Michael Andretti rode away from the Long Beach media center with a giant smile on his face after Kyle Kirkwood, in his third NTT IndyCar Series race for the team, clinched pole position for the Acura Grand Prix with the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise for those who’ve followed the IndyCar sophomore from Florida who tore through the USF Championships presented by Cooper Tires, winning three straight titles on the way to spending his rookie season last year with A.J. Foyt Racing. Kirkwood had a rough introduction to the big leagues, but with his shift back to Andretti Autosport where he won the Indy Lights title in 2021, it’s been a homecoming in all the best ways.
Fast throughout pre-season testing and at the opening round at St. Petersburg, Kirkwood’s been fast in the No. 27 Honda, but has been a lightning rod for misfortune. With his pole, there’s a new feeling that the bad early days of the new season might be in the rearview mirror.
“We’ve had just a spell of bad luck,” Kirkwood told RACER. “And there’s been some unfortunate things that happened, so it’s kind of like now we’ve got the monkey off our back. I’m ecstatic for the team. We’ve been working in such a good direction with me, (race engineer) Jeremy Milless, (race strategist) Bryan (Herta), and all the crew members. I feel like we’ve gotten into a really good spot now.”
Kirkwood says the warm atmosphere within the No. 27 Andretti program is a big reason for the change of fortunes.
“It’s like they’ve become my family,” he added. “And that’s something that’s so important in racing, right? And so regardless of what happens, I’m always happy with them because we’re having a good time or joking around. Even when we were under the red flag, we’re joking around on the intercom. So it’s been a lot of fun and it just makes it that much sweeter to do it with people that you really enjoy.”