Kyle Kirkwood - Photo Nashville Music City GP courtesy of Penske Entertainment

IndyCar: Kirkwood outduels McLaughlin to win in Nashville

Andretti Autosport’s American ace Kyle Kirkwood out dueled polesitter Scott McLaughlin to win the Music City GP on the streets of Nashville.

Headed to victory before they started crashing all around the circuit, Kirkwood had to survive intense pressure from late cautions and a red flag, but he kept his cool in hot and humid conditions to bring his #27 Andretti Honda home first.

Race winner Kyle Kirkwood - Big Machine Music City Grand Prix - By_ Chris Owens

Race winner Kyle Kirkwood – Big Machine Music City Grand Prix – By_ Chris OwensKirkwood won on the streets of Long Beach back in April, and this was his 2nd NTT IndyCar victory while giving McLaughlin a driving lesson he won’t soon forget.

Team owner Michael Andretti has to be wondering whether Kirkwood is one of the Americans he should be looking to take to F1.

“I’ve got to give up to the 27 crew, AutoNation, Andretti, Honda,” Kirkwood said. “They played everything in my favor, to be honest. They gave me all the tools I needed. They cycled me to the front on strategy, and we just made really smart decisions and hit all of our marks. Just a solid day.”

Kirkwood fended off McLaughlin on a restart with just over three laps remaining after a red flag period of 11 minutes. That pause was triggered by a three-car stack-up on Lap 75 of the 80-lap race involving the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist, the No. 55 AJ Foyt Racing/Sexton Properties Chevrolet of Benjamin Pedersen and the No. 78 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet of Agustin Canapino in Turn 11.

On the restart at the end of Lap 77, Kirkwood rocketed away on the 11-turn, 2.1-mile temporary street circuit that includes two trips over the Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge per lap, pulling a lead of 1.6 seconds after one green-flag lap.

But McLaughlin and Palou started a hot pursuit in steamy weather conditions of air temperatures in the high 80s and high humidity. McLaughlin sliced more than half of Kirkwood’s lead at the white flag, but he had to settle for his second consecutive runner-up finish from pole in this race.

“Right there at the end, man, they were so fast,” Kirkwood said. “They ran me down just in that last lap.”

Said McLaughlin: “I tried my hardest. Congrats to Kyle and his team. Another top-three, good points. Bummed we didn’t get the win, but we weren’t the best on the day. Kyle was. Hopefully next year we’re running for the championship and win here and win the championship, as well. There will be a huge party on Broadway.”

Point leader Alex Palou got a lucky break from the late cautions that enabled him to avoid a late stop for fuel and take the final podium position in his #10 Ganassi Honda over Josef Newgarden’s Penske Chevy.

“We had the speed today,” said points leader Palou.

“We expected more yellows, but we survived and made it work. We were saving a ton of fuel throughout the whole race, and it was a tough race. We’re on the podium and I couldn’t be happier for the American Legion team.”

Scott Dixon rounded out the top-5 in his #9 Ganassi Honda.

The Swedish rookie, Linus Lindqvist,  ran a good race until lap 71 when he made contact with the barrier in Turn 11 and it took three laps of yellow to move his car off the track.  On Lap 35, his JJ Scoop, which was mandated by the series, came off his areoscreen and probably made him much hotter.

It would not be Nashville without a red flag, which happened with 5 laps to go when Felix Rosenqvist, Benjamin Pedersen and Augustine Canapino crashed in Turn 11.

The cars where lined up in pit lane for 11 minutes, which made it difficult for the drivers due to a now increased heat factor and it stopped the momentum of the race.


A Frustrated McLaughlin      Photo courtesy of Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski

Scott McLaughlin, who finished second this year and last year, was really vocal about the process the series’ takes with the restart and red flag policy.

“We need to, like, I think we need to start on the start/finish line. We cannot pass until the start/finish line. You’re always going to have these yellows. You’re always going to have these clusters that cause red flags and make us look like…”

“Yeah, there’s no cadence. Once there’s a yellow flag on a street circuit, it’s just a free-for-all. People bomb. We’re well within our rights to do that. If we want to have a pure
race, we could have had a 10-lap shootout, me and Kyle there at the end. Instead, we’re stop, start, stop, start. The action is fantastic. We just have no race.”

“I just think everywhere we go, we should have one start/restart line.  We talked about doing it, like, about not passing till the apex of the last corner. At least that.”

“I think when it goes green, there’s kamikazes at the back and don’t care. Well within their right to throw it inside when it turns green. That’s fine. But we just have this
terrible just stop, start, bad looking finish to races.”

“Everyone is on cold tires. Someone is going to have a mistake. The guy behind him is going to go, I have a crack. People getting hurt. Rah-rah. I just think it looks amateur-ish, it really does.”

