver to make the Fast Six stage of the session, was sixth-fastest after a lock-up on his last lap cost him a shot at pole position.
Long Beach winner of 2021 Colton Herta will start seventh, followed by the defending winner of the race, Josef Newgarden, in eighth as the highest-ranked Penske driver.
With time left for one more flying lap, Grosjean, Ericsson, and Dixon were able to bump their way into the Fast Six and pushed Herta, Newgarden, and Rosenqvist out. Scott McLaughlin was ninth-fastest, while defending IndyCar Series champion Will Power missed the cut in his first-round qualifying group – he’ll start from 13th on the grid.
McLaren team mates Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi qualified tenth and 11th, ahead of Marcus Armstrong in 12th. Armstrong, the only rookie that advanced out of first-round qualifying, carried too much speed through turn nine and crashed into the tyre barriers with a minute to go in the second round. The impact caused a rupture of water to spill out onto the racing line and caused a lengthy red flag for cleanup.
In first-round qualifying, David Malukas hit the wall at turn nine with about seven minutes left in the first session. He was able to continue, seemingly without damage – but as he started his next lap, his Dallara/Honda broke loose into turn four, spun, and crashed into the concrete barriers. Malukas was able to get out of his car without serious injury, but the second-year driver will undergo another medical check tomorrow morning after taking what he described as “a big hit to the head” on social media.
There are 85 laps of racing around the beautiful and demanding streets of Long Beach which await tomorrow. The green flag for Sunday’s race is scheduled for 20:45 UK time.
Grand Prix of Long Beach qualifying results
|14||60||Simon Pagenaud||Meyer Shank||Honda|
|16||106||Helio Castroneves||Meyer Shank||Honda|
|21||51||Sting Ray Robb||Coyne/RWR||Honda|
|22||77||Callum Ilott||Juncos Hollinger||Chevrolet|
|26||78||Agustin Canapino||Juncos Hollinger||Chevrolet|
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