2023 Music City GP winner Kyle Kirkwood and his #27 Andretti Autosport Honda team

IndyCar: Music City GP Post-Race Press Conference

The top-3 finishers in the 2023 Music City GP IndyCar race in Nashville met with the media after the race to answer questions


1st: Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport
2nd: Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske
3rd: Alex Palou, Ganassi Racing

Scott McLaughlin_ Kyle Kirkwood and Alex Palou - Big Machine Music City Grand Prix - By_ Joe Skibinski
Scott McLaughlin_ Kyle Kirkwood and Alex Palou – Big Machine Music City Grand Prix – By_ Joe Skibinski

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We welcome this year’s champion, Kyle Kirkwood. Second win, a two-time winner in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Second podium of the season, as well. He gives Andretti Autosport their 72nd win in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

Congratulations. Tell us about the afternoon.

KYLE KIRKWOOD: Yeah, it was phenomenal afternoon. 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. I look back, I have no idea, but I assume we were.

Andretti Autosport, AutoNation Honda keep giving me a great car that’s good on street courses. This should be more than two wins, to be honest, on street courses given the cars they’ve given me.

I’m thrilled with this one here today. This is kind of redemption from last year. A dumb incident. Redemption from Toronto. Redemption from Detroit.

Doesn’t feel as good as the first one. The first one was absolutely amazing at Long Beach. Now this is a step in the right direction. This helps us in our championship, get us back in the top 10 range, I imagine. This was a phenomenal day for Andretti Autosport on the 27 car.

THE MODERATOR: You’re now ninth in the standings.

KYLE KIRKWOOD: Just inside the top 10.

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Alex was saying they thought there were going to be a lot of yellows. Was your strategy predicated on a long green?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: I can’t answer that right now. I don’t know what Bryan’s decision was. I don’t understand strategy well enough to know exactly what’s decision making factors were there.

I’m sure a lot of it had to do we were on the primary tire, we were trying to carry the primaries as long as possible because the green tires weren’t as good for a duration of time. I think everyone on the primary tires stayed out and kept going. I’m sure that was probably the ticking point on the teetering point to make that decision. Obviously played out in our favor.

I think this year with everyone being so it’s going to be a crash fest, crash-ville, sort of that thing, maybe there’s a hesitancy from all the drivers. We had that last year at Detroit where everyone is, It’s a street course, we expect some yellows, get off the greens early, blah, blah, blah. Next thing you know Will started on primaries, walked away from everyone, it stayed green the entire race. Things like that happen where people have hesitancy due to last year.

Q. You’re still processing how it worked. You said you passed only a couple cars on track before you cycled. During the long green stretch, that allowed you to leapfrog Scott?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: A lot of things happen in the pit strategy. The first pit stop, a lot of things happened there. I passed a few cars. Wasn’t a bunch. I passed Colton, Malukas and I think Will technically for position. We kind of overcut Romain and got McLoughlin and Palou pitted. I think that’s kind of what cycled us up there.

It wasn’t like I drove through the field from eighth place. It was more like we played our strategy, played our cards right, did everything right when we had clean air. It cycled us up to the point.

Q. A day like this where it seems like the execution of everything was flawless versus a day where you’re tearing up through the field, do those days feel any different? Is one more satisfying than the other?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: I think they’re both extremely satisfying in different ways, right? As a driver, if you just drive through everyone, you feel like you race super well, you get a satisfaction I guess within yourself.

You also get a satisfaction on days like today where the team executed. Then you have this aura around you, you have kind of this feeling within the team that everything’s clicking, which is something that’s so important for future races, not only just that one race.

Honestly, I think ones like today are even better than ones where you feel like the driver is on top of the world.

Q. (Question about Grosjean.)


Q. Is it difficult to not get too excited the fact that you jumped one of your biggest competitors in the first one of pit stops?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: Are you talking about Romain?

Q. Yes.

KYLE KIRKWOOD: I tend to not consider teammates as competitors. I think we all work together super well.

