Story By: ANNE FORNORO / AJ FOYT RACING – LONG BEACH, CA – Kyle Kirkwood proved to be the fastest of the rookies in qualifying for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Driving the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet, he transferred out of the first round as he did in his NTT INDYCAR Series debut in St. Petersburg in February. He will start 12th in tomorrow’s race.
“We had a pretty good qualifying,” Kirkwood said. “Our goal was to get into the top 12 and over into Q2
and we transferred, so happy with that. Of course, we wanted more once we got into the fast 12 but, unfortunately, we just didn’t have the pace to make it happen. I felt like I had good laps and the car balance was good. We executed everything perfectly it’s just unfortunate we didn’t have the pace there at the end. Super happy with the performance and where we’re starting tomorrow. Definitely got good company around us. Pretty much it’s McLaren, Ganassi Penske and Andretti in front of us. We’re there, we’re in the mix, so hopefully the strategy plays out. The weather should be similar tomorrow so looking forward to it.”
Dalton Kellett, who will be making his second INDYCAR start here at Long Beach, will start 24th in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet.
Dalton chats with his race engineer Mike Pawlowski.
“Starting p24 is not really where we want to be rolling off the grid tomorrow but it’s a long race so there’s lots that can happen,” said Kellett. “We know we have a good race car here from when we were here around six months ago, at the end of last year. We had a solid car for that race so I feel optimistic for that. Overall, still pretty happy with our progression throughout the weekend. I feel we’ve made the car better and definitely, compared to the rest of the field, we’ve tightened the gap from last year, so we’re on the right trajectory. We just have to keep executing on those points and it should be good. I think we’ve got a good chance to move up in the race tomorrow so looking forward to that.”
Tatiana Calderón was impressed with the layout of the 11-turn, 1.968-mile temporary street circuit. Unfortunately, the amount of red flags in both practice sessions made it difficult for her to find a rhythm but she did make progress. She will start 26th in the No. 11 ROKiT Chevrolet.
“With the limited track time we had in free practice due to all the red flags, we decided to do red-red (Firestone’s softer alternate tire compound) just to have a bit more feeling with the car,” said Calderón. “Most people did black-red (the black tire is the harder primary compound). I think we did a few changes from free practice to qually (qualifying) that I felt really comfortable with the brakes and a little bit with the bottoming (out), so I gained a lot of confidence. I wish I had another set (of tires) because I think I was just getting up to speed and closer to the other guys, so I’m quite happy with that. There’s obviously more to come and hopefully we can find a good compromise in the warmup and keep learning during the race.”
Colton Herta won the pole and set a new track record with his lap time of 1 minute, 5.3095 seconds, nearly a full second faster than the old record set in 2017. Rounding out the Firestone Fast Six were: Josef Newgarden, Alex Palou, Felix Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean.
The teams have a 30-minute warmup session in the morning to run with full tanks and tweak their race setups. The 85-lap race will be broadcast on NBC starting at 3 p.m. ET.