IndyCar: Andretti finally able to capitalize on race day

Kyle Kirkwood, Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport, IndyCar
Kyle Kirkwood, Romain Grosjean, Andretti Autosport, IndyCar /

IndyCar Sundays this year have been frustrating for Andretti Autosport. Things finally turned around in Long Beach, as they proved they can finish.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach provided a big sigh of relief for Michael Andretti and his IndyCar team. His top three drivers have been fast in the early going of the 2023 season, but race day has been tough. Four DNFs in the first two races amongst them didn’t show how strong they really were.

Things at Andretti Autosport were headed for a tailspin. The decision prior to the PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway to switch strategists for Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood, moving Scott Harner to the former and Bryan Herta to the latter, raised some eyebrows. Neither driver asked for the change, and neither was offered much of an explanation.

When asked on the broadcast prior to the PPG 375, Herta didn’t seem too happy about the switch. He still ended up finishing that race in seventh place while Kirkwood retired due to a pit lane incident.

Romain Grosjean, on the other hand, has just been focusing on having a clean IndyCar race for Andretti Autosport.

The former Formula 1 driver has consistently been at the front of the pack on race day, but contact with Scott McLaughlin in St. Petersburg and a wreck at Texas Motor Speedway ended both of his races.

The all-important 2023 IndyCar season needed to turn around for Andretti Autosport, and this past weekend, the trio were finally able to put it all together. Each session of the weekend finished with at least two of the three in the top five. Most importantly, race day was all Andretti.

There was a moment when Josef Newgarden looked like he may steal that first win away from either Kirkwood or Grosjean, but Andretti’s tire strategy proved to outlast that of Team Penske.

Kirkwood was able to convert his first IndyCar pole position into his first IndyCar victory, with Grosjean right behind him down the stretch. Grosjean settled for his fourth second place finish in IndyCar, and that first win does appear inevitable.

It was noted on the broadcast after the race that Bryan Herta’s calm, cool voice likely helped Kirkwood seal the deal in the last few laps. If that’s the case, the move to the younger, unproven driver makes sense. Herta seems to be getting on well with Harner, as he finished in fourth place after starting in seventh.

The massive result of the weekend is likely just what this group of drivers needed. Everyone knows they’re fast, and sometimes you just have to see one go through the hoop to go on a shooting streak.

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The next chance they get to flex their muscles is scheduled for Sunday, April 30 at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. They haven’t won there since Ryan Hunter-Reay won a rain-shortened race in 2014.