In the first stint, I told the team to tell Romain I’m not going to pressure him, we’re going to kind of cut through some people. It worked out in my favor that I saved some more fuel and I was able to overcut him and put in a really good lap on that pit. I worked out super well for us.

Q. How do you feel like your working relationship has evolved with Bryan?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: It’s clicked right from the start. We’ve done super well together. Bryan is a wealth of knowledge. I always trust on him to call the best strategy, no matter what. I’ve never doubted him, not for one minute. Neither for any of the guys on my crew. Everything is going super well.

Q. Was it your call having green tires for second stint? Did you know Grosjean went to black tires?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: They told me that he did after we did it. I think our plan going in was to do that, so that’s what we did.

I’m not sure why Romain deviated and ended up running them at the end. A little bit curious on that. I’ll know more afterwards.

It wasn’t my decision. It’s ultimately the team’s decision. We kind of had that plan in place, though.

Q. McLaughlin was irate about restarts. Do you have any thoughts? Does INDYCAR need to get tougher or ways to enforce restarts on street courses?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: I’m not sure what happened, to be honest. I hope I wasn’t somebody that was doing it.

It’s hard to do it here though, right? Where are you going to put it that there isn’t something sketchy coming up right afterwards?

Q. The frustration was you could pass before the green, so something happens in the back.

KYLE KIRKWOOD: All year long we’ve had jump-starts. You don’t see the green flags. Green flag is actually called before. People are jumping in and expecting the green flag to come. It’s a bit vague. I feel like that’s kind of been what it has been all year, to be honest.

You saw a lot of it this year. I don’t know if it’s the structure, exactly what happens. That’s more from the pit stand to understand when they call the green. We never really see the green. We just call it and then we go. It’s a little bit strange. It’s a little bit strange.

Q. Would it work better if it was like Long Beach, more straightforward?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: It’s really straightforward at Long Beach because you have such a tight sector leaning onto a front straight. Everyone kind of accordions out. It’s pretty easy there. Everyone is hesitant to dive into the last corner. Here, everyone accordions, then you feel like you have all the room in the world until you get to the middle of the corner.

THE MODERATOR: He was saying you can’t pass until the start/finish line.

KYLE KIRKWOOD: Oh, I’m sorry.

Long Beach, everyone is hesitant to do it there. We’ve mentioned it before that we should do it. Some people disagree on it. I think the majority of drivers agree there should be a no passing zone until a certain area, because of things like, that jump-starts, things like that, big runs.

Yeah, some places I think that should be enforced in some way, shape or form because the guy that’s not the leader is under the gun of someone potentially getting a lucky start.

Q. (Question about running so well on street circuits.)

KYLE KIRKWOOD: I’m not sure to be honest. I wish I knew exactly what it was so I could pin it down for the other places I go to, as well.

I think a lot of it has to do just with comfort around walls, adaptability. I feel like there’s some drivers that just have outright raw pace. I feel like I’m one of the drivers that can adapt to things really quickly. I might not have, like, the super pace that some of these guys pull out of a hat randomly sometimes, but I adapt to tracks really well.

That’s a reason why last year I come to new tracks and I’m already pretty quick. I think it just has to do with that, that the track is always evolving, I feel like I’m already up to speed.

Q. What do you feel like it’s going to take to see more of these types of weekends out of the team as a whole?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: Honestly, the team has done a great job. Every weekend we’ve gone into, I think we’ve done everything pretty much exactly how it should be played. I think we just had a lot of incidents this year, whether it’s my fault and I’ve done something dumb, or we got into something that was like a dumb incident that we can’t control. There’s been a lot of both, to be honest.

Just executing. Today was just such a smooth race. Strategy played in our favor. I was hitting my marks the entire time and everything worked out well for us.

Q. You mentioned the fear of this race going crazy. Fairly straightforward one, red flag, you’re the leader. What were your thoughts?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: Yeah, I was pretty calm, to be honest. A lot calmer than I should have been (smiling). It was good that I had that middle stint that I was behind Palou.