I’m going to speak to Jay (Frye)  about it and Kyle Novak. We just need to go apex last corner or start/finish line. Just make a point where you can’t pass just to get it going.”

Lucille Dust reporting live from Nashville

Race Results – 80 Laps

Pos No Name Laps Behind Gap Led ST Engine Points Team
1 27 Kyle Kirkwood 80 0.000s  0.000s 34 8 Honda 290 Andretti Autosport
2 3 Scott McLaughlin 80 0.7633 0.7633 25 1 Chevy 370 Team Penske
3 10 Alex Palou 80 1.7221 0.9588 12 4 Honda 513 Chip Ganassi Racing
4 2 Josef Newgarden 80 3.1416 1.4195 0 9 Chevy 429 Team Penske
5 9 Scott Dixon 80 4.1655 1.0239 0 12 Honda 387 Chip Ganassi Racing
6 28 Romain Grosjean 80 5.9518 1.7863 4 6 Honda 241 Andretti Autosport
7 8 Marcus Ericsson 80 6.4148 0.4630 4 20 Honda 357 Chip Ganassi Racing
8 5 Pato O’Ward 80 6.6966 0.2818 0 2 Chevy 353 Arrow McLaren
9 45 Christian Lundgaard 80 8.0168 1.3202 0 13 Honda 297 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
10 12 Will Power 80 9.0456 1.0288 1 7 Chevy 337 Team Penske
11 06 Helio Castroneves 80 9.8718 0.8262 0 17 Honda 162 Meyer Shank Racing
12 77 Callum Ilott 80 10.6859 0.8141 0 18 Chevy 203 Juncos Hollinger Racing
13 11 Marcus Armstrong 80 11.4056 0.7197 0 16 Honda 173 Chip Ganassi Racing
14 21 Rinus VeeKay 80 11.8172 0.4116 0 19 Chevy 199 Ed Carpenter Racing
15 15 Graham Rahal 80 14.2271 2.4099 0 15 Honda 197 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
16 20 Ryan Hunter Reay 80 14.6874 0.4603 0 27 Chevy 76 Ed Carpenter Racing
17 51 Sting Ray Robb 80 15.1158 0.4284 0 24 Honda 105 Dale Coyne Racing w/RWR
18 14 Santino Ferrucci 80 16.5253 1.4095 0 21 Chevy 163 AJ Foyt Enterprises
19 7 Alexander Rossi 78 2 LAPS 2 LAPS 0 10 Chevy 276 Arrow McLaren
20 78 Agustin Canapino 77 Off Course 0.2199 0 23 Chevy 142 Juncos Hollinger Racing
21 26 Colton Herta 76 Mechanical 3.6616 0 3 Honda 285 Andretti Autosport w/Curb Agajanian
22 6 Felix Rosenqvist 73 Contact 0.2840 0 14 Chevy 241 Arrow McLaren
23 55 Benjamin Pedersen 73 Contact 0.6056 0 25 Chevy 97 AJ Foyt Enterprises
24 30 Jack Harvey 71 Contact 71.4724 0 22 Honda 130 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
25 60 Linus Lundqvist 69 Contact 1 LAPS 0 11 Honda 5 Meyer Shank Racing
26 29 Devlin DeFrancesco 65 Contact 34.7029 0 26 Honda 133 Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport
27 18 David Malukas 11 Mechanical 2.3982 0 5 Honda 181 Dale Coyne Racing with HMD


Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 85.396 mph
Time of Race: 01:58:02.3028
Margin of victory: 0.7633 of a second
Cautions: 4 for 8 laps
Lead changes: 9 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders:
McLaughlin, Scott 1 – 24
Grosjean, Romain 25 – 27
Kirkwood, Kyle 28
Ericsson, Marcus 29 – 32
Palou, Alex 33 – 44
Kirkwood, Kyle 45 – 50
McLaughlin, Scott 51
Grosjean, Romain 52
Power, Will 53
Kirkwood, Kyle 54 – 80

NTT INDYCAR SERIES Point Standings: Palou 513, Newgarden 429, Dixon 387, McLaughlin 371, Ericsson 357, O’Ward 353, Power 337, Lundgaard 297, Kirkwood 290, Herta 285, Rossi 276, Grosjean 241, Rosenqvist 241, Ilott 203, VeeKay 199, Rahal 197, Malukas 181, Armstrong 173, Ferrucci 163, Castroneves 162, Canapino 142, DeFrancesco 133, Harvey 130, Daly 120, Robb 105, Pedersen 97, Pagenaud 88, Hunter-Reay 76, Sato 65, Carpenter 40, Kanaan 18, Andretti 13, Blomqvist 5, Enerson 5, Legge 5, Lundqvist 5

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