That’s kind of what gave me the confidence, because I was behind Palou and I was stuck there doing two seconds off of what I could have done. I couldn’t get around him. I couldn’t get within a second of him.

That gave me confidence, I get a good jump, make it through 10 and 11 fine, they’re not going to pass me. I had enough push to pass. That gave me confidence that I want to restart this race and get this thing over with.

Q. How do you celebrate this one?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: We’ll see. I’m not sure yet. I haven’t talked to anyone.

Q. Anybody here with you this weekend?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: I have my girlfriend. My parents. I’m not sure if my parents are leaving tonight or tomorrow morning. Maybe I can get them to stay tonight.

Q. Stay in town?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: I’ll stay in Nashville tonight.

Q. Back to Indy?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: Back to Indy.

Q. The short turnaround week, does that diminish how you can celebrate?

KYLE KIRKWOOD: No way, not after today. I’ll make my girlfriend drive me home to Indy.

Yeah, so it is a tight turnaround, right? You’re only as good as your last race. That celebration period only lasts a few days as always. It would be nice if we ended the season with a win so you could go into the off-season with a pat on your back the entire time.

Quick turnaround. I’m already focused on next weekend. We have to execute. Things play in our favor for next weekend. Hopefully we have a good weekend there, as well, just like we had there.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.

THE MODERATOR: Wrapping up this year’s race here on the Nashville street circuit. Joined by the two podium finishers.

Finishing second today for the second straight year Scott McLaughlin. Second podium in three races in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Third podium of the season. 11th of his career.

Also joining us Alex Palou, the points leader. Second straight podium finish in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Eighth of the season. 23rd of his career. Also picking up another four championship points. 84-point lead over Josef Newgarden with four races remaining.

Scott, another podium for you, although I have a feeling you wanted to finish one step higher.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, yeah, I’m disappointed. But it is what it is. I think we had a really fast car today. Just that first yellow destroyed a few things, which is probably going to play. You hope it doesn’t come, but it came. You take it or lose your advantage, try to reset and go again. That’s what we decided, the latter.

Yeah, we did pretty well. We were able to come back a little bit. But overall Kyle just had that little shorter stop that he could do, away they went.

I was trying to do my best to hunt him down at the end. 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.

Yeah, got to do a little bit of study on that. I think if I was a little bit closer, I might have been able to maybe throw a little dive bomb at him. Unfortunately couldn’t.

THE MODERATOR: The restarts, I’m sure you’re second or triple guessing what you could have done differently.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, that last one has me a little confused. I felt like I was harder on the tire, whatever. I just think from a sport perspective, though, the restarts are a joke. 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.

THE MODERATOR: Alex, congratulations. Extending your points lead a little bit. The second caution for the race, you were thinking fuel save mode, then that changed?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, we made a really aggressive call on that first yellow, like lap 13 or 14. We pitted. It was the plan honestly. We spoke about it. I was pushing for it. It wasn’t the right call today.

We expected a lot more cautions throughout the race. So, yeah, we learned I think we were super, super lucky today. Luck was on our favor because we were not going to make it. Then those yellows came.

But, yeah, it was a very stressful race. I think I lost like five years of my life just trying to save fuel, a lot of fuel, and praying for a yellow. It finally came, which was good for me, not for you. It was perfect for me.

Yeah, it was overall a really good day. Could have been a lot cleaner and a lot easier. We wanted to make it a bit too hard.

THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions.

Q. It’s natural you expect a lot of yellows. Were you surprised more didn’t come?

ALEX PALOU: Yes and no. If you look at Detroit, Belle Isle, the past three years, it was two years in a row it was completely, like, crash-ville as well. Suddenly the last one, no cautions till the last lap.

It goes that way when we know it’s tight, we know there’s going to be a lot of yellows. We should have thought about that maybe more. It was just purely our fault.

Q. Catching the yellow at the end, did this feel a lot like Toronto, it broke your way?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I would say even more today. Today we were, like, done. We couldn’t really save that much fuel. It was impossible. We were already saving and losing like 2 seconds a lap, 2.5. They told me to go.

We did one full lap of going because we wanted to get some lap time, try and pass some cars that were, like, 20th or whatever. Suddenly the yellow came. I was like, Yeah. Then another yellow that helped me a lot so I could at least be a bit more aggressive or defensive on the last restart.

Q. Have you ever had a year like this where it seems like every race…


Q. … something breaks your way every race?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah. I try and get advantage of that. I’ll try and get advantage of that because I know it’s not often. Last year we didn’t win a race until the last race. I thought that every race we had something wrong going on, on our strategy or race. This year is the opposite. I’ll take it.

Q. Scott, they changed the restart zone this year and last year. You just want it to be where the start/finish line is?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I just think everywhere we go, we don’t have to have it for ovals, but I think it happens at Long Beach. 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, amateur-ish looking finish to races.

I’m going to speak to Jay about it, 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.

Look, I might be wrong. I might crash in turn one. What I’m saying, I’ve done it in Supercars. Formula 1 does it. Other sports around the world do it. It just gets the race going.

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.

Q. At Long Beach, there’s that hairpin that works. Gentlemen’s agreement?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: It’s not a gentlemen agreement. I think VeeKay a couple years ago threw it on the inside, ruined Rahal’s race.

Road America this year, I passed Rahal before the last corner. I felt like a kamikaze. You have to run the rules how they’re run.

It’s just such a simple thing. We move restarts, we do that, we do that. Nothing works until we, like, police it. We have to police something. It pisses me off, it really does.

Q. You said yesterday you felt like last year got away from you. Do you feel the same way this year?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah, that’s how it is. I think if I could have got past Grosjean a little bit earlier, put more pressure on Kyle. I could have passed him maybe before when he was on greens before he pitted.

That’s just how it is. I’m pretty stoked with the result. Bummed that maybe I couldn’t have had too much of a shootout at the end. Like I said, my restart was bad.

Yeah, I probably said too much, going to get in trouble over it.

Q. How many pounds do you need to lose?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: How many do I have to lose? Well, it’s 15 pounds, I think the system.

Q. Doesn’t seem like you can.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I’ve already lost 20. I’m still fat. Yeah, I want to have a beer tonight and McDonald’s, so…

ALEX PALOU: That’s not the way to lose (smiling).


ALEX PALOU: But I’ll join you.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: My whole life, I’ve always been the heavy kid. It’s just annoying. You can go and have, like, a pie tonight and be fine.


SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: What do you weigh?


SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Right (smiling). That’s where I’m at. I’m like right on the number.

Q. (No microphone.)

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I don’t know the rule exactly. I decide not to wear one because as well I’ve had one fail in Supercars. It was so hot. It was almost hotter than it was.

The hardest thing today is yellows and red flags. As soon as you stop, it gets 30 degrees hotter right away, knocks you around a little bit.

Yeah, we were good. We were good. No dramas.

Q. Earlier in the weekend some drivers were saying it’s almost impossible because of how crazy it was. Where was this on your ranking of this is going to happen, this is going to happen?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I knew when the yellow came out, that’s kind of the time, the first yellow, where we didn’t want it. I don’t know what plan that was. We knew it would put us in an awkward spot. If it happened lap 21 or something like that, no-brainer. We lose spots, go back to 10th. People are taking it before the yellow, kind of like last year.

But, yeah, it’s hard to plan for this stuff.

Q. To have that long of a run, green flag…

ALEX PALOU: It was 23 laps max last year.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Yeah. Maybe we’re learning. Maybe as a sport we’re getting better driving.

Q. Alex, fuel save there middle of the race. Was there some stuff you tried that you never tried before?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I pull the clutch, like iRacing style. They told me not to do it again.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I’m not allowed to do that.

ALEX PALOU: Me neither. But I tried (smiling).

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I’ve asked that a number of times. I wonder why.

ALEX PALOU: I think it just more works too much, yeah.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: We’re having a little debrief here guys. Don’t worry about it (smiling).

Q. Were you surprised by the pace of the race at the beginning or were you just kind of thinking like the guys of NASCAR thinking, that impending doom that something’s going to happen?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I was just sort of driving within myself. I knew it would get to lap 20 or so. Better in clear air on the green tire to control it, look after the fronts, whatever.

But, yeah, I was in a really good spot. I was controlling Pato, saving the fuel I needed. Then I started sort of pushing after the first yellow. We actually gapped them again.

The blacks, brought everyone back to us, the gap we gained. Herta was driving around. It is what it is.

Q. Did you think the race would continue without yellows?


Q. You’re saying, When is it going to happen?

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: There is going to be a yellow at some point, yeah.

ALEX PALOU: Yes, about the green?

Q. The long stretch of green flag. It was a clean race for the most part.

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, obviously we didn’t expect that, otherwise we would have not pitted on lap 13 yellow. We expected a lot more yellows.

Basically after a yellow, like what we saw at the end, we were going to pit, then there was going to be another yellow so everybody would pit and we would transfer to P1, but it didn’t work.

Q. Was it a matter not if there’s going to be a yellow but when?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, that’s what I was praying for. Man, it didn’t come. When you are on the side of the wanting a yellow, it never comes. When you don’t want a yellow, it comes right away.

In my vision, it was not coming. Everybody was on fuel saving. I don’t know why. Everybody was taking it easy. Then at the end I guess people started pushing. That’s when the yellow came.

But, yeah, I was surprised.

Q. Alex, at the end there, you were super saving, then you abandoned that. Two seconds a lap faster.


Q. What was that roller coaster like?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, that’s what we did because we were just losing so much lap time that we were going to come out last. So we just said, All right, we still have 10 laps, maybe we can still finish P15, which is better than P20 or whatever.

Yeah, we went hard one and a half laps. I was super quick. We knew we had a fast car. But then I was worried because obviously we had to use a lot of fuel on that lap. Maybe that was putting us in a bad position for the end. Luckily we were on the right side.

So it was very stressful, a stressful day. But, yeah, learned a lot for sure.

Q. From the points championship standpoint, clearly you’re happy, kept Josef behind you. Was that the big thing in your mind?

ALEX PALOU: No, I was just wanting to finish the race. Without our issue on strategies, I was wanting to go for the win honestly. I thought we had the car and the pace to fight for the win today.

Yeah, we lost an opportunity, but also super happy to be on the podium, especially with the lap that we needed today, that we got it.

Yeah, it was a 10 out of 10 day at the end results-wise.

Q. (Question about points championship.)

ALEX PALOU: Until they give us the trophy… I think Josef can win the last four races. Why not? Everybody can do it. We can do it, as well.

Yeah, on this championship, on this series, unfortunately I don’t think you can just take it easy, especially now with all the work we did. We don’t want to race to finish ninth. Maybe on the last race I would take that, absolutely.

But, yeah, with Indy road course coming up, we won there on May, I think we know we have a fast car. We have an opportunity to win there again. Then Scott told me that he’s going to win at Gateway. That’s it.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I’m going to win every race from here in.

ALEX PALOU: Indy road course at least.

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: I’d like to go well there because I suck there at the moment.

Q. (Question about Argentina.)

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: Getting in trouble. But it says in my Twitter bio I tweet things I shouldn’t. I don’t understand how big it is in Argentina, how much they really love racing. Paid attention to my Supercars at least, as well.

I actually thought the race was after the season. Apparently you can’t go over there until you do this race next week or something like that. So that’s not happening.

But, I mean, I’m open to it, sure. It would be cool. The Argentinian fans, man, they’re wild. My Instagram and Twitter and all that went up like 4% of my followers now are Argentinian. It went up like tenfold. 4,000 people followed me in one day. It’s unreal.

Q. (No microphone.)

SCOTT McLAUGHLIN: No. Look, I always got along with Augustin. Great guy. I have a lot of respect for what he’s done, achieved, how he’s adapted to, like, our lifestyle, English, all that. He’s a wicked competitor. I think he’s going to be really, really good eventually, so yeah.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Scott, Alex. Thanks, guys.

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